Every week I look out for news of conferences through Twitter, emails and by attending the odd event. And from each medium this week came some worrying news about the current trend in conferences. The news made me wonder if we seeing our future in the here and now? In a previous blog I was thankful that we still have the opportunity to shape our future but this week has me asking: is it already too late to save conferences?
So what’s the news?
The first in the three pronged attack came through Twitter, and is maybe something that many of you have already picked up on through MPI in the US. The story revolves around a $16 muffin. It should be a trivial story but it has the MPI in the States very worried. The organisation in question (The US Department of Justice) wasn’t really questioning the $16 spent on a muffin, but rather, what exactly was likely to come out of a meeting that was of value anyway? Oh, interesting thought.
Strike two came from some research (which I think I am officially leaking!) from Eric Rymer at The Right Solution who said that average attendance at UK Association events was down approx 10% from last year. Ouch. That’s got to hurt some bottom lines. (I will add the link once the research is out I promise).
And lastly was the news that the 2011 National Dental Nursing Conference has been cancelled by the British Association of Dental Nurses. The article went on to blame the economic climate and the lack of support from practitioners. The article also highlights some of the problems many associations have with their internal workings but I digress. An event this size, cancelled with approx six weeks to go? Who wins from that?
Unfortunately I wasn’t surprised to see any of these stories, and I am sure the hundreds like them that I’ve missed: we’ve been taking the fact that people just turn up to our conferences for granted for too long and we’ve lost sight of the value of a meeting. Over the last score of more years it was accepted that you could just pay a few hundred pounds to attend a conference, hear something of interest and meet an old buddy. It was “good just to get out of the office” and talk about things in a different environment. And this was accepted by speakers, delegates and shamefully by conference organisers too. I am afraid what we have reaped is now being sown, and it’s famine time people.
The ground can be cultivated
I hate sounding like the Grim Reaper but there are a few people who’ve been mentioning this for a while. Jeff Hurt, Adrian Segar, Greg Ruby, Keith Johnston to name a famous few. And I have too. Maybe more weeks like this and people will remove their head from the sand, take off their blindfold and open their eyes to the potential damage to our industry if we keep bowling along with sub standard conferences. And this is a direct call for our representative bodies to do something about it. If you don’t Event Camps will continue to crop up and my very own Event-Fest (you can leave your note in interest in that here) will lead and leave you in our wake. None of us want that. Especially conference delegates.