7 Observations Concerning Online Chamber Conferences

by Frank J. Kenny

There has been a lot of discussion around the First Ever World-Wide Online Chamber Conference (#CPOC14) that was recently launched.

Have you see the First Ever Online Chamber Conference?Quotes like this make us feel we have hit on a chamber industry idea whose time has come. 

“Excellent idea folks, great information especially for those Chamber’s who are unlikely to be able to afford such talent coming to their Chamber’s specifically. Kudos folks.” Greg Durcocher, Cambridge Ontario Canada Chamber 

“This is pretty amazing! Keep up the amazing work!” Stephan Wurzburg, Kiezer Oregon Chamber 

“This will set the trend for future conferences and conventions. This way we can attend all of the breakout sessions! Sign me up!” Mark Sturdevant, La Habra Chamber

Benefits of Online Chamber Conferences

 

There are a slew of benefits to attending an online conference. But before I share those with you, let me say that, in my mind, nothing (yet) compares with meeting colleagues face to face for developing and growing deep relationships.

Sure, Google+ Hangouts & Skype video calls do come close. You really do get to look someone in the eye. You get to read their facial expressions and even body language. This type of video call offers value way beyond a standard phone call.

But still, shaking someone’s hand and having a face-to-face talk just takes the engagement to another level. I think it is similar to pen-pals of old. Two people writing letters back and forth over years or decades creates a real relationship. But the magic happens when they finally meet face to face.

I am still a big fan of face to face conferences and attend many every year.

But I think the trend is in favor of more online conferences, not fewer. 

After all, online conferences offer these 7 major benefits

 

  • Big name speakers with relevant presentations. Don’t think that you have to settle for 2nd or 3rd tier speakers when attending an online conference. The best talent in your industry is eager to share their knowledge whether it is in person or online. Matter of fact, in this age of social and digital, any top expert that isn’t online or willing to share their knowledge there is probably becoming less relevant (because the world is leaving that person behind). If a top expert can’t use modern tools they won’t long be a top expert.

“If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside,

the end is in sight.” Jack Welch, GE

  • You save significant amounts of money. Consider airfare, cab, hotel, expensive meals, incidentals, etc. It adds up to a big number, usually more than a thousand dollars for a multi-day event. Add that to the conference fees, which are almost always higher for an in-person conference. You can easily save more than half your money by attending an online conference. Sometimes significantly more than half.
  • You don’t have to leave family and work behind. It is good to get away from things, especially when you are going to exotic locations. But life continues at home. What if you have to miss Susie’s first recital or John’s first game? You don’t get those back. At work, you have no idea what is going on while you are out of the office (the mice will play). And when you do get back, there is a stack of work on your desk including emails and phone calls (Did I mention the stress of traveling? Crying kids, missed flights, weather. Those are all avoided when you stay home. It is more relaxing and you sleep in your own bed.)
  • Conferences for your industry might be annual, or they could be summer/winter or spring/fall. Either way, 6 months between training sessions and networking with colleagues is way too long of a gap. Time is moving so fast now that you need your training to be almost continual. This doesn’t mean you skip the annual conference. Definitely go to that. Just don’t ONLY go to that.
  • Learning at your own pace. Ever feel like the presenters at a conference are releasing a fire hose of good information? I know at my first W.A.C.E. Academy training that I took home three pages of solid notes. So much value. But I also missed a lot while I was taking notes. Or I was in one breakout when there were 2 others I would have also enjoyed the value from. With an online conferences, if you hear something brilliant, stop the recording, write your notes, even think deeper about it and how you will apply the learning specifically. Then start the video again. If you stop to think at a live conference you will miss the next point the speaker is making. We can only think about one thing deeply at a time. Online recorded videos solves this issue. Did I mention doing this in your pajamas or bathrobe (or even from the office, Heaven forbid)?
  • Ongoing networking. I love, love, love the networking that happens at face-to-face conferences. After a few years of attending a conference I think the value proposition shifts from learning from the speakers to relationship building with your peers. The problem though with most conferences, even today, there is little to no online networking before, during, or after the conference. It is like ships passing in the night for attendees. There is little chance of building deep relationships with people you only see once a year. Sure, it is colleagial, but is it deep? Surely not as deep as it could be. On the other hand, online conferences are built around community and relationship building, before, during, and after.
  • Final point for now…it is a small world. A state or regional conference is great because you see old friends. They usually can’t afford big name speakers but they do pretty well. Many of the speakers are there for their umpteenth time. There is nothing terribly wrong with this as long as the speaker’s material is new. But consider a world-wide online conference (they are world-wide almost by definition). You get new attendees from all over the globe. They bring new ideas and new enthusiasms. You can get the best speakers in your industry because they also enjoy working from home and not getting scrunched in airplanes and small hotel rooms. Regional Conferences are great, don’t get me wrong. That face-to-face time to critical. But supplement it with ongoing online conferences.

What’s your take on all of this?

Will face-to-face conferences go the way of the Dodo bird? Or might they get to be more important than ever because we want to turn those online relationships into full-fledged relationships? Maybe face-to-face conferences will be less about learning and more about socializing?

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