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    Rosemary Stanton

    I can back Simon Chapman’s experiences with for-profit conference organisers. I too have been invited to speak at these outrageously expensive gatherings and have sometimes been tempted by the choice line-up of invited (and influential) speakers. Unfortunately, when it comes to the big day, it turns out that most of the invited big wigs were ‘unavailable’.

    I’ve also spent ages preparing a presentation, only to find the audience consists of a few dozen marketing executives who give the appearance of having a day out.

    Knowing that the organisers must be raking in considerable amounts, and also aware that preparing a paper will take a lot of evening and weekend time, I recently asked for a speaker’s fee plus travel costs The organisers replied that their “funding was allocated for international speakers”, although they later relented and thought they might be able to pay for my travel (300km in my very economical car plus parking) if I could first give them a ‘quote’.

    I declined the invitation and later was told that earlier sessions had run late, cutting short discussion time for those that followed.

    As might be expected from the high costs of registration, the attendees – and the flavour – was dominated by marketing types from the big end of town.

    For those of us used to conferences organised by universities or not-for-profit groups, these privately organised meetings are a bit hard to take.

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    Here here! I generally avoid these events now either as a speaker or an attendee. In fact the whole large conference circuit I find of diminishing value. They are a slow and cumbersome way to disseminate ideas in an electronic age. Government departments usually want them held in some large government built conference centre that nobody wants to be a white elephant. This alone tends to put the cost up quite high.

    I find that regular technical meetings of professional societies, either over breakfast, lunch or dinner, are a much better way of discussing ideas. You can then quickly email presentations to people afterwards.

    I could add that I find the behaviour of some journal publishers, notoriously Elsevier, not much better. They charge a lot to people to get access to copies of other people’s work. Surely we can do better than that now we have the internet?

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    So…don’t go…

    I’m not sure where the story is here??


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