I’m certainly attending fewer conferences than I used to, but I thought that was just the changing nature of my work and ways of making a living.
Marco Arment makes some important points in this post about how conferences are just kind of outdated as a concept:
- Cost: With flights, lodging, and the ticket adding up to thousands of dollars per conference, most people are priced out. The vast majority of attendees’ money isn’t even going to the conference organizers or speakers — it’s going to venues, hotels, and airlines.
- Size: There’s no good size for a conference. Small conferences exclude too many people; big conferences impede socialization and logistics.
- Logistics: Planning and executing a conference takes such a toll on the organizers that few of them have ever lasted more than a few years.
- Format: Preparing formal talks with slide decks is a massively inefficient use of the speakers’ time compared to other modern methods of communicating ideas, and sitting there listening to blocks of talks for long stretches while you’re trying to stay awake after lunch is a pretty inefficient way to hear ideas.
This has always been the case, of course. It’s just that technology-mediated ways of connecting, both synchronously and asynchronously, have improved:
Podcasts are a vastly more time-efficient way for people to communicate ideas than writing conference talks, and people who prefer crafting their message as a produced piece or with multimedia can do the same thing (and more) on YouTube. Both are much easier and more versatile for people to consume than conference talks, and they can reach and benefit far more people.
Conferences are by their very nature exclusive and take up a lot of people’s time. There’s still space for them, but I think time is up for the low-quality, just-for-the-sake-of-it conference.