Category Archives: industry

What’s the deal with industry conferences (and their ticket prices)?

Ok, a real niche complaint today. But it’s one that really annoys me.

If you work in any kind of ‘industry’, you know about conferences. They’re these things where people go to do vague things like ‘learn’ and ‘network’. And broadly speaking, they’re a waste of everybody’s time.

The few that I’ve been to seem to mostly involve a mix of the following:

  • Companies bragging about how good they are and spending lots of money to produce presentations demonstrating this.
  • Software vendors talking generally about a business problem that their product just happens to be the perfection solution to.
  • Bald white guys with glasses who call themselves ‘thought leaders’ making extremely obvious observations about the industry.

Like I went to one about Social Media Customer Service (woo!). There were presentations on things like “Listening to your customer” as if that wasn’t incredibly obvious. I got to watch Zappos explain why they’re so good at customer service, as if it’s not incredibly easy to innovate in CS when you’re an online shoe company. And I was hassled by vendors trying to flog me platforms when they couldn’t actually answer questions about it because they were just sales people, not developers.

But maybe, just maybe, some people find them useful. If you like answering questions like this, then maybe they’re for you –

WOAHH WHAT AN INSIGHT. MAYBE ENGAGEMENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA IS IMPORTANT. MY MIND IS SO BLOWN. WOOOOAHHHHOHOHOHOHOHOHAAAAAAHHHHHHH.

These conferences are also incredibly expensive.

These are the ticket prices for some event back in 2016 that I was looking at. General admission is £300. For contrast, tickets to Glastonbury 2017 were £238. In other words, the above conference thought it was more valuable than the world’s largest and greatest music festival. They thought their conference was literally bigger than Glastonbury, and a more valuable use of your time.

Why £300? Who in their right minds would pay that?

or is it just because they know everyone attending will be expensing the hell out of these tickets so they can charge whatever they want and this whole thing is just a racket

But imagine your company WASN’T paying you to attend this? Would you voluntarily decide to pay this amount to go and be bored in a hotel conference space for two days? Could you even afford it? And what a barrier to entry for young enterprise.

Of course, you have to pay the speakers at these things. Those folks who are being flown around the world to talk about why their email CRM resulted in a conversion rate blah blah who cares. But it’s still mad.

And the Early Bird bit really gets me angry. Save money by booking early. If the transparency of it all wasn’t clear enough already, this is the bit that really shines a lot on the whole practice. In the above example, the ‘super early bird’ is basically 2/3 of the price of the main ticket. This suggests to me that £200 is a fairer price for the conference than £300. They are willing to accept you paying £200 to attend, but they’d rather you paid £300. Those hotel conference rooms don’t pay for themselves!

“Early bird” is such a horrible, dripping sales-y term. You’re still not getting a good deal, even if you book early. Although the implication that a discounted ticket for this conference is a “worm” is an interesting one to consider.

IN CONCLUSION, this has been another angry rant from me. I leave you with this fascinating insight that will definitely enrich your life –