What is a conference’s competition? In reality it is probably not what immediately comes to mind; not another conference or event.
How else do our members learn? Books, blogs, podcasts, webinars, online training. These all can be power packed with helpful information but still members will pay thousands of dollars more to come to the conference. Why? Well, you might say for the face to face interaction and I agree that is some of it. A bigger, a more unconscious part of the equation, I bet, is conferences give members permission to take the time to learn.
Lets consider the pros and cons of the competition:
- While a $15.98 book is a steal, but it still takes time to and motivation to read it.
- While many webinars are free and don’t require travel, because they are on our own computers we can easily be lured away by intrusions and distractions.
- While online training is relatively inexpensive and high value, every other priority takes priority over sitting and watching the training available in your library.
Yes, there is the element of face to face value that can’t be replicated in any other way than at conferences and events. But the real value may just be that upon signing up for a conference members give themselves permission to make the time for professional development. It’s on the calendar, it’s paid for, they have to go. Online training, books and webinars are easy to slide to the back of the pile. They are easy to opt out of.
For those members who value life long learning spending thousands more for the conference than say reading a few books is a huge value because they will never get around to reading the books.
Conferences are here to stay
The conferences that provide a ton of value and interesting, new experiences will continue to thrive in the digital age because they are a great use of our time.
But members say they don’t have time to go
When members say things like “I went to the conference a few years but haven’t been in 4 or 5 years.” Why? “Well, there’s always a conflict.” Yes, sometimes there is a conflict and you can hear in their voice when they are heartsick about it. For most giving the time excuse, it is a shortcut for saying, “I’m evaluating where my time is best spent and this conference isn’t it.”
When our member’s time is not best spent at the conference, the conference has a value problem. Moving the conference to a different time probably won’t help much. Doubling down on providing value and great experiences might.