I have been attending staffing professional associations and conferences for most of my career. When I was starting out, I looked towards these events to learn what was new, what I may not know, and to meet new people. I still do, but lately I’ve noticed that there is a significant decline in the attendance at all these “extracurricular” events, including breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, networking and happy hours and even national conferences. It doesn’t matter when or where, they (i.e. recruiting professionals) aren’t coming like they used to. I have heard it said this is due to the poor economy, but I think it may be bigger than that. Is it the end of professional associations and professional events…at least the live ones?
So, where is everybody? Recently here in Dallas, we had a terrific event planned with a national speaker. We put everything into a great marketing campaign, including top billing on our new website, our newsletter, Eblasts, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. The board invited everyone they knew personally to the meeting. I heard comments like:
- I am too busy at work
- I am traveling or tied and just got back
- I have my kid’s soccer practice
- I have another commitment and wish I could be there
- My company won’t pay for it and I can’t afford it
I didn’t hear a word from many (that’s another blog topic coming). No one flat out said they didn’t want to come but they had some really good excuses (ones I could have used, too). Life is about choices, right? Their choice was elsewhere, but why? This led me to think about what’s going on in our profession… Also, have you noticed it seems to be the same people at all the events? Where is everybody else?
I am getting ready to attend several national conferences over the next few months. I am told the turnout is lower than expected. Again, why? Are there too many? Maybe, I can think of at least 10 conferences I could attend the rest of the year. In fact ERE Expo and SHRM Staffing are at the same hotel one month apart. I am sure that doesn’t help attendance for anyone. I know everyone wants a piece of the action, but let’s get smarter about how we plan things next year.
I remember when we all met at these conferences to get updated on what’s going on in our profession and catch up with colleagues and friends (Ok, even to have a good time). Are we not seeing the volume of attendance because anyone can find the same information shared at these events online? Wow, what a revelation. Is face time over? I hope not, I like talking to people face to face. As much as technology has changed the way we work and how communicate, I hope we don’t forget that sitting in front of someone and looking them in their eyes can tell you a lot. I can’t Skype for that (or can I)?
I know life today is busy, but something has else changed. I often wonder if the event topics we talk about at these events aren’t in touch with the audience. Are we meeting the needs of the folks that have to pay from their own pocket (since many companies are cutting back on membership and conference reimbursements)? Is it that we all are overworked and have to focus any free time we have to family and friends? I hear people say: “Let’s send out a survey and ask them what they want us to talk about.” I just don’t have it in my heart to send out another survey. Don’t we get too many of those anyway from everyone (including newsletters)? We already know why people go to events:
- They like the topic
- They know the speaker
- They like to be involved in the community
- They are active in the association
- They need their HRCI credits
- They are looking for a job (or their next job)
- They like networking
- They want to sell their product or service
- They want to learn something new
- It’s part of the development plan and you get to check it off the list during review time
- It looks good on your resume
Why people aren’t attending professional association meetings and conferences (like they used to), may just be life overload, but, I think it’s bigger than that. The way we meet and conference is changing. I am not sure where the future lies, but I do know it is changing as we tweet. See you at ERE (if anyone is here, we are at the ASHER Talent Alliance booth #409)
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