The ABA’s annual TECHSHOW conference is kicking off in Chicago this week. I wish I could be there. But, as always, there are a few things that get in the way: the cost, the travel (which is really not a big deal for me since I’m only 90 minutes away), and the timing. For some reason, March is always a busy month.

As a tech enthusiast, TECHSHOW is probably worth the annual pilgrimage. Thousands of lawyers attend, but there are many more who can’t attend for one reason or another.

That’s why I wish the ABA would open up this conference a bit further and allow “attendance” remotely. For example, the ABA could offer streaming video of the presentations. Alternatively, the ABA could offer the presentations on YouTube after the event is over.

There are a bunch of “objections” to this idea: the cost, CLE credit, and so on. I say hogwash. A group of lawyers ought to be able to figure out solutions to any hurdles. For example, there could be a variety of video options:

  • Video streaming with CLE for a certain registration cost
  • Video streaming without CLE for a lower registration cost
  • Delayed video (YouTube) at no cost
  • Presentations on DVD for a set cost

Another huge annual conference, TED, offers streaming video for 20% of the cost to attend the event in person. TED begins to upload videos to its web site and elsewhere shortly after the conference ends, usually one a day—at no cost to anyone.

Of course, nothing can beat attending any conference in person. If the ABA had more options for people who can’t attend to enjoy at least some of the benefits of the show, it would be doing all lawyers a great service. So who do we start to pester to make this happen?


2 thoughts on “It’s #ABATECHSHOW time

  1. You pester the TECHSHOW Planning Board members – they are the ones who make decisions like this. Having served as Chair of ABA TECHSHOW in 2008, I wanted to give my perspective on why providing video to non-attendees is a challenge – sorry this turned out to be long. It’s a bit unfair to compare TECHSHOW to TED Talks, as I’ll elaborate on below. But this is an issue we looked even earlier than 4 years ago, and we actually provided video a couple of years ago. The reasons why we have elected not to do so boil down to logistics, cost, and demand.

    Logistics – unlike TED, which only has one track of talks, TECHSHOW offers 6 concurrent tracks Thursday and Friday, and three on Saturday. If we’re going to record each session, we would need 6 camera/audio setups, with 6 different camera operators. And we can’t just bring our own cameras, set them up, and go – we are prohibited from doing that by the union. There were a number of years where we selected 8-10 sessions and recorded them for resale on the ABA website, and I suppose that’s still an option – but I’ll explain below why it hasn’t been all that attractive to conference planners (or attendees).

    Cost – at TECHSHOW this year we rented a camera and microphone to record interviews, and it cost us a total of $900 – so if we recorded each session, we would be spending in the neighborhood of $50,000-$60,000 (they would charge us $900 per session). Moreover, it’s not the ABA that produces TECHSHOW – it’s the Law Practice Management Section, a smaller group with much more limited resources. The TED Talks charge $7,500 for each attendee, which is 7 times more money than we make from our most expensive registration. If we were making the kind of money that TED was making, then putting our videos online for free would be a no-brainer. Instead, we have traditionally decided to invest the money we raise to make the conference a more enjoyable event for the people who are attending – so that’s where most of the revenue goes.

    Which leads us to Demand. A few years in a row we offered 8-10 sessions for a fee (either individually or as a bundle), and the response was overwhelming – we sold NOTHING. No one was interested. People might be willing to pay for a live streaming event, but that brings us back to Cost, above – if we had better revenue from attendees/sponsors, that might be an attractive option.

    It’s the same with providing it for free on YouTube, but there’s an additional problem. Not only is there no income to offset the cost of recording, but now you have to worry about whether you’re cutting into your live attendees by offering content for free. The potential TECHSHOW audience is broken down into three groups – those who will pay to attend no matter what, those who will never pay to attend, and those in the middle. It’s that last group I worry about – how many of them will choose not to attend if they can view most of the content for free? This is probably something we can figure out, but for many of our planners there’s real fear that we’d lose a lot of attendees if content were made available online for free.

    So far this year, you’re the third person I’m aware of who has asked about watching TECHSHOW content online. Granted, there may be a lot of people who haven’t been vocal about it, but if you aren’t vocal then the planners don’t know it’s an issue. And in terms of practicality, three people unfortunately do not make an “issue.”

    You know, the Indiana Bar Association was an Event Promoter this year, which means that all Indiana Bar members could take advantage of a registration discount – I’m sure they will have the discount again next year, because one of our Board Members is from Indiana. We’d love to see you there in person next year!

    1. Tom, thanks for your thorough and very helpful explanation of the issues involved. Clearly cost is a major problem, and there are a lot of points I wasn’t aware of. I have a better understanding of the challenges and hurdles to be overcome.

      In any event, I’m going to try like hell to be there next year (and for this year scrounge around to see what slide decks or written materials people might be posting online).

      Keep up the great work on your blog, books, etc. I still need to do a review of your book on lawyers and collaborative technologies. 🙂

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