Am I The Only One Scratching My Head Going Huh?

Tuesday,  I received an email from Meeting Professionals International (MPI), an association of 24,000 meeting and event professionals regarding their upcoming conference WEC (World Education Congress) July 11-14, 2009. The email surprised me as they were offering me a special discount for virtual attendance of $299 for full access to 17 live streaming events. I would also have access to the recordings (video, audio and some synched PPT & audio) to more than 100 education sessions and access to the social conference network from Pathable.

Well, after my mouth fell the floor, I read the email again and thought, surely they jest. Then I thought, oh my, their attendance is down and they are trying to meet budget. They are hurting financially and are doing anything and everything to make money.

Then I thought, “What hair-brained staff member put this in place?” Yes, it was a corporate hairball in action with a decsion made my some executive jerk (joke?) who pulled rank, and clearly wasn’t focused on what’s best for members or providing value to members who couldn’t afford to attend in person. It was probably someone who doesn’t understand the social space and has the scarcity mentality that thinks all non-attendees will willingly cough-up $300 for a virtual attendance.  Or they’ve got some supplier who was not smart enough to sponsor free virtual attendance for anyone who could not attend face to face.

Did MPI think this through? Did they honestly think members who were not attending were going to jump up and down with glee that we had the opportunity to pay another $300 for content? Did they think about how upset some of us might be? Obviously, not. Nor did they realize the power of the social space to show that MPI does not control it’s brand anymore.  

What struck me as odd was this was the opposite of what MPI did in January 2009 for their “MeetDifferent” conference in Atlanta. Then they streamed the opening general session and other power keynotes and allowed me to particpate virtually for free. They also posted free video clips of the general sessions for everyone to see. They totally won me over and I was a proud to be a member. I had no problem renewing my $375 membership in the Spring because MPI had proven their worth to me and gave me free content in January. I was honored and willing to shout from the mountain that MPI “got it” and valued me as a member. I was willing to encourage others to become a member and became their customer evangelist. Heck, I was even willing to give up a Saturday to speak to MPI’s CLC 2009 about social media strategy. So, I’ve not been an outspoken critic of MPI in the past rather a MPI evangelist.

You see, earlier this year, I was disappointed that I couldn’t attend MPI’s WEC face to face because my 2009 travel and professional development budget was slashed. I didn’t have any money to attend, nor do I have $300 to pay to attend virtually. Nor do I think it’s worth $300 for virtual attendance. I think it ludicrous.

Then I got mad, very mad. I pay $375 a year for membership and what do I get in return? Very little. We’ll save that for tomorrow’s post. And yes, there will be more. 

What’s so sad, is that in one act, MPI has turned me from customer evangelist into an outspoken member critic. And if they think I’m going to keep quiet, they are wrong. I’m sure they think I will just go away but my membership goes through almost another year. You see, I’ve already received more than 25 direct messages in Twitter from others who are outraged at MPI’s stance. And I suspect others to speak out too. Has MPI even had to deal with bloggers yet who disagree with them? Doubtful. I expect they think they can ignore me and I will go away.

So I ask you, am I the only one that thinks MPI is going down the wrong path here? Am I the only one that thinks MPI sent a message loud and clear to me that they only value my membership enough if I pay them another $300 to receive content? Am I the only one scratching my head going, “Huh?” 

Let them know how you feel. Post a comment here and tell them what you think.

Oh, and by the way, in case you think I’m crazy asking MPI to provide free virtual access to WEC education, see what Seth Godin has to say about free content in today’s world.

For full disclosure, I am a member of MPI and a former 1999 MPI employee. I actually used to plan WEC, PEC and Platinum programs so I’ve walked in those shoes.


  1. says

    Hi Jeff,

    Well I’m not a MPI member, but I was able to participate in the free MPI webinar series they deliver from April through June and in which they promote the WEC. So it definitely doesn’t make sense the fee they are asking for.

    As you said didn’t they find a sponsor or want to meet the budget?

    I understand your frustration and hope the noise can make them react.

    • Jeff Hurt says

      Thanks Kena for adding to the conversation.

