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Cliqmunities

Some things make you react. @naturalgrump recently wrote about this here. Before you read any further please do take a read through his post above as it’s very relevant for what comes next!

A Twitter Reaction
This morning’s twitter stream soon filled with the CIPD 2011 Social Media conference
.  I’d forgotten exactly what was on the agenda so I skipped over to the CIPD website for a look.  Looking at the details, what I hadn’t appreciated was the price….  tickets were £550 for members or £600 for non-members.

I’m a pretty tolerant soul and being typically Libran I’m usually quite good at seeing both sides of an argument.  However, the old amygdala kicked in big time when I saw the price.  Now to be clear, this is not a case of amygdala hijack!  However, for some reason, this is making me react…

Is this some reaction to the CIPD?  
No – I’m not anti-CIPD.  In fact their embracing of social media and engagement with the community seems to be a positive thing.

Is this jealousy?  Do I wish I was there?
No – I already made the decision about what was most important and existing diary commitments won.  I can catch up on what I missed through social media and friends.

Is the scheduled agenda the issue?
No – I have no particular views on it but knowing who’s involved I’m sure it will be excellent.

Deja Vu
The above don’t seem to hold any answers but my sense is that my reaction was in some way connected to recent blogs on conferences:
@onatrainagainwrote here about the prohibitive cost of conference attendance for certain sectors or those with restricted financial circumstances.
@robjones_tringwrote in quite a different vein about the conference experience here.   In fact I think he was talking about revolutionising the conference experience.
@neilmorrisonalso wrote hereabout conference attendance and value, remarking that something is going to have to change…

What is really going on here?
Well I think possibly a few things but they centre about these observations…
  1. The cost of the conference today is prohibitive for some if not many.  I understand the argument about affordability being our own judgement.  However, in such times, when we price events at such levels we are effectively excluding people.
  2. In the past year I’ve attended conferences, unconferences, events and research days.  The ones that have created the most value for me are those where there is content, challenge and community in abundance.  Not exclusivity.
  3. There seems to be a correlation between community value and price paid.  Where community engagement is high and is the driving force, the value is high and the cost is always low.
I value inclusivity and believe in the value of communities.  My concern is that if we ignore the above we will find ourselves creating “cliqmunities”…

What next?

I’ve tried to be non-judgemental but please do react.  Tell me what you think.  Shape the thinking around this subject.

Talk about the impact of today’s conference in the context of the above.

Talk about the value of the mainstream conference format.

Talk about how community can be brought together without exclusion.

Perhaps more importantly, if you want to help provide low-cost learning or mini-conferences for the broad HR community who can’t afford mainstream prices.  Then say so.   You won’t be alone.

Post Script
The title of this post was inspired by a tweet from @BillBoorman. I’d been struggling to describe and finish this blog and it just seemed to fit. Thanks Bill! 

About David Goddin

Passionate about People, Performance & Potential. Amongst many other things David Goddin is a consultant, coach, facilitator & mentor with extensive experience of transforming business performance and organisational effectiveness as a Senior Executive in large organisations. As the founder and Managing Director of Change Continuum, David now works with companies and business professionals who want to increase performance, accelerate change & unleash potential.

Discussion

15 thoughts on “Cliqmunities

  1. Morning, sir. Firstly, thanks for the name check, very good of you :)I'm sure the cost of conferences is something which comes up every time a body or group chooses to run an event like this. How much do we charge? Is exclusivity what we're vying for? How mainstream do we want to go? Businesses are willing to pay.I think part of what you're describing is the perceived value of the cost. Will I get the bang for my buck? Will I get the insight I'm yearning for to help move me forward? In the case of yesterday's conference, it seems a good many new people will now be trying Twitter, so is that the objective met?The point about low cost events is also intriguing as do people have lower expectations going into a lower cost event so are more willing to be pleasantly surprised? And are more susceptible to being pleased?

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    Posted by Sukh Pabial | December 8, 2011, 7:27 AM
  2. Morning, sir. Firstly, thanks for the name check, very good of you :)I'm sure the cost of conferences is something which comes up every time a body or group chooses to run an event like this. How much do we charge? Is exclusivity what we're vying for? How mainstream do we want to go? Businesses are willing to pay.I think part of what you're describing is the perceived value of the cost. Will I get the bang for my buck? Will I get the insight I'm yearning for to help move me forward? In the case of yesterday's conference, it seems a good many new people will now be trying Twitter, so is that the objective met?The point about low cost events is also intriguing as do people have lower expectations going into a lower cost event so are more willing to be pleasantly surprised? And are more susceptible to being pleased?

