Tech Conferences Should Not Be Just for Vendors… Let’s Change the Game!
It used to be that tech conferences were where customers went to hear about what is new, learn about innovation and network with new ideas, new people, new possibilities.
Today, the majority of tech conferences are ‘vendor-fests’. Great ideas are being presented but for the most part, the participants are other vendors. More and more I am seeing panels made up of vendors/tech providers and the audience made up of the same. Hmmm….something is missing! Where is the customer?
When I ask my enterprise customers why they don’t attend, their answer is as follows:
“These are mostly vendor events for vendors, events are over-priced and frankly I already know what is being presented. And if I want to meet with a vendor they will come to me, so why do I have to fly across the country to San Francisco, Vegas or London to hear what they have to say? And, oh yeah, my budget is totally slashed so I can’t justify going or sending anyone to events.”
Let me qualify and say that I am referring to general technology events and not ‘user group events’. There were over 60,000 people at Oracle’s annual user conference in October 2011 and many (not all) were users/customers. These events are geared towards large established user communities and are most valuable.
However, across the globe each week there is a conference about open source, Cloud, Big Data, Analytics, Social Media, Digital Media (to name just a few). This is where the future is discussed. So, this is where we need actual customers in the room!
I say let’s change the game up big time: let’s make panels to include customers presenting case studies so we are not hearing about a piece of technology from a vendor but hearing HOW customers ACTUALLY use the technology. Then, more customers will come.
The ideal participant make up should be over 50% of the presenters being customers AND 70-80 of the audience customers/users as well. Yes, vendors are key and exhibits are awesome. But let’s have customers speaking with vendors in the exhibit hall rather than a massive vendor fest!
Once we change the game up, increase the learning factor, end-users/customers can justify coming to these events. At a price tag of over $1500 per event plus travel, one needs to justify WHY going to the event is important. It is a matter of time and money.
And it would be even better if event organizers were less focused on getting ‘sponsorship’ dollars from vendors, and instead creating such great substance for the conferences that they are profitable based on attendance fees. Now that will be a great win!
Having said the above, I still believe that there are some great conferences intending to bring great value to the participants (disrupting the norm!) These are the ones that attract my attention. I will be at CloudFair 2012 in Seattle next week and at DoD Enterprise Architecture conference in Miami, FL April 30 – May 2. I look forward to great learning and sharing of ideas in these conferences and look forward to identifying great other ones to participate in
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Picked up a copy of Provoke yet? You can find it on Amazon. All my best,