Strategic vs. Popular Event Attendance

People frequently ask me if I’m going to this or that event. Are you going to SXSW? Are you going to Gnomedex? And I often say no.

It’s okay to defy people’s expectations. Most people are followers and attend whatever events everyone else is attending, often without a great reason. When people ask me if I’m attending an event I don’t plan to attend, I do say “No” but then I usually ask, “Why should I go?” – and I usually don’t get a great answer.

To me that’s just more justification for not attending.

Everything starts with a strategy for you and your career. Don’t go to Gov 2.0 Summit or SXSW or Personal Democracy Forum or anything else without a great reason – and preferably more than one. You have to do what works for you. Events are just tools that help you complete your mission better. That’s all.

Personally, I mix small free events that are great for networking with some high profile events in my area where I can learn something new with academic conferences to think about things more abstractly with events outside my area to deliberately take me outside my element with conferences I speak at to get feedback about my ideas. That’s why I attend lots of events but any one person feels like they don’t see me very often.

This month I’ll speak to the Network of Entreprenurial Women in Washington, the World Tech Summit in New York, the Open Government & Innovations Conference back in Washington, then the 5th Annual National Veteran Small Business Conference and Expo in Las Vegas. All different, all broadening who I am and how I think.

Pick and choose your events according to what works for you, not peer pressure. Sometimes the event that “everyone is going to” works for you, and sometimes it doesn’t. Buck the crowd sometimes – that’s what will enhance you and set you apart.

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This post was written by:

Mark Drapeau - who has written 225 posts on Dr. Mark D. Drapeau.

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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Andrea Baker Says:

    Mark, as a connector to many this is a great post to remind people they have their own minds and voice. You do not have to attend a conference just because “everyone is going”. You really have to be strategic in your decisions. I approached this subject late last year when it came to trying to preplan for this year. Of course this plan has been modified greatly as my interests change and my personal as well as company goals.

    We have also moved on from a google doc to coordinate, as my division under Enterprise 2.0 has grown significantly. We now use our Nav-Wiki (Navstar, Inc’s wiki using Mindtouch Deki) to collaborate internally our wishes and realities when it comes to conference attendance and speaking.

    I’m not going to plug where I am going to be next, but I will say if you are a blogger, consider posting a list of upcoming and past events on your site. It helps to remember where you have been and also reads as a resume of experience.

  2. Jeff Cutler Says:

    Good points, but perhaps painted with too broad a brush.

    I attend a ton of events and actually have myriad reasons for this level of activity. Sometimes the guest list piques my attention. Sometimes it’s an educational event. Sometimes there’s free beer. And often I’m on assignment for one of my clients.

    As the author says, he doesn’t do SXSW. I went for the first time this year and have more than paid for the travel, hotel, food and other expenses through projects that were a direct result of my physical presence in Austin.

    So, I think everyone has to decide if their time, energy and budget allows them to do the IRL events or not. I’m not going to judge people for taking part or for staying home.

    See you out there…or not.

  3. Ari Herzog Says:

    Does attending a conference differ if physically or electronically? I didn’t attend SXSW this year–physically–but followed it by Twitter, on blogs, pictures, and videos.

  4. Mark Drapeau Says:

    Andrea, individualism is important. If you’re not part of the picture you’re just part of the scenery.

    Jeff, I think you’re reading way too much into what I wrote and putting some words in my mouth.

    Ari, mainly I was speaking about paying registration, traveling, and attending in person. But to some degree it applies to paying any attention at all.

  5. Matt Searles Says:

    Yeah.. I always kinda felt like social media was like this lego kit.. and you could put the pieces together however you wish..

    I don’t really know to what degree people do things cause they think that’s what they are supposed to do versus what the voices in there head tell them to do.. but.. I try not to be to negative on it as that can just be a kind of psychological projection thing.. But.. I do feel like people are often trying to attribute wisdom to the mob.. and that this can often subvert our true potential

  6. Jeff Cutler Says:


    I would have written more completely had I not been pecking away at the iPhone. I was sent to the site by a post Ari put on Twitter. His contention was that some people in our social media fishbowl are at all events and others are at precious few.

    My point was that if you get enough out of events you attend virtually or physically or not at all, then that’s perfect.

    In my case, I am discerning but my capacity for juggling five events a week would overload some people. Conversely, my five event schedule might be a mere morsel for those who attend five a day.

    I like the blog and am happy to have been sent over here. I promise not to paint with the same broad brush I accused you of going forward.

    Have a great weekend.


  7. Tyson Says:

    Thanks to Ari for sending me here @missusp posted something similar a month or so- ago-(

    I’ll repeat what I’ve said before- offline and online :-) Attendance at these type of events (imho) is directly related to:
    -how close you live to the event-
    -how many young children you have at home that you like to tuck in to bed.
    -how much $$$$ you have in the bank to pay for babysitters, the events themselves, etc.
    -how understanding your spouse is :-) Does he/she work and/or have a schedule that allows you to do this?

    And my favorite reason…

    -Will good potential clients, business partners be there?

    I agree, everything has to be strategic, and you honestly can’t be everywhere all the time, or can you? (Did Google come out with a cool cloning device yet?)


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