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    Posted by Sukh Pabial | December 8, 2011, 7:53 AM
  3. [I'm afraid I'm having some Blogger/Disqus issues…]@naturalgrump  has left this comment :Morning, sir. Firstly, thanks for the name check, very good of you 🙂 I'm sure the cost of conferences is something which comes up every time a body or group chooses to run an event like this. How much do we charge? Is exclusivity what we're vying for? How mainstream do we want to go? Businesses are willing to pay. I think part of what you're describing is the perceived value of the cost. Will I get the bang for my buck? Will I get the insight I'm yearning for to help move me forward? In the case of yesterday's conference, it seems a good many new people will now be trying Twitter, so is that the objective met? The point about low cost events is also intriguing as do people have lower expectations going into a lower cost event so are more willing to be pleasantly surprised? And are more susceptible to being pleased?

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    Posted by davidgoddin | December 8, 2011, 8:12 AM
  4. Much like yourself David I too didn't check the price as I intuitively knew I would feel uncomfortable paying the fee (for reasons still unknown to me – although reasons which will, if need be, become deadly clear at some point) One of the interesting perspectives I have drawn from all of this is that a colleague recently drew in the same delegate numbers with which I would suspect is a distinguishably smaller market reach than the CIPD.  These may be rhetorical questions but if the fee was lower, would the CIPD have benefited from higher numbers? Would that be important to them?  How do we distinguish between community and cliqmunities? Will we just intuitively feel what is right for each of us and from there communities are built   …… 

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    Posted by Natasha | December 8, 2011, 12:31 PM
  5. Hi Sukh – as always thanks for adding so much more to this.I'm intrigued by the notion that a lower cost event potentially makes people more susceptible to being pleased.  This feels like it could be connected to the perceived relationship & value…  If I pay highly and we don't already have a mutually supportive relationship are we then only able to gauge relationship value based on commercial impact?  The counter to this is, if I contribute to the cost does that help us create a mutually supportive relationship that creates commercial impact?  For me the later sounds like social media…

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    Posted by davidgoddin | December 8, 2011, 12:49 PM
  6. Hi Natasha – more great perspective – thanks for adding to the thinking here and sharing your experiences.I think distinguishing between community & cliqmunity is really important.  To some extent I'm sure we'll intuitively feel the difference in the experience.  The question for me is how do we ensure we don't unintentionally build cliqmunity as we try to build community?  Are cliqmunities actually the outcome of "tribal" behaviour?

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    Posted by davidgoddin | December 8, 2011, 12:55 PM
  7. Interestingly I never knew about this event before the day not being that close to CIPD. It came up for me in the context of twitter, something I'm still very new to. I felt I got quite a bit from this event by the sterling work of others who whilst there were making the effort to share content. Now of course, I didn't have to pay so did I get "community" benefit from those who broke the "cliqmunity" and passed it on without charging? I wonder did I get as much from it as if I'd been there? I guess not but interestingly several people are promising to blog on lessons they took away from the day so I guess I might well have still more value to come.For me, I have to be careful where I spend my personal training budget and so don't get to attend many conferences. My measure has always been the whole price vs value debate. I've been on trainings which cost £3k and I got value of that and more in just one short 20 minute section of the course leaving everything else to be icing on an (expensive) cake. Was this event expensive in context and exclusive by design (something which social media and the presenters rendered rather obsolete with their own excellent real time coverage)? I don't know. What I will say is that most things break in to cliques over who has the content / the rights / the power. Almost anyone that forms a group of like minded people by definition (if not design) excludes others. Even twitter or facebook which are meant to be egalitarian, open forums have people who use them to wield power or influence. After all, many think social media is the way ahead, many don't. Who is right? Both groups!I'm not sure I've moved the debate on much or added to it but I do feel that your final point of community without exclusion is a tough one and I'm interested to see what other posters say.

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    Posted by Jon Bartlett | December 8, 2011, 1:40 PM
  8. I guess with everything, as you point out, the question isn't just cost but return. The problem with any event, social or professional is that you only know the return afterwards. We've all been to gigs where you come out and think that you'll never see that 90 minutes or £50 ever again.So people make judgments based on what they feel is value for money. When it comes to conferences, this is often skewed by another factor, "will my boss sign this off". And that adversely impacts certain sectors and certain types of businesses – regardless of how fair this is, it is the reality.As you point out, I've written about this myself and the fact that things have to change.  I think the model is breaking, but not yet broken.  I'm not sure what the future model looks like, but in the same way that we have seen the deomcratization of media content, we are and we will see free and freemium models of content emerge pretty quickly.In relation to the specific conference, I couldn't tell you whether it was value for money or not as I was a speaker not a participant. That said, I hope people that attended felt that they came away with value for money. If not, those of us that were speaking ultimately failed.

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    Posted by Neil Morrison | December 8, 2011, 2:29 PM
  9. Good post and comments. I have been reporting from a range of conferences and unconferences this year (here is a post about the differences http://itsdevelopmental.com/2011/conference-versus-unconference/) and, from a personal perspective, been amazed at how different events can be. Lecture type events tend to be less engaging and participtatory than those events that require you to engage in some way. You can see a presenter's slides online – the value for me is to be able to talk with them about their thinking. The reinvention of the conference industry is slow but it is happening. I can't wait until groups of people create one off events on demand – the free tools are there to do this (maybe it's happening already). As a delegate you are then making something happen rather than paying for something that has been put on for you. If you have more of an interest in making an event happen you will probably get more out of it.