      I’m glad you found value in MPI’s “Meetings Matter” free webinar series in April – June. IMO, it was a nice step in the right direction yet it was too little too late for me. I’m already taking a huge financial hit with my 2009 conferences and events and MPI trying to teach me why meetings were important was the wrong way to go for someone in the trenches. It was four months too late as the meetings damage had already been done. My members and meetings attendees were faced with tough decisions in January and had already changed their corporate meetings attendance policies. So that series was not for me.

  2. says

    It takes a lot of balls to write what you wrote Jeff. Most of us think the above but are not brave enough to start a constructive conversation.

    Social Media are about this I believe. Not only congratulating all the time with what you’ve been up to, but also questioning and arguing with your interlocutor. It’s a sign of affection and that you care about someone.

    I am not a fan of associations. I belong to a few but I am not a fan. Running a Linkedin Group of 10K Events professionals, the purpose of paid memberships is everyday less meaningful to me if there is no cutting edge knowledge exchange and co-creation.

    Pricing a virtual event in this range looks like more of a desperate move rather than a educational strategy – which an association like MPI should have. What I feel is that there is an underlying strategy that says:’We do better content than what is available online’. But it’s just a pricing strategy not a fair assessment from what I read in your comment.

    Dear MPI – you have a great history and an incredibly attached members base, why not opening up and give knowledge away for free? Why not finding new business models, if there needs to be one?

    The traditional pavlovian technique of charging a lot to show that you are a lot is highly detrimental for what you do and it is also a reflection of some traditional forms of events that carry on a vicious cycle rather than on compelling substance.

    What is your answer to that?

    • Jeff Hurt says

      @Julius Well, put my friend, very well stated. Yes, MPI powers-that-be have probably labled me the black sheep member as I type this and MPI’s history has been one of turning a cold shoulder to anyone who is an outspoken critic. I can name a dozen people off the top of my head that MPI took down in the past or now ignore because they questioned MPI. MPI has not usually welcomed divergent thought or criticis to their doorstep.

      And I want to make one thing clear, I don’t fault the MPI staff in general for this decision. I suspect their hands were tied. There are some outstanding employees at MPI. I do fault MPI’s executive leaders and the MPI Board of Directors for this stupid decision.

      Yes Julius, you’re LinkedIn group is competition to MPI, PCMA and other event organizations. I’m beginning to question the value of my membership dollars to associations like MPI when great quality contextual content is being created and shared freely through social media.

      Oh and be prepared for that company line from MPI at any time now, you know the one that says, “We looked hard at this issue and after a lot of thought we had to make a tough decision. Blah, blah, blah, blah.” Translation: You’ve let us screw you in the past, now let us screw you again in a new and different way, and act like you enjoy it too.”

  3. says

    Jeff, your post is on the money! The only defense that I can offer to MPI, is that they are incurring costs for video, uploading, etc. (except where they are doing tradeouts). From a business standpoint, it would be nice to break even.

    By offering the virtual attendance at no charge, they definitely build desired loyalty and retention. Going one step further, if I am impressed virtually it’s going to be so much better experiencing sessions like that in person.

    At some point, charging for virtual attendance for MPI may make sense, but you don’t do that in a down attendance year. You do it when the meeting is busting at the seems.

    A better model would be for MPI to seek session sponsors who could get more value out of their sponsorship by reaching beyond the live audience. That’s a winning strategy that one of our industry associations will adopt soon.

    • Jeff Hurt says

      Thanks Dave for stopping by and adding your point of view to the conversations.

      I totally agree with you that at some point it makes sense to charge but not in this economy. And you are right on target with sponsorship for sessions for live streaming to MPI’s audience. I also understand breaking even for video streaming yet build those costs into the budget from the beginning with the intention to extend the power of the event. MPI could use U-Stream or Qik, both of which I’ve seen used succefully at recent events to upload their videos and host them.

      When MPI or other associations place value on providing education for free to me as a member, then I’ll jump through hoops, walk on fire and race over mountains to give them my membership dollars. When they do the opposite and try to get more money out of my budget, in a down economy, I cry foul.

