Reason? Well, hot coffee and free Wi-Fi, of course.
And because only one of those things was offered at the convention center.
Had a talk over there with one of the organizers about the failure to provide access during the ed conference today. And she agreed wholeheartedly that there was indeed great irony in the fact that none of us bloggers or Twitterers could connect during the morning presentation on social networks.
I'm not going to throw around blame; a lot goes into the planning and production of any conference and there will be successes and failures along the way. But I am going to ask three questions of both conference organizers and the sites that offer services to them.
First to the organizers:
1. Do you understand why a Wi-Fi connection is not a luxury, but an empowering and enhancing vehicle for driving meaningful discussion at your conference?
2. Do you understand that teachers are now partaking in professional development on a daily and individualized basis via Twitter and online media, and therefore expect to be able to tap into, share, and dialogue with their personal learning networks the worth and value present in your conference rooms?
3. Do you understand that by failing to provide free Wi-Fi to your conference-goers, you are closing off your conference from any meaningful real-time discussion with the broader education community -- a discussion with the potential to dramatically increase the value of your conference for participants and therefore increase their desire to actively take part in future editions?
Now, to the conference site:
1. What are the physical costs associated with opening up your network to your conference goers? From what I noticed, the network at Baltimore's convention center was in place -- in other words, all that was needed was a password. So, is there a real cost to opening access, or are conference goers just expected to pay a gatekeeper fee?
2. Do you understand the value inherent in having your site associated with free access; and do you understand the future implications of being designated as a site opposed to free access?
3. Do you really believe that you are the only game in town? (That was harsh... what I really meant to say was: Do you see it as a smart business plan to bilk your clients out of every last dime?) Or are there real roadblocks to your technological capacity as a site and you are actually not presently equipped to provide authentic access to a 21st century conference-going crowd?
Conferences are changing. People are paying attention to the access and associated value on a site-by-site and conference-by-conference basis. Furthermore, the folks most likely to provide value at a conference are the folks who can bring outside networks into the fold of the discussion.
Conference organizers and conference sites ignore this at their peril.