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    Posted by Martin Couzins | December 8, 2011, 3:33 PM
  10. I was asked to speak at the CIPD Social Media in HR conference. So like Neil – I didn't pay. I enjoyed it and I hope I helped add value to the experience for the CIPD and for their paying guests.As one who helps put on live events – pricing is difficult. It costs money to stage something. Stop Doing Dumb Things in November cost about £5500 and generated a small surplus. Nothing like what you might consider as being 'remunerated' for setting up and organising and making an event happen. And we knew that would be the case too. A few folks contacted me early on asking why I wasn't doing the event for free. It would be easy to fill a room with 100 non paying idealists and we didn't want to do that. I think we offered excellent value at £119 +VAT and we cut our cloth accordingly. I've been threatened over the phone by an event management company before. It wasn't clear why but I'm guessing pricing has something to do with it. We're thinking about next year's Stop Doing Dumb Things and keeping the price the same for our founding guests and charging a little more in general. Partly because it takes a huge amount of time away from developing other things in order to make the event happen and partly because we think the 2012 event will be worth a little more. Are we right? I don't know, we'll see – still thinking.And of course our set up is different to the CIPD. All I'm saying is there are differences and I guess different audiences are attracted or not by these differences. You will have to pay a staggering £1145 +VAT to attend the Pharma Summit run by The Economist. Against that price the CIPD event is cheap!

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    Posted by Doug Shaw | December 8, 2011, 4:23 PM
  11. Thanks Jon – the addition of your thinking and experience absolutely helps!I think the challenge is in your comment of how we create groups of like-minded individuals.  It may feel comfy (right) but lack of diversity is a constraint and may actually fuel the power plays you allude to.  Also, we know that we learn more alongside strangers than with people we know well.  So it feels that like-mindedness might be the problem!Perhaps to address inclusivity we need to abandon like-mindedness and seek diverse interests in a common theme.  @dougshaw1's recent Stop Doing Dumb Things unconference (#sddt) is probably a good example…http://stopdoingdumbthingstocustomers.com/learning/outstanding-experience/

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    Posted by davidgoddin | December 8, 2011, 7:23 PM
  12. Thanks for your comments Neil.I haven't held any views on the value of the conference but the feedback and twitter stats indicate it was a big success.  So the "model" worked for those who could or chose to attend.  Those who gave their time speaking at the event certainly don't seem to have failed!Looking at the "model" though, my sense is that return and value are often (solely?) judged in the context of cost/investment, even with great content and participation.  So value, return and inclusivity seem to have a common "enemy"…  perhaps this is the strain that is breaking the model?With the expansion and distribution of information and access to networks, alternative or more community driven models seem bound to become the norm.  Will they be inclusive or exclusive?  I suspect we all play a role in that future…

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    Posted by davidgoddin | December 8, 2011, 7:55 PM
  13. Hi Martin – great to see you here and thanks for the comments.  The blog link you gave is something everyone here should take a look at.As we've shared offline I love the thinking around how people will create and drive the conferences they want to attend in the format that they desire creating the value they need.  The margin to be taken here is experience and opportunity rather than profit. Real value in my eyes.Looking forward to seeing your blog on this one!

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    Posted by davidgoddin | December 8, 2011, 7:59 PM
  14. Thanks for getting back to me David. I've been reading about Doug's event and it certainly seems to have been well received. It also sounds like something I would very much enjoy, even though the idea of an "unconference" sounds gimmicky on the surface (to me at least). I'll keep an eye out for the next one.I think you are right about seeking diverse interests in a common theme. Doug seems to have got a good balance of thought leaders and big business types together, that has got to help, after all there is no monopoly on common sense. He makes the point about different events appealing to different people and that will always be the case but is there something to be said for pricing structures or free passes for certain businesses to ensure a leavening / breadth of viewpoint?I very much like Martin's point about the delegates creating something rather than arriving and expecting to be "entertained" (I use that word advisedly) so I guess the challenge is how to drive delegate ownership of an event which by necessity has to be organised by someone  – even if it is a simple as publicising an HR flashmob somewhere unusual. I'm still struggling for how to broaden access though. I'll do some thinking and get back to you. 

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    Posted by Jon Bartlett | December 8, 2011, 9:51 PM
  15. Thanks for your comments and your openness as always Doug.I don't think there's a need to try and do things for free per se.  Most reasonable people seem to feel this way and will happily pay to cover costs and the sometimes considerable time it takes to pull off a great event.When I think of what you did with your unconference, you could have asked a higher financial price and generated a higher surplus.  You didn't though…  You ran an unconference format, attracted a diverse & engaged group and built a sense of community as you always do.I personally see congruence here with offering excellent value, a community focussed approach and emotional/relational engagement & commitment.This is how I see value and inclusivity coming together.

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    Posted by davidgoddin | December 8, 2011, 10:11 PM
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