In defense of the SBSer flag!

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Poor Mark, his last post is going to get him crucified, burned, pissed on and then some ugly weed will grow on top of it. At the last check of comments, nobody has yet called him unprofessional, bad leader or a hater of all small IT businesses, everywhere. God help him if he doesn’t write anything like that about SPF Nation or the rocks will really start flying, though mostly from people that are paid to speak there.

Here is the truth about conferences – they are a business. You pay for the speakers that you believe can drive the content that will convince people to sign up and pay for attendance. You then take your attendance count to the vendors and try to sell the crowd to them. In the end, you hope that what you paid for the venue and speakers is less than what you earned from the conference sponsors and paid attendees. The rest is just a balancing act between a conference being one large infomercial and making your sponsors look like they just burned a ton of money for nothing but a party. Everyone has their take, so long as conference organizer gets money, conference attendees learn something and the content presenters get paid, you’re good.

What a lot (lot, lot, lot) of people don’t seem to comprehend is that it’s just business. Whether you are a speaker, a sponsor, a vendor, an organizer, etc, you are going to a conference for a defined business purpose and a defined return/benefit. You do not go to a conference for a social benefit or to hang out with your friends.. you know what its called when you have to pay to have friends or pay for a good time, right?

The better question to ask…

One of the Microsoft employees asked me this question last week:

Someone will have to explain to me why there are 4 SBS/SMB conferences each year..

Truth of the matter is, all SBS / SMB conferences suck because they are too short because SMB business owners are not willing to take money out of their busy billable time to figure out how to better run their business or become better engineers. Why those people should only go to the highest profile conferences in this space (TechEd, WWPC) is a whole different rant that I am going to get attacked about some other time. Conference organizers know that your riffraff can’t get its head above its shoulders for more than a weekend or one weekday at best so they create focus conferences – pick a painful topic and keep on pressing that fear until they cut the check. Ergo, four conferences and there will be more and more as the businesses mature and realize they need to work on specific problems they face.

Disclosure: I spoke at the SMBTN Summit conference last year at my own expense (hotel, flight, speaking fee) and it would have been one of the conferences I would have attended this year had my wife been any less than 9 months pregnant. Ditto for the New Orleans SBS ITPRO conference.