      Interesting too that the TED Conference provides free virtual attendance and recorded videos yet doesn’t struggle with decreasing attendance. Likewise, PPAI does not charge a conference registration fee for the PPAI Expo held each January in Las Vegas. They offer more than 100 workshops free of charge to their members. Associations should learn from TED and PPAI.

  4. says

    That is even more clarifying.

    I guess you recognize attentive community management from the way managers respond to their strongest contributors.

    I am waiting to see MPI response on this post.


  5. says

    And here I’d thought we finally had leadership that understood W 2.0 and would set an example for the industry on using social media for conferences and meetings. As a recipient of a Foundation grant to attend WEC, I am grateful for the generosity of the MPI Foundation, but horrified at the ham fisted approach to revenue generation that must be driving this decision.

    • Jeff Hurt says


      Yes, I thought we had seen a new leadership at an association that understood Web 2.0 too. Oh, I was so hopeful they were leading the way. And, I had even championed them for doing it that way. It is sad indeed. Thanks for adding your views to the conversation and enjoy WEC. If you have a flip camera, take some video too along with pictures for those of us that can’t attend or afford to pay for virtual attendance.

  6. says

    TED is great example, but also look at the Virtual Energy Forum all there, all for free.

    I think there are two big disappointments here:

    – first you try to sell something that people are giving away for free
    – second you give up your responsibility in educating event planners in innovating rather then surviving.

    I think the MPI should foster innovation and display new forms of events, accompanying planners into new scenarios and technologies. What I see here is just a reiteration of the past.


  7. says


    You are no doubt an outspoken leader driving the future of events. I completely laud you for your courage in voicing an opinion here.

    Even without the altruistic concept of “knowledge wants to be free”, it seems that MPI may have missed something in their financial analysis. What is the benefit of an annuity stream from people who may become new members in order to get access to the “free” virtual content vs. gaining some short-term additional revenue from some members, but losing other members like yourself.

    I would love to know a few things:
    1. How is MPI membership trending?
    2. How are MPI financials trending?
    3. How are SM alternatives trending? – obviously growing, but by how much?


    • Jeff Hurt says

      @Swan (Robert):
      Thanks for some great thoughts for discussion. You capsulated it perfectly and eloquently. You’re also asking the right questions. (And, yes, I’ve become an outspoken critic. I was an outspoken evangelist too.)

      I seriously doubt that MPI is going to respond to this post or any of your questions. Why that would be, authentic, transparent and new-thinking? Right? They have a long history of not listening to their members or customers until it’s too late. And, I have good friends that work there that I respect highly but their corporate culture ties those hands and does not allow their employees to have their own voice or opinion. Again, that might cause some groud-up revolution.

      1. So how is MPI’s membership trending? Down.
      2. How are MPI’s financials trending? Don’t know. We can suspect all we want here. I know in my association, we are trending down to the point of concern. And, I plan education and events so it’s hitting my doorstep directly.
      3. How are SM alternatives trending? Up. Exact numbers are anybody’s guess. Here’s a good place to start: Social Media Marketing Industry Report: How Marketers Are Using Social Media To Grow Their Business.

      As I keep repeating myself, I think we’re seeing the birth of new types of meetings and events where organizers are doing it differently.

  8. says

    Wow is all I can say…. Jeff, you truly are a thought leader and the points raised in this string of comments are all very compelling. I am listening closely because as President of the Greater Midwest Chapter of PCMA I am driving an intiative to implement webcasting at our September event.

    In a very tough budget year, we are already struggling and we did not allocate funds for this webcast so I am trying to figure out what to recommend to our board on how to handle this. Sponsorship is the way to go, and in the end if we are not able to secure a sponsorship we may have to eat the expense.

    Here is my question… by implementing this webcast at “no cost” to members, am I taking the risk our members will choose to do the webcast and not attend the event? If that happens we are dead in the water, so that is my most important concern. If we don’t get professional members at our events, then the supplier members are gonna quit coming and it becomes a vicious circle.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

    Thanks and Jeff, you know I highly respect you and appreciate your friendship is professional collaboration.


