The End of Blog Conferences?

In the last year there have been so many blog conferences for moms, women, techies, foodies, non-bloggers…okay, that last one was a stretch…that it has become literally impossible to keep track of what is where and when and why…

But lately I’ve noticed that interest in these conferences has begun to slow down. Could this be the beginning of the end of blog conferences?

Before you hurl rotten tomatoes at the screen, let me explain. Someone a few years back invented the first blog conference and likewise the blog conference format, not realizing, of course, that the format would be repeated over and over and over… It runs a bit like this:

– Fly to a major city and check in at a large, expensive hotel

– Sign in to the conference and receive your bag of advertisements, um, valuable coupon codes

– Attend sessions that are somewhat disorganized, marginally informative, and either over-crowded or undersupported

– Find that the real value of the trip is in networking, spending time with friends, and checking out smaller break-out sessions

– Skip the keynote because you realized you haven’t had time to actually see anyone because you’ve attended every session

Please understand that I am not discounting the value of either attending a conference or attending a session – if it’s a good session. There is something so incredibly essential about spending time with like-minded people, especially for those of us at home with small children day in and day out. But the fact of the matter is that I have been hearing complaint after complaint about the sessions at some of the larger conferences for some time, and have heard absolutely nothing about changes that will be made to assure quality rather than quantity. At the end of the day, most attendees seem to spend their time and money at these events because it is essentially their only chance to get to know their co-workers. While the blogging community is massive, it remains an isolating past time. When I blog I am usually alone in my office hoping to connect through words on a screen. There’s something to be said for breaking out and sharing a hug, a laugh, and a fun blue drink with blogging friends.

Do I think that blog conferences are going to end? No, but I think that the blog conference as we know it may be on the way out. I have received the most value from attending smaller conferences like BlissDom where I truly felt that there was ample time to learn in quality sessions, spend time with the girls, and actually enjoy the fact that I was away from home without the kids! I also love when there’s a change in the format. The highlight of the Type-A Mom Conference for most attendees was the blogger Town Hall meeting. That alone made it worth the flight on a frightening puddle jumper over the North Carolina mountains! Early next year I will be working on and attending a Social Media Moms event at Walt Disney World. This conference will combine scheduled events, time in the parks, and inspirational, entertaining speakers into one jam-packed weekend of networking in a relatively small group of moms.

So for everyone thinking – hey, I’d like to plan a conference! – maybe the message is this. Plan a great event where folks can learn and meet-up. But why not toy with the format? Break the mold? In a blogosphere that continues to expand at a phenomenal pace, there’s something to be said for standing out in a crowd…especially if you’re trying to draw that crowd to your event.

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