2006/08/31

Sponsors for Events and Organizations

An interesting discussion took place today regarding the changes in the USA related to sponsoring of events and organizations.

Twenty years ago, many organizations, conferences and meetings were supported by sponsors, either through direct company memberships or donations, or through individual membership fees paid by companies those individuals worked for. Apparently the global economy's impact has been felt in the area of sponsorship and conferences. Traditional industry conferences are sparsely attended and membership is down for many organizations.

Thin profit margins are the likely cause of the sponsorship decline in many, if not most, cases. Those thin profit margins, resulting from global competition, have caused many companies to downsize and to cut expenses. One person from a local corporation told me he forgot how to fill out expense reports because nobody travels anymore for company business. One of the casualties of the new world of work, at least in Wisconsin, is that very few employees go to industry conferences and many individual memberships in professional organizations have been dropped.

Local civic organizations are also suffering right now. Many Chambers of Commerce have membership issues and corporations do not provide nearly as much financial support to the community as they used to.

What does that mean for conferences and community or professional organizations? It means the world has changed, and those events and organizations must re-evaluate what benefits their customers are willing to pay for, and whether they need to change to survive or whether their services are no longer deemed of value.

One small result of the above changes is barcamps. The concept behind barcamps is to do an event based on the passionate interests of participants and to do it in a low-cost way. When is the last time there was a traditional 'conference' where the attendees were for the most part passionate about being at the event, or where the attendees spent the night in sleeping bags on the floor at the event venue, if they slept at all? What this means is that there are viable ways for those highly interested in sharing and gaining knowledge and skill in a particular topic. But the models seem to be changing, and it will be an interesting time as some conferences and organizations move to the open source model.

Come to BarCampMilwaukee on September 30 - October 1, 2006. See some of what a barcamp or unconference can be! Help shape what is can be...

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