    • Jeff Hurt says

      Great additions to the discussion and I think you nailed one of the true issues on the head.

      Fear! There is a general fear that if the content is offered online for free, no one will attend in person. As I said to Don and Julius, this is not proving to be true with other events. TED is the best example as people fight to get into the face to face conference even though the content will be release online free. Online can never take the place of the face to face meeting. Never. And there will always be people willing to pay for the full face to face experience.

      Let me give you another example. This weekend at WordCamp 2009 Dallas, 325+ bloggers crammed into a hot, humid auditorium to listen to quality speakers. The organizers streamed the entire event via UStream for free to anyone wanting to view. They also opened another auditorium, across the hall, which had better air condition and broadcast the presentations into that room. Did I want to walk across the hall to cool down and view the video stream when I was right there in the same room with the speaker? Nope. I wanted and paid for that face to face live experience. I was not budging regardless of how hot I was. That’s how much I valued the face to face experience.

      Others, weigh in here with Mike’s question? Do you think that free online conference will cannibalize the face to face event?

  9. says

    Jeff –

    I appreciate your thoughts and believe that social media is perfect for this type of dialog. However, I am attending WEC and will be investing approximately $2000.00 at the end of the day of my employers dollars. How do you balance my $2000.00 investment to a “free” content delivery to the rest of my MPI colleagues? The information MPI delivered from MeetDifferent 2009 in Atlanta to our MPI community was about an industry in crisis – it was presented in a news manner.

    I guess I just don’t agree that all content should be provided for free – there are costs associated with delivery.

    Don England

    • Jeff Hurt says

      Thanks for stopping by and adding your point of view to the conversation. It is a valid one too!

      My point in rasing this issue is that other conferences (TED, WordCamps, 140 conference, Virtual Energy Forum that Juluis mentioned) are providing all the online content for free to it’s members and nonmembers alike. In some cases like TED and WordCamps, the conference organizers still charge for face to face meeting and their attendees make no complaints about it. They want to be there for the full face to face experience. Some associations like PPAI don’t charge at all for conference attendance (and we’re talking 20,000+ people) for 100+ sessions. These organizations see the bigger picture about “Meetings Changing The World” and furthering a industry. They get that if we help “all of us” in an industry, we help everyone increase their share of the pie. These organizers show that they value their members and customers that much with free online content and free conference attendance. They also know that allowing content to go viral, extends the meeting experience and make it richer for everyone involved. It’s not behind a gated wall to those that purchase it only.

      If I had a budget to attend WEC, I’d be there as I value face to face meetings and I’d still be crying foul for those that can’t make it or afford the virtual pass. I’m also questioning what my $375 dollars gets me in membership value.

      BTW, I don’t want access to the entire WEC event, all 100 sessions for free. I could never digest that much information nor does all of it fit my needs. I only want virtual access to general sessions and power keynotes, like MPI did at MeetDifferent. In January, MPI streamed more than just news-style content about the industry, it was the opening sessions and power keynotes on each day (which had nothing to do with the news of the industry).

  10. says

    Funny enough there was just a discussion about this topic (paid vs free), who saw Malcom Gladwell against Chris Anderson.

    Let me quote Seth Godin (Who published his latest book for free):

    The […] argument that makes no sense is, “should we want free to be the future?”

    Who cares if we want it? It is.

  11. says

    I see some interesting contradictions between the rollout of new association social media tools (blogs, discussion forums, video, etc., etc.) and the stalwart refusal to accept or respond to criticism. Hasn’t anyone mentioned to these folks that SM is about engagement and feedback? I also find it interesting that expressing displeasure over a move by an association requires “balls.” Are members supposed to be afraid of their associations? Aren’t member concerns sort of important to the development and future of associations? Now I’m the one scratching my head…

    • Jeff Hurt says

      Great points about social media, engagement and member concerns. You have a fantastic way of furthering the discussion.

