In defense of meetings

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Some people say that live meetings are going to go the way of the Dodo bird, but not at the U.S. Department of Defense. "The Pentagon sent 36,000 military and civil service employees to 6,600 conferences worldwide last year at an average cost of $2,200 per person. 'Of interest is that of those 6,600 conferences, 663 were held in Florida in the middle of the winter; 224 were held in Las Vegas, and 98 in Hawaii,' said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) in this Washington Post article. So, he's looking to rein in expenses by limiting conference-related expenditures to $70 million next year.


While I can understand that it's important to go to conferences in Hawaii, where the U.S. Pacific Command is headquartered, and Vegas and Florida are big meeting sites for everyone, but this bit at the end of the article gave me pause:


    Among the meetings that received Pentagon support last year were the Armed Forces Bowling Conference in Orlando, the Bowling Managers Expo in Las Vegas, the Armed Forces Golf Conference in West Palm Beach, and the Craft and Hobby Association conference in Atlanta, according to the briefing paper.


OK, I won't go there. But Ken Molay of the Webinar Blog makes a good point when he says:


    Can webinars and web conferences really replace in-person affinity shows? I doubt it. They are built to do different things, and you can't make connections and press the flesh with other attendees when you attend an online event. But on the other hand, some percentage of the information communicated at all these events must be just as effective when delivered over the web. Perhaps organizers could start reducing the total length and number of topic tracks in their conference sessions to reduce the number of people needed for effective coverage and the length of time they have to be present. They could then supplement the live show with web-based sessions to deliver content in a more economical manner.

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