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Big vs. Small

Sometimes, bigger is better:


But not always.

I’m relaxing in my room at the Westin, on the Boston waterfront. This weekend was my first time in Boston, and I came to do a workshop on podcasting at the first ever SpringBoard Conference, co-founded by my friend Christy Matte.

The last conference I attended before that, with my children, was the Digital Family Summit in Philadelphia founded by my friend Stephanie Schwab, where my son attended sessions on WordPress, video editing, and Scratch animation, and my daughter learned about working with charities via social media.

Before that, the last conference I attended – also to do a session on podcasting – was SheStreams in Ft. Lauderdale, founded by my friend Maria Bailey.

What did these three conferences have in common, aside from being run by smart women? They were all on the small side.

I don’t want to disparage big conferences just for being big. Some of them are really awesome, some are just OK. But they exhaust me. It’s just too much. The rock star sessions are standing room only. There’s a ton of walking, dragging laptops and “swag bags” from session to session and around humungous expo floors. There are too many session tracks, and no matter what I choose I feel like I’m missing five other things I wanted to do.

While I’ve never organized a conference, I do get that there is an economy of scale. For many reasons a small conference can end up being more expensive per person than a giant one. And for some conferences, getting really big meant that they made it – so many people are clamoring to attend that the conference can take over a bigger venue, attract dozens of big sponsors, fly in famous speakers, and put on an amazing show.

But I just want to put out a good word for the smaller conferences. I think Cat Lincoln of the Clever Girls Collective tweeted it best last night:

Instead of leaving the conference feeling like I missed out on meeting just about everybody, I’m thinking about what a huge percentage of the attendees I got to know. Unlike after big conferences, you won’t see me tweeting things like “OMG, you were there? I totally didn’t see you. :-( #BigConference”

And if I can speak to businesses for a moment, please take advantage when those smaller conferences approach you. When the expo floor is small, you’ll have more time to get to know the bloggers. They won’t feel pressured to run from table to table, and can instead take their time and find out about you and what you have to offer.

WP_001218Thanks to the businesses that worked with SpringBoard, I went on a fantastic dinner cruise courtesy of The Odyssey my first night here, a great way to start the weekend. I chatted with reps from Peapod – a service I use at least once a month back home in Brooklyn – about various school programs they offer, including helping kids donate food to local food banks, and the Stop&Shop A+ School Rewards program, which helps schools raise badly needed funds. I found out from the women at the Woven table that there’s a Windows Phone app on the way – yay! I discovered American Flatbread Pizza, which has so many vegetarian options I’m drooling – I can’t wait to try one with my free coupon! I’m WP_001217going home with two gorgeous paperblanks journals (pictured on the right). I’m in discussions with MomIQ about new moneymaking opportunities for my blog. I had an amazing dinner courtesy of Maggiano’s Little Italy (Omg! The onion strings!). And back in my room last night, still stuffed from my fettuccini Alfredo, I couldn’t help myself and dug into a Dancing Deer Chocolate Chunk brownie, which was incredibly yummy (and I’m bringing lots more of their goodies home to my family!).

I really appreciate all of the businesses that supported SpringBoard, and can’t wait to work with them in the future. And I really felt like I got to know many of them better since there weren’t an overwhelming number.

And of course, there was what I learned. I now know how to make my very own Android apps, thanks to Dr. Beryl Hoffman, and you’ll probably be seeing some stop-motion animation popping up on thanks to Derek Wilmot. I heard amazing things about the other sessions, and will be scrolling through the entire hashtag archive on the train back to NYC to catch up on what I missed.

Like I said, I’m not writing this to put down big conferences – there’s room for both in the world. I just want to remind bloggers that when you’re choosing where to go, where to spend your money, bigger is not always better, especially if you’re newer to the blogging world. Smaller conferences have more of a grassroots, personal feel. Your head won’t be spinning by the second day. You’ll get more personal attention in sessions. And you’ll be helping smaller bloggers realize their dreams of helping you.

Originally posted on Behind the Screen. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has Compensation Levels of 1 (all products mentioned that I’m taking home with me) and 7 (my conference ticket). Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.

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