Attend enough conferences from companies that sell product and you'll get used to a pattern. The conferences, whether user or reseller oriented, are often loaded with product and program announcements that look like they have been saved for an eon.

Naturally, companies want to make a big splash. They want to enthrall their users and invigorate their channels so the enthusiasm carries through the year. But I’ve often felt that many companies make a mistake by loading up on announcements that are released at once, and then there’s little left for the other 364 days.

Part of this is a public relations issue. The company should spread its message out, not launch a big bang and then fade. Part of this is a press issue. Load reporters with enough issues and major announcements can get buried simply because the magazine or newspaper or Web site only has enough room for so many stories. You may have had the cure for cancer and met the first alien life form, but only one of those is going to be the lead story. The other one gets buried. (We have a notoriously short attention span. Don’t ever ask me what I wrote about last month.)

I also think that loading up on announcements is of no favor to users or resellers either. A lot end up being pre-announcements, like we used to call vaporware. Frankly, if users and resellers are like me, it’s easy to lose track of what’s been pre-announced, and what’s actually shipping soon. Vendors get a nice buzz off pre-announcements, but I think these start having a boy-who-cried-wolf effect on the people who the vendors want to reach.

I also think that users and resellers can simply get overloaded when too much information is delivered at once. When somebody asks me at the end of a day at a conference what I’ve learned, my standard joke is that I’ll know in a few days.

I think the perfect conference is often the one where attendees complain nothing big has been announced. There tends to be too much focus on looking for the revolutionary product, not enough on good solid technology and business skill building. Of course, any respectable conference is going to have its mandatory motivational speaker, message from the leaders, and big events that try to whip up the troops’ enthusiasm. But those sell to the emotional side and don’t overload people with content.

So to avoid conference-itis that old dictum, "more is less," never sounded better.

 

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