David J. Danto


Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion




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Business Conferences In 2023 – Where’s The Beef – December 2022


Where's the Beef?” The Story of the Most Famous Slogan Ever | by Jamie  Logie | Better Marketing  Business conference travel joyfully returned this past year. COVID was and is not over – not by a long shot – but with vaccinations and treatments readily available in most of the world, we experienced the reemergence of travel to business conferences.  We got the chance to see colleagues we hadn’t seen in years, we shook hands, we hugged and we celebrated being human again.  We didn’t care that there were mostly no new announcements and supply chain issues made getting anything nearly impossible, it was great to just get together again.  Now that the calendar is turning to 2023, and we’ve already seen and hugged our industry colleagues at a bunch of events, I believe the happy-party is over.  Attendees will start asking “Where’s the Beef” in 2023.  Real substance had better return to business conferences this year if they want to survive.

(In case you’re not old enough to recall, The Wendy’s hamburger chain ran a campaign in the 1980s making fun of their competitors’ big buns but tiny burgers.  Where’s the beef became a euphemism for pointing out that things had no substance.) 

A lack of substance – or at least a lack of innovations and availability of products – was pervasive at most of the conferences I attended in my field last year.  Honestly, as I mentioned above, in most cases, attendees didn’t care.  After two plus years of on-and-off lockdowns it was all about the joy of getting together again.  Attendees experienced a kind of euphoria because they were allowed to be ‘normal’ again.  It didn’t even matter that nearly 80% of them caught COVID from attending some of these conferences.  One such conference I attended in Las Vegas in June has been referred to as “Covid-Com” by attendees, with organizers not effectively preparing attendees for how pervasive COVID was in Vegas at the time.  Locals told me that every large event in Vegas for a couple of months turned out to be super-spreader events.  Still, even with that being the case, most attendees defended being there as a personal risk they accepted in exchange for the wonderful experience being social again. 

For the upcoming 2023, I believe that the euphoria has passed.  We’re living in a new reality which includes a possible global recession, companies needing additional justifications for sending people to conferences, exhibitors looking for justifications to spend the truckloads of money required to sponsor and show their wares, and amazingly more (not less) conferences popping-up (at least in the technology space I’m in) forcing people to either attend more of them or having to choose which ones to go to. 

When I saw my industry colleague of thirty years for the first time since COVID it was great.  When I saw him or her at a second conference it was cool.  The third time?  The fourth time? OK, been there, done that.  It’s no longer a good-enough reason for me to deal with the hassle and expense of airlines, hotels, car rentals, restaurant meals – and worse than that, getting approval for reimbursement of the expenses involved.  Just in case you’ve forgotten, those hassles have really started to suck lately.  There’s less service and more price gouging in the travel and hospitality industries.  The ‘suck’ level is nearly at its historical peak.  That doesn’t even address the fact that the bean-counters at most businesses are tightening their (and our) belts.

In order for people to attend business conferences in the coming year there will need to be a clear justification to be there – and it’ll have to be one that goes beyond the socialization.  Are there new products or solutions we need to know about?  Are there educational sessions that are bringing new processes or approaches to problems – and are not just sponsor advertising disguised as education?  And most importantly, if the conference organizer is offering training for certifications they’ve created, do those certifications mean anything to anyone?  Does the organizer lift a finger making that certification valuable to both the industry and customers outside the industry, or is it really just a cash-cow of them selling training to attendees that only they profits from?   

It’s just turned to December and I’ve already booked my travel arrangements for two conferences in January.  The first one – CES 2023 – is without question worth my time.  The second one…well, I’m attending that one just in case there will be any value.  I’m not sure it will really be worth my time.  If it isn’t I won’t bother going next year.  It involves international travel, so it’s not like an easy walk around the block.  The ‘perks’ of business travel are not really perks anymore.  You can have the five days in a tiny hotel room with your entire daily routine ripped-apart.  The ‘sightseeing’ of the daily trip from a hotel to a taxi to the conference center to a bad restaurant to another taxi and back to the hotel again isn’t really exhilarating.  (I’m getting too old for this #$%@  warning, link is NSFW.)  In the future I’ll only put up with it if there is a real justification to be at the conference. 

All of this will negatively impact the travel and hospitality industries with less people going to conferences.  In addition, we’ll have the bad formula of conference organizers needing to spend more money to attract less attendees that are traveling to more choices of conferences.  To survive, organizers should be able to answer the question “where’s the beef” for themselves before their potential attendees and exhibitors start asking the question themselves.



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Please don’t miss the second sentence in this blog.  COVID is NOT over.  Masks, boosters, and not being a stupid COVIDiot are the best ways to avoid getting sick no matter which conferences you attend.


This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.

All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.

Copyright 2022 David Danto


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