Have we reached “Peak Conference”?

If you’re in the property space, you’ll know that there’s been a constant stream of conferences and events this year, and I don’t know about you, but from a consultant’s point of view, it’s getting exhausting keeping up with them all let alone trying to attend them.

Now, you might argue that this is to be expected of the role as we consultants and coaches build our businesses on the strength of our networks, but there comes a point where even we find it hard to differentiate the value in each event and we too get to overload, so I’m questioning how anyone else is able to sift through the offerings each time to determine which event is going to be high enough value for them to attend and justify the time away from their main role.

There have been some remarkably good events this year, and I’ve tallied up the number of days I’ve spent traveling to and attending conferences so far for the year and to the end of August I’ve spent the equivalent of roughly a month doing the rounds – taking out January as it was a quiet month for events, that calculates to 1 day in 6 away from incoming producing activities – and I’m already booked at 4 more in coming weeks, as a speaker, delegate and one as a sponsor; and I’m far from having attended every conference that’s been promoted, but I’m also now at the point where I’m drawing a line under attending further conferences this year, as I’m conferenced-out, this is going to disappoint some of my colleagues who run these events, as I usually promote the event for them.

Reflecting on when I first entered the industry, it’s fascinating to see how the landscape has evolved. When I first entered the industry, our challenge was the opposite – there were very few conferences each year, and these were mainly run by the various Real Estate Institutes but with the advent of private training firms which have (in some cases) greater reach and relevance, these Institute-run events are being supplanted and the spread of events makes it difficult to know where to spend this part of the training budget to best effect – I’m continually having this conversation with clients and industry colleagues who also are feeling the overwhelm from events.

Possibly this year’s surge of conferences and events has been a response to the dropping of the restrictions on gathering in groups and border closures after the pandemic but it’s also possible that there are a very high number of organisations offering events of varying durations between 1 and 4 days both within the country and overseas so how do we determine which ones to go to – do we look for speakers that we believe will add something to our lives both professionally and personally, do we follow a particular organising group and blindly trust that they will provide a high value conference or do we look to attend only events which are within a reasonable distance from home?

The answer will vary on the individual and no one set of criteria will suit everyone but from my perspective previously as a property manager I look at events which fell into the first category – they added to my life in some way, they were relevant to me professionally in that I believed that the speakers would mostly be able to make my work life easier and covered a range of topics rather than having too narrow a focus and have included the “how to” of Property Management with workflows, processes etc, which then flowed into my personal life; and now as a consultant I use pretty much the same philosophy but through a client-relevant lens where what I hear from various speakers will provide me with skills or additional insights which will help my clients achieve further success in their businesses and strategic business planning and others which delve into more holistic areas such as corporate and personal wellness, leadership development and the current hot button topic of harnessing AI in the Property Management landscape.

Having spoken to a number of the organisers of these events, they’ve also expressed to me their frustrations with the field being so crowded and this limits their ability to cut through the noise of promotion from other events to get theirs noticed, as well as attract sponsors to underwrite the expense of running them – believe me, it’s not a cheap exercise to get an event off the ground, I’ve run the numbers.

So, it’s worth considering whether we should collectively examine the sustainability of the current saturation of conferences and events.
I’m also hearing from a number of industry partners that they’ve pulled back on sponsoring events (my podcast series was one of the first to feel this) and while it’s frustrating that they want our support for their product or service, when it comes to supporting us as hosts they pull back, these firms also have budgets which they need to keep to and the number of events they get asked to support financially is growing and they therefore need to make decisions so that their bottom lines are kept healthy and we benefit from their platforms.

I’m wondering whether we need to look at a reduction in the number of events going forward, maybe there is merit in some firms who run events collaborating or partnering up to jointly hold them as I believe that the current run of conferences and events isn’t sustainable.

I’m interested in your thoughts on this too – do you think we’ve been in overwhelm with conferences?

Email me at kirk@thepmcoach.com.au with your views