  12. Beth says

    I had been a member of MPI for close to 15 years and quit last year. Why? When it came time to renew my membership, I thought, “What am I actually receiving for the $$? What is the ROI to me and my company?” And, sadly, I couldn’t think of anything. I have been a part of MPI focus groups where a number of planners took an incredible amount of time away from our jobs to sit with MPI and speak openly and honestly about how to improve it for senior level planners. What happened with this time and information? Absolutely nothing. It seems to me that while MPI’s leadership tries to be in the know and is really good at throwing around all of the latest “buzzword bingo”; “co-creation” this and “One+” that, in reality, to quote Macbeth, “it is a tale of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

    • Jeff Hurt says


      Thank you for your years of committment , volunteer hours offering insight and feedback, and willingness to share your story here. How unfortunate for MPI to lose your seniority and experience as a member. I think many members will continue to evaluate the ROI of their MPI membership dollars.

  13. Dianne Davis says

    Jeff – thank you for posting. I agree with much of what you are saying. The question I have – – have you directed this to anyone from MPI staff? It would seem fair to shoot this their way to give them the opportunity to respond.

    • Jeff Hurt says


      Thanks for the great question. Yes, I have directed it to MPI staff and the only one to have a public conversation with me is Jeff Busch, MPI’s VP of Strategic Communications. Unfortunately, that conversation has been limited to Twitter’s 140 characters. (If you read between the lines, that means yes, I’ve had other private conversations with staff who’s hands are tied.)

      Likewise, I have sent multiple tweets and emails to Bruce MacMillian, MPI’s President and Executive Director on several occasions and he ignores me. He never responds. He uses electronic communications to broadcast his views only. He does not use Web 2.0 to listen and engage in conversation with MPI’s members. I’ve even gone as far as forwarding tweets sent to Bruce or MPI in general to other MPI communications staff so they can respond since he doesn’t.

      The audience is watching. MPI is not listening.

  14. says

    It’s funny how often frustration with MPI keeps coming up in e-mail chats, phone conversations, and now (finally!) in public here. The thing I keep hearing is that people really do want MPI to be their association, and MPI keeps slapping them away, with this one of the more egregious examples I’ve heard in a while.

    Associations (and, may I add, trade magazines) everywhere are struggling with the free content issue. But as someone said above, it’s too late to try to go back now. If you can’t get what you need from MPI at your price point, you’ll get it elsewhere. It’s out there for the picking. All MPI is doing is making itself irrelevant to a good chunk of its members with boneheaded moves like this. Which is sad, because there are a lot of people who really want to love MPI.

    Thanks for getting this out in the open for discussion, Jeff. Here’s hoping they listen, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    • Jeff Hurt says

      @Sue Pelletier:

      Thanks so much for adding to the conversation. I think trade magazines are even a competitor for associations now, especially as they enter the education arena and offer quality online Webinars, content and podcasts. Yes, I am one that so wants to love MPI, and I’m a former employee too. I think in some cases associations and their members have a co-dependent relationship. (Total shamless pitch for upcoming post!)

      Yeah, I’m beginning to think MPI has their iPod ear plugs in igoring us thinking the topic will go away. It’s not going away. If you followed today’s 7/2/09 #eventprofs discussion, you’ll see an hour-long Twitter chat from a group of vendors, members and nonmembers discussing this very issue. Amazing how many more people are starting to call them out in public.

  15. Member says

    I am a member. I am not attending ’cause I am irritated with MPI Int’l and need to remove myself a bit. I would pay for virtual sessions, but that price is just crazy too much! Get real.

    I learned awhile back that MPI leadership, particulalry senior most paid leaders, could care less about the members. The self-centered actions are most obvious. I wonder if he is the cause of the downfalls in the recent past. And they have hired a great spin-doctor to put a positive spin on everything. Wonder if staff feels that way? Big turnover there in the last 1 1/2 years. He needs to be gone.

    If I could be a member of my chapter without having any relationship to Dallas…that would be great. Alas that is not an real option.

    • Jeff Hurt says

      Thanks for your comments and feedback. As a MPI member myself, I can identify with your frustration and disappointment in MPI. I’m curious too if their staff and if MPI’s Board of Directors feel the same way. Heck, I’m even curious if MPI’s newly appointed Board of Directors is reading any of this public discourse and when they will weigh in with their feedback.

