Future Conferences – Part 1

Live pay-per-view has been around for decades primarily for sporting events: mainly boxing and now ultimate fighting (UFC).  On-demand is another variety of content revenue which cable has come to embrace:  allowing us to pay for movies and shows that we want to watch on our own schedule.  Audiences have begun to use these functions, but because of the interface and the low tech-savvy of the TV audience, they must have a very simple user experience (UI).  The internet conversely provides a better interface to search/find content, but so far is not well tied into the HD larger screen viewing experience that we get through TV.

Movies and concerts through TV and online don’t have much to do with Future Business.  However, there is another content type that could be available on-demand which does support business: conference content.   This post will view how conferences could (should?) evolve over time to support Future Business.

I have always found it strange that conferences have two primary and often conflicting goals:

  1. Impart best practices knowledge
  2. Connect attendees who are in the same Community of Interest

Conferences often do not give enough time for #2 (networking).  Hours are spent in powerpoint sessions sitting and listening.  Yes, there is usually time to ask/answer questions, but even that is usually very “one-to-many” broadcast oriented.  Some of the most interesting time at conferences is spent at meals, in the lobby, and at cocktails.

This is not a new issue.  As far back as 2005 Vicki Suter, Bryan Alexander, and Pascal Kaplan wrote an excellent paper on the topic.  Luis Suarez and Matt Simpson recently discussed this problem on their Sweettt podcast.  Sean Bohan also discussed the topic on his blog earlier this month.  I have heard the same complaint many times myself.  It is certainly important that conference goers have a common frame of reference in order to have valuable discussions, but building the frame to the exclusion of the discussions misses the point.

So, what are the alternatives?  Travelling is getting very expensive and conferences are often one of the hardest hit industries in a downturn.

In the short-term, online conference content would be valuable to people who cannot make the conference and would provide an additional revenue stream to conference providers.  Not only could content be video-streamed, but it could be paired with asynchronous online collaboration together with the content.

In the longer term if attendees absorbed some of the presentation content on their own time pre-conference, they could make better use of the networking that is best done face to face.  In fact, interacting with the information before the conference would allow for some asynchronous online collaboration even before we arrive.  We would have a head start on identifying some of the people with whom we would like to have in-person conversations.

With some pre-knowledge, attendees arriving at the conference would be ready to attend sessions that are more discussion oriented.  They could ask some of the questions that have been plaguing them and work on some of those that their colleagues contribute.  Far more time could be spent asking/answering questions based on the pre-conference learning rather than having that content broadcast with us all in the same room.

Part 2 includes some of the providers who are improving the way conferences are structured and some specific recommendations about potential conference improvements


7 responses to “Future Conferences – Part 1

  1. Great post.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love a boondoggle as much as the next guy (LeWeb envy here), but the signal to noise ratio at most shows isn’t great, and I get a LOT more out of lunch, breakfasts and hallway conversations than I do the sessions (usually).

    I am honestly loving the number of webinars running these days. They are scheduled, have a backchannel, are recorded and shared after the fact.

  2. Pingback: E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez » The Future of Conference Events - Looking after the Health of Attendees

  3. Pingback: Future Conferences - Part 2 « Future Business

  4. tesoroevents

    Swan – Great post. Agree 100% that Web2.0 apps will transform what we currently know as “conference sessions” – yipee. You are one of the very few people I’ve seen providing a POV on what that future looks like. From my limited experience tweeting at a conference, I found that information from speaker + focused f2f networking + backchannel insights = a very rich educational experience.

  5. Pingback: twebevent – video and Twitter « Future Business

  6. Pingback: E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez » Gotta Share! – The Ultimate Conference Event Experience

  7. Pingback: Gotta Share! – The Ultimate Conference Event Experience | AAACBC | News from Industry, Web Design, Web Development, Search Engine Optimisation, Marketing, SEM, SMM, IT Consulting

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