Results for the recent Conference Survey have been released by Brian O’Connor, Conference Chair for the 2011 Conference in Detroit. Online questionaires were sent to all members and about 120 members responded.
Among the highlights:
Most folks favor a May or June conference that runs Thursday through Sunday
Money is the biggest factor in deciding whether to attend. Most columnists pay their own way, and the majority of respondents are freelancers/syndicated. Distance was the other big factor, but that might also be a cost factor — if people can drive, they can better afford it, although some members don’t like to fly. Conflicts between the conference dates and other obligations were the third big factor.
Very few of the respondents are full-time columnists or journalists. Nearly 40% said their writing provides less than 10% of household income. Several responders commenting that they don’t make enough money from columnizing to make the conference feasible.
The most valuable parts of the conference are socializing/networking with other columnists or getting ideas and tips for improving writing, business or “personal brand” as the saying goes. Members believe the awards dinner is least valuable activity at the conference. Surprisingly, it was considered only slightly less useful than having the conference city or conference panels produce material for columns.
In the comments, most people cited money as the biggest reason they think they won’t attend. About a dozen didn’t want to come to Detroit with others wanting to see the panels and conference dates before they decide.
And, finally, Philly 2007 emerged as the favorite recent conference.
So, it was observed, all we need it to be is cheap, convenient and great!