Rich Westerfield posted some very interesting stuff on what you are actually selling when you market an event, riffing on a post at gapingvoid.
The difference in what the uninformed and informed pay for essentially the same thing is the “ignorance premium”.
He then makes the point that “smarter conversations” – that is having access to and getting answers/opinions from smarter people than you on a particular topic – will eventually whittle away at the “Ignorance Premium”. And he provides examples in the way of bloggers Robert Scoble at Microsoft and Thomas Mahon of English Cut on Savile Row.
Then the alarm goes off. The conference business is ALL about making money on the ignorance premium. That’s all every single one of us who markets conferences does. We promote new angles of educating essentially the same people on the same stuff year in and year out. Sure, there are new subjects dealing with new technologies each year. But the meat of your program is the same as it was last year. Just different titles and speakers. Don’t try to tell me otherwise.
There is very little we offer in the way of education that couldn’t be answered directly by somebody online. If – and it’s a big if – people were willing to invest the time to go search for the information and find the right people willing to engage in a “smarter conversation”, where would we be? What value would we provide?
Rich goes on to say that meeting and event marketing is about selling conveniently packaged and accessible educational content, rather than the best or most timely. Kind of sad when you think about it but it rings true to me. There is often a 6-month lead time between submitting a session proposal and actually delivering it at a traditionally organized event. That his a pretty big lag these days.
BTW, Rich was interviewed on a Corante Meetings and Events podcast recently about marketing events via the web. Check it out.