Fred Wilson has a good post up on conferences, here’s the key line:
… the idea of travel to get together with the same old group, the tech biz insider club, doesn’t appeal to me at all.
I think that’s completely right. Someone really ought to do a survey of the top conferences to look at the overlap in speakers and attendees. Let’s face it, there are a lot of conference whores out there in the tech world.
The notion one has to go to conferences for “biz dev” or “PR” is misplaced. I think the unspoken reason so many of the same people go to the same conferences is their purely personal need for approbation and ego-stroking. People like being recognized by their peers, and that can happen in a conference setting.
My personal experience is that I get a lot more out of meeting with people who use our service, or might use it– 1-on-1, online, in-person, or on the phone — than I get going to conferences. Much more valuable, useful insights come from those conversations.
All this said, there have been some exceptions. eTech ’05 (O’Reilly) was good and useful for me personally — timely themes, great speakers who were still fresh presences and voices at that point (before the Web 2.0 idea had become mainstream). More specific, tailored conferences for platforms or programming languages can be interesting, too (I spent the morning at WordCamp yesterday, and it’s an interesting way to get deep into what’s happening with a particular service and community).
But the more general, better known conferences I’ve attended the past two-to-three years proved to be big wastes of time and money. Same people, saying the same stuff, with pointless schmoozing and gossip in-between.