What is the Value of Attending Real-Life Conferences?

This is a simple question to answer for companies who are offering a product or service within the industry what the conference is catering to: making people aware of the product, demonstrate its abilities and value to interested potential customers, getting firsthand feedback, comments and suggestions from existing customers, getting ideas for how to improve or expand the product and many more reasons.

For affiliates and entrepreneurs is this question a bit more difficult to answer. I can only speak for myself, but I do not attend those conferences to make business deals. Those things I can do without the expenses that come along with going to such events. Making deals, hammering out details of a contract or launching a new project can be done well by using the various communication channels that are available without setting a foot outside the home or office. Email, fax, telephone, teleconferencing etc. work well to accomplish this.

The value of educational sessions depends on your level of expertise in the industry. More experienced marketers tend to attend less sessions that intermediate or beginners. However, nobody is a know-it-all and sessions do provide value for old industry veterans. They often reinforce or correct your own understanding of what is happening or happened within the past months in a specific segment of the industry. Good conferences have always multiple “tracks” and cover a wide spectrum of topics. Attending a session about a channel where you are not doing much or nothing at all today might get you new ideas that are worthwhile to look into. If you are a content affiliate who does primarily organic SEO for example, attending a session about paid search, domaining or video can be quite refreshing and interesting.

The single most important reason for me to attend real-life conferences is to do something that cannot be replaced by the best communication technology available: human interaction, meeting people face-to-face and getting to know strangers across different verticals that you would not have “bumped into” otherwise. Nobody will or even can do business with everybody who you meet and get to know at those conferences, but that is also not the idea behind this.

The value that you can and will get out of this interaction is virtually impossible to quantify. I was thinking about how to explain this to somebody who never attended a conference.

I talked about this with several people who I meet at Affiliate Summit, the conference that I am currently attending in person. I gave several explanations that people liked and encouraged me to blog about. I almost did, but I didn’t feel too happy about my own explanation until tonight, when something occurred to me that I believe is much easier to understand, especially for somebody who was never attending an event like this. After all, everybody I talked to within the last few days was actually attending a life event already. They are here at the Affiliate Summit, because they understood or felt (at least partially) the value of it.

The obvious explanation is actually not very difficult and something everybody knows from his own life-experience.

I assume that everybody was attending social events and parties several times in their life. For example: A fellow student and maybe close friend (or not) from school invited you to a party that another friend, who you did not know, held for whatever reason. You showed up at the party and did not know most of the people at that party. Your friend introduces you to the host and maybe some other of the guests and you start getting to know those new people, who might introduced you also to some other people at the party they knew and might be interesting to talk to and hang out with.

The party is over and you forgot most of the people who you meet and talked to that night. You maybe meet one or the other at different places at a different time. You recognize each other and start talking about the party and what you did since then.
Most people find new friends that way, some might become short term friends only and others become friends for life. Some introduced you to new ideas or made you try something that you never did before and maybe never even heard of, before you learned about it from the new found friend.

Most interactions will not have lasting effects on our lives, but some of them do, occasionally effects that change our lives completely.

Without the initial casual social interactions, such as the party of your friend’s friend, many things would not be able to happen. Only people who grew up in isolation from outsiders are free from the consequences of such interactions, because they never got to know anybody else, except family members and maybe a selected few friends of the family.

While the consequences of those complex social interactions are virtually unpredictable, is it possible to “skew” them a little bit.
If you go to a social event of special interest groups, chances are good that you are going to meet people that share the same interest, even though the interest might manifest itself differently in each person that you meet there. If you like hiking, for example, and meet with a group of other hiking enthusiasts, you are more likely to find a pal to go on a trip together and hike, than somebody who will sponsor the uniform of your local soccer club where you happen to be the goalkeeper for as well. That does not exclude the possibility that you actually find the sponsor there, but the odds of it are certainly small.

Which kind of people are you going to meet at an industry conference? I don’t know. However, odds are good that you meet people who could have a positive impact on what you are doing professionally. You might find new short term friends or somebody who will become a lifetime partner of yours in a project that you got the idea for, while you attended a session that was talking about an aspect of internet marketing that you never really thought about or did anything with.

Back to the original question of “What is the value of attending real-life conferences? The answer ought to be “priceless”.

About Carsten Cumbrowski

Internet Marketer, Entrepreneur and Blogger. To learn more about me and what I am doing, visit my website and check out the “about” section.

Twitter: ccumbrowski

One Response to What is the Value of Attending Real-Life Conferences?

  1. 45n5 says:

    great post carsten, I haven't figured out how to do the human interaction over the blog yet either