Conference reform

Mar 07 | 2023

Steve Jordan looks at the future of the moving conference and asks whether there is, or should be, another way.

Conference reform

There is one great benefit of publishing an independent magazine: I can write whatever I like.  And there are some stories that only I can tell.  Some questions only I can ask. This is one. Should associations stop organising conferences?

What! I hear you say.  The very thought.  Well, before you condemn the idea totally, let’s think it through.

If you run a trade association, you are expected to organise a conference.  It’s a big job and a huge financial headache. Yes, if you get it right, a conference can earn revenue that helps to keep costs down for members.  But get it wrong and it’s very easy to catch a nasty cash-flow cold. Either way it’s a worry.

It’s also a tremendous investment in time with all the site visits, hotel negotiations, room allocations, promotion, event organising, content creation, speaker bookings, AV services … the list is seemingly endless. Just think how much more productive a trade association could be if it didn’t have to expend all that emotional and physical energy each year on organising a party. Consider too that historically only a fraction of any association’s membership attends conferences. Those that choose to stay away, maybe because it’s too expensive for them or they are shy, receive no value from all that effort.

But, then again, it’s the only opportunity every year for the members to meet, share stories, exchange business and take pride in their belonging. It’s important.  But could there be another way? ...


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