      One of the things that I really like about Web 2.0 technologies is that customers and members now have the chance to speak up, speak out and speak loud.

      Thanks again for sharing.

  16. Dianne Davis says

    Jeff – Thank you for first going through proper channels to make the powers that be aware of what is turning out to be many members concerns. It takes a lot to step out and be heard. I appreciate your doing this.

    My .02

    1. It’s hard to get people to pay for something that was once free. This will always go over like a lead balloon unless the new costs are justified.
    2. Electronic content – if I can get it at no cost, I will every time. In the case of MPI – meeting and event planning content is being readily offered elsewhere.
    3. MPI – and not responding – for real!??!?!?!?! This is unacceptable.

    Thank you for your work for the good of the cause!


    • Jeff Hurt says


      My unscientific and biased poll is still open and as of right now, 83% of the votes are against paying for content.

  17. says


    I think your points are valid as a member.

    I have entered this whole association thing backwards. Our production company luckily has been busy enough over the years that I never entered in MPI type associations. But after getting involved with Social Media, twitter, podcasting, I am now drawn to it from the meeting event professionals I met on Twitter. When I attended MeetDifferent in Atlanta I had a fantastic time. I met all these twitter folks in person and it was an amazing experience. It made me WANT to join MPI.

    I do think MPI like most untech industries are slow to adopt new things but they seem to be trying. If you look at the WEC schedule you can see that Social Media is a big topic. Jon and I talked about Ustreaming our WEC session initially- or having a twitter stream with a session hashtag going since there was two of us. (one could monitor the stream) I am not sure if we could do that now…. and honestly, I haven’t asked.

    Thanks for this post is really very cool because it gets the conversation going and that’s what Social Media is all about isnt it?


    • Jeff Hurt says


      Thanks for adding your view to the conversation. Yes, I met you through Twitter at MPI’s MeetDifferent 2009 conference. Had it not been for that experience, we probably would not know each other yet.

  18. says


    TED is not a fair comparison given the very different purposes of the organizations and the fact that the TED Conference costs $6000 to attend, has limited attendance options, etc.

    The videos are heavily subsidized through sponsorships (as is the conference itself). Perhaps more importantly they support TED’s mission/brand of “Ideas worth spreading.”

    I’m not sure I would do what MPI is doing, but I don’t see it nearly as evil as you do. I’m fine paying a fair price for content/learning that gives me a good R.O.I. compared to ASAE’s practice of $299 for webinars, the MPI event is a bargain.

    • Jeff Hurt says


      Thanks for adding to the discussion and you’ve raised two very good points: ROI and fair price.

      How does one judge the ROI of a webinar, conference attendance or face-to-face educational event? What is a fair price? You’ve even written about high risk and low return dealing with the hospitality industry. I submit to you that this very situation is similar to what you experienced with high risk and low return of the hotel brand where you had negative experiences.

      I argue that disruptive technology of Ustream.TV has made the costs of live streaming an event $0 dollars. Furthermore, no association owns a monopoly on content or even its industry content.

      I also argue that the TED model is one that works. If you’ll read some of the follow-up posts you’ll see other ideas and suggestions that work as well.

      Here’s the rub: MPI offered free live streaming of it January conference to members and nonmembers alike, made a big deal about it and people renewed their membership based on that service. They set a precedent. MPI did not tell people that it was a beta to see if people would take advantage of the service until last week. Then ten days before their July conference, they announce a fee for virtual attendance to their July conference, which is half the price of the face-to-face event. They mislead others and me with their actions. That is wrong.

  19. says

    This is an intense debate and I can understand where people are coming from on both sides of it. I would like to point out, however, in MPI’s defense, that they do provide a significant amount of free content to their members. Most importantly, it is extremely GOOD content and I personally think that quality trumps quantity every time. An example are their two recent free webinar series that have had terrific content and I personally donated a major briefing paper called “The Case for Meetings” which was posted on their website free to members. You can get a copy here

    Another example is that the MPI Foundation and Freeman are sponsoring a free half-day workshop at WEC (that would normally cost upwards of $275 to attend over and above a conference fee). This has been a significant investment by the MPI Foundation and Freeman and others (myself included) to providing free, high-quality content to members. And it will have a Twitter backchannel. Those of you who won’t be there in person, please tune in! The hashtag is #4elements and the session is from 1:45 to 5:30 on Monday the 13th. You can read the free briefing paper before you submit your questions.

