With the advent of great video and audio recording of many conferences, is attending the ‘big conferences’ really an issue anymore?

I’ve been to some truly huge conferences MacWorld Expo (3,000) , Cisco Networkers (5,000) , and National Education Computing Conference (>10,000). There are some truly spectacular aspects of big conferences to be sure. I met Chuck Yeager at the Cisco conference where he was the Day 3 Keynote. I stood beside (actually got bumped out of the way) by Steve Jobs and John Mayer working the booth at MacWorld, and got Steve Wozniak to sign my Newton at a NCCE conference. Those types of names don’t show up for a couple hundred people.

Or do they ….

Northern Voice in Vancouver has drawn some pretty big names Anil Dash and Matt Mullenwag to a crowd of about 350. Those were the keynotes, attendees included social mavens like Robert Scoble and Chris Pirillo.

But more important than the names on the Keynote is the quality of the interaction. I can’t think of a conference worth attending where people haven’t raved about the lunch conversation and the debates over a beer.

In contrast, my worse conference experience was probably Networkers in Las Vegas. About a sterile experience as you can imagine. The content is great, don’t get me wrong, but I could have got as much from a video stream as I got from the cost and time of a 4 day trip. I wouldn’t trade any of my Northern Voice trips for a Networkers (well maybe the on where Chuck Yeager signed my logbook).

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