Yesterday morning, I finished work with my own customer and went downstairs in the hotel to give my workshop for the conference. There were four people. A fifth person had signed-up and paid but not been able to attend. In contrast, customers and sponsors will be speaking to something like 45 people when they give their conference talks.
Yet I recently read one of the software vendors complaining that consultants have it easy because we get into these things for free. While I realize that sponsorship can be expensive at these conferences, once they’ve paid, they sometimes get to speak to the entire audience and usually on a topic that is at least somewhat related to getting business for themselves. By contrast, consultants get the slots with the smallest audiences and, while we get the conference fee waived, we still have to take off from chargeable work and pay all the expenses. For one, I don’t get paid to speak, and other consultants I’ve spoken with don’t seem to get paid, either. Additionally, in order to be involved with some of the conferences, consultants are sometimes required to put in lots of volunteer time to help the conferences find speakers, sponsors, and do some of the marketing.
Actually, most conferences REALLY don’t want consultants to speak – unless we do a lot of extra work or take over the spots no-one else wants, that is. My point is that there is no free ride. And so, consultants struggle to get to the point I’m at, now, where they’re invited to speak at most or all of the conferences, but probably find out that it’s too expensive to fully take advantage of, both from lost chargeable time and the travel expenses. For those that think that attending a conference equals getting more business, I would say that that is not the case. The other thing I keep in-mind is that, like everything else, conferences are businesses, too. They have to make money on this (if a commercial conference) or break-even (if volunteer), so they have to do what they think is best for them. That usually doesn’t include paying speakers.
But with that said, overall, I’d say it was a good experience. The four attendees that came in early for the workshop were all knowledgeable people so we ended up discussing somewhat more interesting and difficult issues rather than going over more of the basics. Well, we did do a little on the basics, but covered it quickly. I don’t do this so much to get the business, but more to get out and find out what issues are currently on people’s minds and to help educate the industry regarding the issues. On the other hand, to make it affordable to continue, I can’t justify continuing to spend so much money on activities that don’t eventually produce any revenue. I suspect I’ll have to cut back on these activities for the future, unfortunately.
Today, the actual conference starts. I will have a chance to go between my room (to do customer work) and the conference (to see a few of the talks). Since I’m doing something with my customer that absolutely has to be done by the end of the day on Thursday (it doesn’t have to be by end-of-business, just by something like midnight, Eastern US time or just slightly after), the next two days will be LONG if I want to keep to their schedule (which I WILL, because I’ve committed to that) AND to see any parts of the conference (if I don’t see a few talks, I’ve just wasted a good chunk of money to stay in the expensive conference hotel for the extra few days). Personally, I prefer the strain on my health over missing a deadline or wasting money. 😉