Are you at a conference or are you “near” a conference?

There’s a good conversation going on around a post by Peter Cohen at TheLoop about companies that piggyback on conferences but don’t actually pony up to be on the show floor. The post says that at Macworld Expo, Peter will only be meeting with companies that have a booth on the show floor. Peter’s points are that:

  • there is a finite amount of time at the show, and if a company wants to meet with him at an offsite location because they don’t have a booth it takes too much time for him. I completely understand this point. Even if you’re right across the street from Moscone at the W, it takes a lot of time to get there, get up to a suite and back to the show floor;
  • it’s parasitic.  IDG has built an audience, and built an infrastructure for a show and you’re just showing up and taking advantage of that audience without paying them for their service.  I can also buy the logic here.  If this is the case, buy something from the show management.

I wrote about this about three years ago. I’ve done it.  In the instance that I wrote about in the post, we had just started working with that client and the conference, which was put on by the State of California, was sold out. I didn’t feel like I was stealing bread from anyone’s mouth by not having a pass, but we did end up on the news talking about the topic of the conference.

In essence, I agree with Peter’s points, especially in the case of Macworld Expo.  If you want to support the event, and the community, support it by playing by the rules, and get a booth.  If you don’t get a booth, you don’t get to meet with Peter.  This discussion has made me think a bit more about the relatively prevalent practice of piggybacking on shows where you don’t attend. I’m going to make an effort to encourage clients to really be part of conferences, instead of just being near them.

Note – I need to update the links in my old blog post referenced above.  Several seem to be dead now.


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