There was nothing unusual about the announcement of the first North American CaseWare Idea User Conference. That September conference appears typical of the user conferences that have started in the last five years—shows from CCH, Intuit (for QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions), Open Systems and Sage. In fact, after the consolidation in the early part of the decade eliminated many reseller conferences, the spread of user conferences probably means there are more conferences in the financial software business than ever.

There is a new state society show coming from Maryland in June, the same month. Intuit has scheduled hold  two QuickBooks/Lacerte conferences that were held quietly last year and are being publicized this year.

But these shows came on line before gasoline prices started rising like the mercury in a Death Valley thermometer at sunrise.

There’s no doubt about what drives the interest in user conferences—they make relationships between users and vendors tighter. Run correctly, they provide users the chance to develop a community of interests, and the chance to compare what works and what doesn’t in all aspects of business.

This proliferation of shows occurred as the Internet was supposed to enable  the adoption of virtual events and community building, which it has. It just hasn’t replaced the live exhibitions.

But when it can take a gallon of gas to go to the doctor’s office or shop for groceries in areas where things are further apart than they are in the New York City area, companies that are always eyeing travel costs will probably be thinking about the price of air travel more than ever.

Through last year, there appeared to be little that could stop the increasing attendance at these events. And community still is valuable. But is it worth four dollars a gallon?

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