Circumventing the Conference Void

by Bill Swallow on May 19, 2009 · 3 comments

in Content Strategy

Let’s face it, the economy sucks right now. Companies are running lean, laying people off, cutting travel and education expenses, and in the wake of all this, conferences are taking a beating. If you haven’t heard by now, PUBSNET has closed shop, which means all future DocTrain conferences are kaput. I’ve been hearing from others in a variety of industries, not just techcomm, that conference attendance is noticeably lower than in previous years.

So what do we do in the absence of good conferences? I posted a few questions on Twitter earlier today and received some fairly consistent feedback indicating that self-paced learning is preferred for educational growth, with a nod to local classroom events as well.

This response then sparked another question: But what about the conference feel/experience? Surely you don’t attend just to sit in a huge classroom environment hoping to learn something. I certainly don’t! I love attending conferences to meet people, to make new connections, to catch up face to face with others who I mostly converse with in text form. I go to spot trends, to pick up some sparks to hopefully kindle a new idea, to find business leads, possible candidates for hire or contract, and of course to keep my eyes open for job opportunities. Hey, anyone who says they don’t keep an eye or ear open for job leads is either lying or perhaps a little loony. But I digress…

So given the huge social melting pots that conferences are, what can possibly stand in their place during these tough economic times? We have social media at our fingertips, but how to blend that with knowledge sharing, classroom learning, presentations, vendor floors, and yes, the boozing and schmoozing that many of us look forward to in the evenings…

I welcome your thoughts. I have a few ideas brewing myself, but nothing concrete at the moment that I can articulate. I will be following up, and I am sure I’m not the only one brainstorming on this.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen May 20, 2009 at 6:55 am

Barcamp.

No, it’s NOT what you think. :) Barcamps are also known as unconferences.

I wrote up a short piece about barcamps in Europe on the STC Europe SIG site:
http://www.stc-europe.org/2009/01/31/barcamps-in-europe/

I attended my first barcamp in Nov. 2008 (and have yet to blog about it, but I have scads of paper notes!)

This is participation and networking In Real Life. It IS a participatory conference, so it is an excellent opportunity for first-time speakers. I tried it and survived! It reveals hidden skills – you find the people who have the connections to get a nice location at little or no cost, to get sponsors, and to make the overall event a good environment for knowledge sharing.

I think barcamps/unconferences are local events for providing the people-effect of the larger conference. The intimacy makes it a quality, not quantity experience.

Brenda Huettner May 20, 2009 at 4:59 pm

DocTrain conferences were great, I always enjoyed them AND learned a lot. But they were not the only ones, there are still several valuable events in tech comm and related industries.

We should also look at branching out a bit – for example, this was my first year attending South by South West Interactive, and it was amazing!

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