Sunday, May 5, 2013

Is it time to diversify or die for traditional physical conferences?

I am sitting here at the itSMF New Zealand annual conference. It is a great event, with some excellent speakers on the programme. Really looking forward to my own session tomorrow afternoon, talking about how you actually listen to and converse with your customers.

We need to expand our audiences
beyond physical attendees
There is a lot of work involved with preparing a presentation...designing the slides, rehearsing the words. Personally I invest many hours in getting it, hopefully, just right. The fruits of that preparation will probably be shared by 30 or 40 people and, unless the presentation is picked up by some other events, that is as far as it will go. A lot of work for a very limited exposure.

Contrast this to the session I did for TFT12 in December of last year. This was broadcast live globally and the presentation is still available through multiple channels and is being consumed regularly. The whole production of TFT was pretty stress free for the presenters and was actually, for me anyway, a lot of fun. Even though you do not have a live audience, you do get immediate feedback through social media channels, and it is very satisfying to know that hundreds of people, or more, have found your presentation useful and informative enough to watch the whole thing and to recommend it to their own networks.

Now, I don't believe that the physical conference is doomed. But the organisers of these events need to consider how they augment the physical event with exposure in the digital world. Share the knowledge that is being presented with a far wider audience than those who can actually afford the time, the travel, the accomodation and the, not-insignificant, conference registration.

There are events, outside of the ITSM world, that I have been involved in over the past 12 months that have done this well, streaming keynotes and other sessions live. Some of these have provided this free to registered virtual attendees, others have charged a virtual registration fee to allow you to attend the sessions you are interested in.

Maybe it is my Scots ancestry, but I prefer the free virtual registration model, and I have enjoyed a number of conference sessions via this route. I have paid for one virtual session that I was particularly interested in, and the fee was well worth the knowledge I gained from the presentation. None of these have been in the ITSM sphere...I think it is time we caught up!

TFT13 is starting this party. The event on June 18 will touch down briefly at the SDI Believe event in Birmingham broadcasting live as part of the 24-hour virtual event. No charge, no registration, no email gathering, just go to YouTube and enjoy.

I have no plans to stop going to physical events. The value of being able to actually meet the presenters, ask questions and network with the ITSM community is invaluable and pretty difficult to replicate in a digital arena. But I look at the programmes of events I cannot get to and wish that I could experience some of the wisdom that is being shared there...and I should be able to.

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