Post 58:08 Conferences vs. partial attention

I spent two days last week at a conference. It was generally interesting but a massive commitment of time and funds (nearly $1000 for accommodation and travel, although as a journo that’s not so much of an issue: people pay for us to attend!).

So of course as a self-employed person, I had to keep working on other stuff while at the conference. That meant some early morning starts and the modern ritual of trying to find free Wi-Fi wherever possible. When there was none of that around, I reverted to the Treo for email.

I suspect this behaviour was not what the conference organiser wanted. Oh no. Having subsised (I assume) the presence of lots of customers, prospects and suspects, I think the organiser wanted undivided attention. Is that why there was no  Wi-Fi (although an exhibitor came to the party)? And is that why the packed schedule made non-conference work very hard to get done.

Now I am wondering how long this model can sustain itself. It’s great to get a dense lot of information. But as someone who juggles multiple clients and projects – and who does not these days – it often feels like I simply have to be online for big slabs of almost every day lest I be perceived as less than optimally responsive. So giving up two days is a bit of an issue.

I’ll be interested to see how conference organisers tackle this issue in future. I think free Wi-Fi is a must. Perhaps tieing access to visits to sponsors booths is the way to do it, so that once attendees pass a designated attention threshold they are permitted to start offering the conference only partial attention.

What do you think?

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