That being said, in this case I’m going to have to go right ahead and quote Marge Gundersen on you: I’m not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou.
Everything you said in your analysis was correct. Yes, conference pass revenues are tiny next to vendor booth revenues. Yes, the conference makes the same amount of money regardless of whether the sessions are brilliant or they show the same rerun of the Muppet Show in every room.
It is absolutely true that fiscally speaking the conferences are all about the vendors and the movers and shakers. Except that the only thing that can ATTRACT the vendors and the movers and shakers is the plentiful plankton in this economy: the attendees.
Most attendees don’t get to expense airfare to San Francisco just to walk the expo floor. They aren’t chosen from their department to attend parties. They don’t know the phone numbers of all the “right people” to text them and get them to meet at the Thirsty Bear for a drink.
The attendees are the ones that care whether they can go home to their managers and say that they professionally benefitted from the week. They are the ones whose interest convinces the vendor to spend money on a booth next year. They are the ones who have the problems that all of us really want to help to solve. And when they can’t find solutions to their problems at RSA, they will simply stay home next year, and the entire value proposition will collapse.
Until you I read your piece James, it hadn’t occured to me what price I paid for staying off the conference floor – I did not meet any attendees. What a price to pay, but what a price for RSA too. Perhaps not in an immediate, punch in the wallet way, but instead, in a slow, painfully diseased way. When the plankton are gone, the whales move on. So I strongly suggest that the best way to keep the plankton around is to value the quality of the sessions, find ways to keep people who are engaged in the quality of the content inside the building, and to do whatever it takes to ensure that even someone who did not walk the expo floor or go to a single party can still take a positive story home to their bosses.