Rightsizing SLA Annual?



London_2012, originally uploaded by estorias.net.

This is the empty Olympic Stadium in London. Right now it looks like WestHam will be moving there, even if they can’t really afford it. It reminds me of Panathinaikos’ situation, where they can’t afford the electric bill after moving into the Olympic Stadium in Athens.

It also reminds me, sadly, of the SLA Annual Conference.

If you act now, you can register for SLA 2013 at the early bird rate of $529. It’s the same price as the early registration for 2012. My good friend Chris Zammarelli blogged his thoughts on $529. I encourage you to read everything he wrote. This is the bit that really stuck with me:

I think we are at a point where big, glitzy conferences are a thing of the past. By glitzy, I mean, for example: Do we need to have big opening and closing ceremonies with big sets and big keynote speakers?

Do we? No.

Zammarelli also points out that SLA 2013 is in the same convention center as Comic-Con – so it’s much bigger than what we could reasonably hope to need in terms of capacity. That was something that really struck me in Chicago this year – so much emptiness. We seemed tiny compared to the cavernous McCormick Center. It definitely made it hard to find people for networking. It was also sort of a bummer.

I’ve been a program planner for SLA before, so I know there is a lot of stuff we can’t control. It’s hard for everybody. I get that. I get that the $529 is a good investment in professional development. It’s also hard to swallow as our budgets are being tightened at home and at work.

Zammarelli’s last point really sums up how I feel:

It just seems like it’s time to scale back and to find ways to make the conference itself less expensive, rather than find other, non-conference-related ways to cut costs. Because this is the point in time where SLA members may look at the registration fee and decide to put that money to use elsewhere.

The annual conference is a highlight in my professional calendar each year. I will make it work, but I also understand why not all of my colleagues can. Whether they work for an organization that no longer approves any travel, or has slashed the travel budgets to nothing, or if they have home and family costs they need to focus on, or whatever… the point is that the current model isn’t working anymore. Smaller conference centers in more economical locations is a good step in this direction. I hope we’ll figure out a solution soon, because I really hate seeing a lot of my colleagues going elsewhere because they don’t feel they can afford SLA anymore.

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