This week’s Mesh09 conference in Toronto was a fantastic success, by all accounts. David Usher continued to move from music into the social media scene, though it couldn’t be resisted to ask “how does Nickelback influence you”. His response? “Chad’s a nice guy…”. Of course, the Globe and Mail’s Mathew Ingram, a conference organizer, was also present and in his usual fine form, chiming in humorously on the Tropicana redesign fiasco in his recap panel with Mike Masnick. But perhaps the highlight of the sessions was kiva.org’s Jessica Jackley who inspired the crowd with pearls like, “Don’t do it for me or because we’re begging you. Do it because you believe in it”. Even the after parties impressed. From the Social Media Group’s affair at Mod Club on Tuesday night to the Edelman party at Proof Vodka bar on Wednesday. It was an enjoyable experience all around… well, I guess I could’ve said that. If I went.
That’s right. I didn’t attend Mesh09. I witnessed no panels. I attended no parties. I received none of this info first hand. I simply sat in the nitch* home/office, armed with my tweetdeck. As time rolled along, flickr and facebook began to spring to life offering me visuals to go along with the tasty media snacks I’d been consuming all day long. Of course, this doesn’t even take into account the audio and video podcasts already springing up from panels all across the net (and helpfully linked to on twitter). So in the end, I was left with a fulfilling two day experience of insights from all the lovely Toronto tweeps religiously covering the event. Heck, I even knew where in the room my friends were sitting and sometimes what they had for lunch. This was a phenomenon I’d noticed originally during South By Southwest Interactive, but traveling to Austin and traveling to College Street are two very different things. Nonetheless, I thought I’d give it a shot again. And I was relatively pleased with the results.
So by not attending Mesh09, what did I really miss (other than the chance to pay almost $400 to receive info that’s piped into my laptop through the internets)? I suppose you could say networking. But as I’ve spoken about in this space before. With great events like Third Tuesday Toronto, GenYTO, Wired Wednesday, interact and more, there’s plenty of inexpensive ways to shake some hands and make some contacts in this town. If I was dead set on meeting Mesh09 attendees, I could’ve attended the SMG party at Mod Club for a $15 charitable donation, or the Edelman party for free!
It should be noted that I’m Dutch, and therefore genetically predisposed to frugality, but we’re in recessionary times here. Times that teach people about the value of a dollar. Truth be told, I absolutely LOVE tech conferences. I love panels, I love meeting new people and I love networking. So I definitely would’ve been at Mesh09 with bells on, but the conference was a luxury my business couldn’t afford right now. How many other small businesses are in that situation though? And how veterans are there in the industry that don’t need the networking a conference facilitates?
With all of the social media that these conferences are either providing, or facilitating the spread of through microblog hashtags, are they undermining their own business? I’d like to think no. But at a time when it’s clear that business models need to change across a number of sectors, could the tech conference be another victim? I hope not.