    Here’s a link to a video that describes the session a little more, complete with pictures of how we’re designing the learning environment.

    Good healthy debates are powerful ways to bring about change, so I applaud everyone for their candor. While some of you may disagree, I do believe that MPI provides significant value to its membership and that it will continue to do so.

    • Jeff Hurt says

      @Mary Boone
      Thanks for adding to this discussion and I think you know I am a fan of your content and presentations. You always bring the goods!

      I do not doubt that “The Case for Meetings” was quality content and received outstanding scores. Unfortunately, many veteran planners like myself found the topic elementary and one that didn’t meet our needs.

      The free WEC workshop you mentioned is only for those at WEC. It is not free content to MPI membership at large. It is exclusive, not inclusive. I know that’s not your or Freeman’s intention, yet it feels like you are rewarding those that could afford to attend the event and penalizing those that couldn’t. If you were going just one more step and live streaming the workshop via, (free service – all you need is a camera, computer & internet connection), I would be jumping for joy because then I could have the next best thing to the face-to-face experience.

  20. says

    Jeff, thanks for your response. It’s really interesting…right from the beginning when I wrote the briefing paper, I tried to think about how to include as many MPI members as possible. My first step was to make the paper available to the entire membership at no charge. My second step was to create a webinar that was free to all members of MPI and then my third step was to design a session that I would provide for free to WEC.

    Of course my next dilemna was, how do I make this WEC session available to as many people as possible? Here was the challenge: As I was making my technology decisions, I realized that a session like this was not a good candidate for streaming as the vast majority of it is going to be highly interactive with participants working in small groups learning from each other as well as from the subject matter experts. Formal presentations are going to be extremely brief. The Twitter backchannel made the most sense to me as a way to open it to the membership because people who read the briefing paper can ask questions or post comments that are relevant to them. People tuning into a video stream with a room full of people talking to each other would be extremely frustrated.

    I have added all that I can to this particular discussion at this point so I’ll sign off from this thread and look forward to interacting with you around your excellent content-related exchanges in the future!

    • Jeff Hurt says

      @Mary Boone
      That makes perfec sense and I totally agree with you. Hands-on, small group activities and discussions don’t make sense to be live streamed. Thanks for filling in the details and it is a great illustration how knowing the bigger picture and background sheds a different perspective on the issue at hand.

      Thanks again for sharing.

  21. says

    Great post, Jeff, and great conversation. I’m curious to hear from more people after the event about the relative value of the F2F event vs. the virtual.

    As Sue Pelletier mentioned, this is a debate every association faces. It is also foremost on the minds of exhibitions and user conferences. The Event Marketer, a Red 7 Media company, chose to make their EMS event available at a smaller price, including the ability to purchase individual sessions for cheap. I thought that they did the best job I have seen of anyone charging for online content from a F2F event.

    I agree with you that the online content needs to be free, but not because it should be. I believe it needs to be, in no small part, because of people like yourself, who strongly expect it to be free. And because making content available for free, even some of it, will generate interest in the event, the organization, and it’s community. Ultimately, it will drive higher attendance to the F2F event – I truly believe that. Organizers will need to make some or all of this content available online, for free, just to compete. Once there is enough data in the industry calming organizer’s fears that online content will cannibalize onsite attendance, the floodgates will open. Right now, they’re all convinced that no one will go to their event if the content is available for free. I had hoped the event marketing institute would generate this data but they seem to be focused as myopically on how to drive people to F2F events as the oil industry is on how to find more oil. In both cases they’re missing the sea change around them.

    I am not outraged at MPI’s decision because, as Bruce MacMillon has stated, this is an experiment. They are testing the waters and plan to report back to members on how it went. That is a brave maneuver and while it will certainly impact their membership, if they back it with a quality experiment in the “free” direction then I applaud their leadership. Big IF.


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