Conferences, Content, exhibition halls and selling your product or service

Why is it these days when I go to a conference I cant help but get the feeling someone is trying to sell me something.

Now I am not talking about the vendors in the exhibition hall, I know they are going to sell me something, and one of the reasons I go to some of these conferences is to see what new and amazing things are on offer, like at the recent AITD conference I met the wonderful ladies from Fulcrum People with all of their wonderful training aids and programs.  I go into the exhibition hall knowing that people are going to try to sell me things.

No I am talking about thinly veiled presentations that under the guise of presenting me with something useful or interesting or something that I didn’t know and might be able to use, are in fact actually trying to sell me their product or service.  I have one thing to say to you and to the conference organisers who let you get away with it.  STOP IT.  I am sick of it.  Dont suggest that I put my business card on top of the pile of sorting cards just in case it gets mixed up with everyone else’s and then just have them collected.  We know what you are doing, you are farming for business cards.  Now if you had just came out and asked me for it I probably would have given it to you, but you tried to be sneaky so even if I do get an email from you I will ignore it on principle.

Now I know it is hard for conference organisers to vet everything properly, but not doing it hurts your conferences and forums and damages your credibility.  I know it hard to find decent content and good presenters who will be drawcards to the event and who will be engaging and motivating, but seriously I have been to some conference this year where just by reading the outline of what people were presenting and where they worked (be it a large company or a sole proprietor) I could tell that I was going to be sold to.

If an employee of a company that sells Learning Management Systems is talking about the features you should have in an LMS, you can almost guarantee there is a sales pitch hidden in there somewhere.  If someone from a company who consults on developing organisational values is presenting a case study on the work they did developing an organisations values, there is probably a sales pitch there somewhere.  Now in the last case if it was that people from the organisation talking about their journey and how they were helped by the company, then that is probably a different kettle of fish.

So please conference organisors vet your presentations a bit more, challenge the presenters on their content and why they are presenting and ‘presenters’ if you want to sell me something get a stand in the exhibition hall and be honest about your intentions.

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About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

One Response to Conferences, Content, exhibition halls and selling your product or service

  1. Sukh Pabial says:

    I share your frustration here, Paul!

    I find it maddening that conference speakers stick to the same routines and the same practises that have been going on for decades, with little or no innovation in how they could present differently.

    At the annual conference for the CIPD in the UK last year, I attended a final talk about engaging new recruits. It was a sales pitch through and through from a supplier about how their product can help profile candidates for roles and for talent management. I would have got up and walked out were I not sitting in the front row.

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