Next time you contemplate shelling out the big bucks to attend that huge industry gathering with thousands of attendees and hundred of simultaneous sessions, consider a smaller event. Or better yet, a number of smaller events instead of one huge conference.
Why small conferences are better:
- More intimate exhibit area for vendors, rather than a huge booth manned by dozens of company representatives there are just a couple people and relatively little fanfare. It's less intense (the sales people seem much more relaxed in a smaller venue) and easier to strike up a conversation. Plus, since there are fewer vendors so you have a chance to speak with them all.
- You stay put all day (much to the delight of your feet). Plus the room is often setup with rows of tables; ideal for note taking and blogging.
- Typically a nicer venue because its a hotel, not a cavernous convention center. And the non-convention hotels are usually smaller – that often (but not necessarily) translates into better food and service.
- Easier to socialize – since everyone isn't rushing across the convention center from session to session, there are more opportunities to casually network.
If you are interested in a really unusual conference experience, try a user-defined conference where the format is loose, the participants determine the topics and self-moderate the discussion, and the networking is non-stop. I described my initial foray into user-organized conferencing here.