The holy conference war

Looking at Scoble’s proper complaints about the cost of big venues for conferences, I wondered this morning about alternates. There aren’t any for the huge conferences with big display floors; they’re screwed. But for small and medium conferences, why not churches? Yes, the pulpit-and-pew arrangement isn’t ideal for conversation but there are plenty of breakout rooms (put the haughtier executives in the ones with the smaller chairs) and most churches need to make use of their space the other six days of the week when God worked and so do we.

  • That’s a swell idea, Jeff! We could even set up vendor booths in the atrium, with money-changers for foreign conventioneers…

    …wait, where have I heard this one before?

  • rcjordan

    we developed an alternative, jeff, the story starts here

  • rcjordan

    I should add that though the link trail goes cold when following those early articles the non-conference concept is still very much alive and well –though we had to take it “underground” as it was in danger of becoming a victim of its own success.

  • Wise One

    Great idea. Most churches have social halls and kitchens too. Just hire the church ladies to make lunch.

    Calling all pastors. Here is a potential source of extra revenue. Worth some thought.

  • Churches. Hotels. Movie theatres. Most will rent you the venue for less than 5K for a day.

  • Bostoniangirl

    I like Rick Segal’s idea to use movie theaters on a week day.

  • Have the churches themselves actually manage the shows. Then the funds they raise would be tax free and the companies could deduct the fees charged by the churches for the booths, electrical, chairs, and even spots in the flyer and sponsorships.

    You don’t suppose that churches would want any control over the content at the shows do you … hmmm…

  • All snarkiness aside, it’s not a terrible idea, except that I would imagine you’d run into certain unavoidable scheduling conflicts. Catholics are increasingly fond of Saturday Mass (and earlier and earlier to boot), and several other branches of Christianity have a pretty full devotional roster during the week as well.

    And what about weddings, baptisms, and all of the events already figured into a busy parish’s schedule as much as several months in advance? What happens if a church is forced to choose between the Jones’ wedding and hosting a conference that will pull in ten times the dough and not even require the services of Ethel the organist? The conference business is after all a business, and even scaled down I can’t imagine that money not having a corrupting influence in the long run…

  • Great idea, but a couple of problems:

    the moneychanger thing….since so many conferences also have trade shows attached (esp. blogging confs.) it would be a little weird–although the trade show part could be held, if the church also has a school, in the school cafeteria.

    there’s also the deep, dark hatred that so many feel towards religion. I’m sure there are folks who, on principle, wouldn’t set foot in a church for a conference (although I would love to see Sam Harris spill his vitriol in a good, old-fashioned liberal protestant church–and to see how people would react.) I’m sure there are those who would claim that holding a conference in a church would inhibit their free speech because of all the dogma that churches represent.

    And there’s the luxury aspect. Many conference venues (esp. high level) are rather luxurious, if not very pretty. Some churches are pretty bare bones. Would conference goers be happy sitting in metal folding chairs, without cushioned seats, for long periods of time? Would presenters be able to deal with not being on a stage? I wonder.

  • linda seebach

    If churches hosted conferences, the revenues probably woudn’t be tax-deductible …. that’s “unrelated” to their religious function.

    That aside, colleges love to host conferences when classes aren’t in session, and they offer nearby luxury hotels for people who think themselves above dorm facilities.

  • I’ve worked for a College and the are a profit center. They want big buck for their rooms. Church are much more cost efficient. However you find a lot of cons compaird to having it a Hotel which has the staff, equipment and parking to handle the attendees.