Just where is our audience going?

That is a question now being forced upon commercial conference companies, trade associations and publishers as their attendance numbers decrease, their revenue from sponsors and exhibitors disappear and the impact of their conferences diminish.

It’s hard to say this being a dyed in the wool conferences man but it needs to be said.

What’s the industry response?

Over the last few years many companies have been turning away from conferences as the default place for learning for their employees and the UK conference industry is yet to really respond to the challenge. Unless I am wrong? But what exactly have we been doing to change the way we run our events?

It has become all to clear to our industry that business leaders do not find a return of investment in conferences which are:

– produced rather than designed

– in conferences which are homogenous rather than tailored

– in conferences which are stifling rather than creative.

And if our number isn’t up, it’s in the post. 

As well as organisations turning their backs on our industry individuals seeking knowledge and stimulation are leaving traditional conferences in droves.

They are moving online for engagement and excitement and they are seeking the conferences atmospheres and environments, like TED and SXSW which are structured to help them learn and engage.

Our audience is hungry for platforms that allow them to express their views, impact the content and the conversation and we have to respond!


It’s not just attendees but sponsors and exhibitors sneaking out as well 

Sponsors and exhibitors are moving online too. They see a tailored approach from a medium that allows them to better target and engage their audience. Our sponsors have moved beyond the logo placement as a measure of value they have a desire to actively power learning; to be associated with value and not vanity and the industry as a whole is not responding.

We see who stole and continues to steal our audience. It is:

– the industries that are open to change

– who focus on value

– who build their product and service around their customers

– who engage and excite

– who can respond creatively to the challenges they face

And within those industries it is the organisations who embrace change who thrive. Who become the thought leaders and who are the pioneers.

Along with many others in the meetings and events industry notably Keith at Plannerwire and Jeff at Velvet Chainsaw in the US, Julius at Event Manager Blog in the UK and the Fresh guys in Denmark we have been raising questions and suggesting answer for years.

But now it really is time for a revolution, one where every meeting planner has to man the barricades. To run better meetings, less boring meetings and more creative meetings. The writing is on the wall. Make sure it isn’t you standing against it.