Ross, at the forefront of utilizing social networking technologies for hosting conferences and distributing content, offers his take on what's coming down the road.
With the right social software, you can promote, coordinate and self-organize events with near zero cost. Location does matter, but not for everything. Now cost can be a good thing, as some events are better with a little exclusivity, but inclusive options provide alternatives that help the ecosystem as a whole.
A more wild thought is that event models almost correspond to the three modes of production identified by Benkler:
* Firms and contracts: invitation is the barrier to participation
* Markets and prices: price is the barrier to participation
* Commons-based peer: reputation is the barrier to participation
Yes, at the moment the technologies and execution of what Ross is discussing are primarily in the domain of geekdom (and marketing) events. But they're just the super-early adopters.
These ideas will become more mainstream. It may take several years, but the model behind these concepts make sense.
As more "organic" events come online, power will shift from professional organizers to community leaders. Consumers of educational content will be the winners. "Large fee" events will need to further justify their high costs, with some exceptions (i.e. Gartner & Forrester-type events).
Ignore at your own peril.
MORE: Just got to reading Sue's link to Dave Taylor on "The Critical Business Value of Attending Conferences".
Conferences are all about the breaks, the dinners, the bar at the conference hotel after the day's done.
Why? Because the so-called educational aspect of a conference is something you can often receive by simply buying a book or a training DVD. That's not enough to get me to travel to another city. To me, the most important aspect of attending a conference is the opportunity to meet people that I wouldn't have otherwise ever met. It's the random, the chaotic, the unexpected, unplanned discovery.
Dave did note that Om Malik disagreed somewhat, stating that, "A highly networked professional could connect with anyone they want anyway," and that he (Om) wasn't particularly interested in connecting with random people anyway, it was once his circle of trusted experts started talking about someone that he became interested.
On an unrelated note, toward the end of the post, Dave mentions that his conversations with the people he meets at events aren't only about business. They're about anything that's interesting.
You can call this the "art of small talk", but in fact being able to establish a one-to-one personal connection with other professionals in your field is critical to being a success. They're not customers or vendors, after all, they're people.
I get a kick out going to luncheons and parties and hearing vendors gush, "I just LOVE your show," when they run into an organizer they haven't met yet. Why people put up with fools trying to ingratiate themselves I'll never know, especially when the vendor doesn't know a freaking thing about your event (other than that it's big) or you (and they just interrupted your their conversation on "anything else" - which in this instance happened to be about favorite recipes).
Sometimes you just gotta feel for large organizers at our industry conferences. It's almost like they've got targets painted on them.