The future of paid conferences and other thoughts

Whist at PDC and the VBug conference I have heard a a good deal of chat over the future of paying for conferences and user groups. This is in the light of all the PDC sessions being available on Channel9 in under 24 hours and that the content at the Vbug conference is also available at free events like DDD.

The question boils down to can a person or company justify paying a good few thousand Pounds, Euro or Dollars to fly half way round the world when they could see the same content at home? In my previous post on the PDC I suggested it was worth it for the networking, and I still think this is so. However, I have heard an interesting slant on this from more than one person; this is go to the city were the conference is but not to the actual conference; just taking in the parties and maybe watching content via the Internet where available.

For some people I think this might be a viable option; as long as you get the right party invites! For example at TechEd Europe there many community orientated events organised outside the conference because this is the one time most relevant people are in the same city. Also if you are in this group then you may struggle to find time to go to the actual conference so maybe this plan is viable or even preferred. However, for the average developer I am not certain it is the case, too much of the networking happens randomly inside the conference corridors and at meal tables. For this ‘outside the conference’ model to work you have to know who you want to meet and get invited to the right places/parties i.e. you need some profile in the community

As to the other point whether Vbug like events will continue I think we need to consider who they are aimed it. I had expected at the Vbug conference to see a lot of faces in the audience who I see at DDD, but this was not the case. There were a few but not a majority. Then again I don’t see the same faces at DDD as We have a number of distinct communities going on here, there is some cross over but not that much. I think the three broad groups are:

  • People who go to events (free or otherwise) during office hours – VBug attendees, and people who come to the events we host with Microsoft.
  • People who will go an event in their own time, but it is a passive learning experience – like DDD on a Saturday or a speaker at a user group
  • People who want to discuss what they do either in a user group over a beer or at an Open Spaces format conference – like

We are never going to get all three groups merged into one. People will move from one to another and maybe attend all three, but that is their choice.

We are lucky in the UK that we have such an active and high quality community so all three groups can be supported, it will be interesting to see if any one type prevails (judged by attendance) as time goes on. However I do not expect to see any type disappear soon.