The fourth edition of Inside PR is in the can and this week we discuss the pros and cons of attending conferences. A bit tongue in cheek (big surprise, I know), I said the reason I attend conferences is to ride my bike in locations other than Chicago. I do, in fact, like to rent a bike wherever I’m traveling not only to get in my miles, but to see something other than the inside of a conference room. But Martin, Joe, and I discuss real reasons to attend, or not attend, conferences. You can listen to it here and let us know what you think.

But what I’d like to discuss here today, as part of the podcast, is the idea that sponsorships, conferences, trade shows, and events are a dying breed. A few weeks ago, MillerCoors announced they are dropping the sponsorship of the NFL. And FedEx dropped their sponsorship of the Orange Bowl. Here in Chicago, sponsorships of Wrigley Field are unheard of (mostly because we want to maintain the integrity of the park). But not just sponsorships are going away. Events and trade shows still have people attend, but fewer and fewer companies are buying booths and, if we really want content from conferences, all we have to do is read blogs of those attending or watch the tweet stream. It’s no longer pertinent that we attend conferences to gain wisdom and knowledge.

When I ran the BayerCropScience PR account at Rhea & Kaiser, we had the idea to bring together farmers across the country via satellite for best practice sharing. This was right before 9/11 and I remember sitting in a meeting with the client and the producers, talking about the fact that very soon everyone would have to replace their televisions for this new-fangled thing called HD.  To prepare people for what was new in broadcast we would have a satellite conference…and we set to work on it. It flopped (I think we were just ahead of our time), but the idea that we need to meet at conferences, events, and trade shows in person is dead, dead, dead.

I don’t yet have an answer for what is going to happen to sponsorships and conferences, but I do think 10 years from now we’ll laugh at the idea that we spent a zillion dollars for a logo on a race car or to attend a trade show or conference. What do you think?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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