Friday, May 30, 2008

Om's Mobilize - Are One Day Events The Way To Go?

I've been meaning to get around to this for a few days now. Last Friday, Om Malik announced Mobilize on his GigaOm portal.

What is this? As outlined in Om's post, Mobilize is a one day conference taking place this August in San Francisco. As you can probably guess from the name, the focus is on mobile broadband and the implications for how the Web and mobile devices can enhance our everyday communications experiences. Hot topic for sure, and I'm sure it will be a great event.

This isn't GigaOm's first conference. They have another one day event coming in June - Structure08 - and you can peruse all the details in the Events section of their portal. It's a very impressive lineup and will make for a very packed day.

I'm not in touch with Om much these days, so I can't really comment on his endeavors into the show business. Sure, it's a logical extension for building out his business and his brand, and he's well positioned to do it. Judging by the topics he's picking and the caliber of speakers lined up, these should be first rate events.

I'd really like to focus more here on the concept of the one-day event. I recently posted about Life After VON, and stated I'll be doing ongoing posts for a bit about what this all means for the nextgen community. Most people have moved on from the VON fallout, and as much as many of us - myself included - would like to see it continue, the odds don't look good.

No doubt, Om's events have been in the works for some time, and it's debatable whether he's trying to fill the void created by VON. There is probably some truth to that, and it's also debatable whether VON's demise is actually creating a void. Communities have a way of self-organizing, and this crowd is tech savvy enough to figure out how to stay together under any conditions.

My question here is about the one day event and if this is the way to go. I've previously pondered about the viability of bigger events these days, especially with a weak economy and sky high fuel prices. These events have very long lead times for planning, are typically more dependent on exhibitor revenues than the gate, and by nature are big, complex and very expensive to run. When things like the economy start to struggle, the risk factor really spikes, and it's often very difficult to adapt to a changing environment.

One day events, by comparison, have much less to worry about. Much less risk - but definitely some - but also less reward. However, small can be beautiful, and these types of events are far more in tune with a rapidly evolving marketplace. There seem to be hot trends popping up every few months, and it's much easier for smaller events to stay ahead of the curve.

These events require much less of a time commitment for everybody - speakers, event planners, attendees, media, etc. - and the cost of attending is not very prohibitive. If the event is a success, it's easy to scale up next time around, especially if you know how to engage and retain your audience. On the other hand, if it's a flop, the losses are more manageable, and there shouldn't be too much loss of face.

Overall, it seems like the right recipe for the times. Of course, GigaOm isn't the only one doing these, and the biggest risk I suppose is the lower cost of entry. There are lots of other one day events, and that just means more shows out there to pick and choose from. It's hard to tell where the VON community will migrate to, and I'm sure a lot of people are trying to get them to their events.

I guess the next few months will tell the story. I'm not sure if the VON "community" is a cohesive bunch with shared values/visions that will migrate en masse to any given event --- or if it's more of a fragmented collective that disperses like a diaspora into new communities.

I'm more in the latter camp, where I think a core group of the voice community will continue going to shows like Voicecon, whereas others will make there way into other camps such as video, social networking, wireless, developers, Web 2.0, etc. I also say this because at its core, VON was about disruption and innovation. This is the real lifeblood for anyone trying to move things forward, and as voice became conquered by IP, these forces moved elsewhere. Some may want to stay true to the VON vision, but others have felt the vision was in other places, and I have no doubt they will find those places - or create them if need be. We saw evidence of that at eComm in March.

In any event, I suspect they will be more likely to support one day events as opposed to the larger, more horizontal shows like NXTcomm, at least in the short term. And who knows, out of the ashes of VON, perhaps we'll see yet another one day event? I'll leave that one for you to think about over the weekend...

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