Is Bigger Always Better When It Comes to Conferences?

By June 25, 2019 No Comments

On average, organizations designate 14% of their budget to tradeshows, conferences, and events.[i] Ensuring that this 14% results in the maximum amount of ROI is of the utmost importance. The million-dollar questions is, how do you determine which shows to attend?

Often when we think of conferences, we think that bigger is better. We look for shows with a huge venue, the largest number of attendees, and jam-packed sessions. Many professionals view conference size as a measure of success, but it’s important to stop and think, ‘does size make for a more successful conference?’[ii] I recently read an article on the book, ‘Conferences that Work – Creating Events That People Love’ by Adrian Sega. In his book he highlights an interesting exercise that Adrian runs at many of his presentations. The exercise truly exemplifies that bigger is not always better.

It was a simple 3 step exercise, but the outcome was impactful. The exercise goes as follows:

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Think back to the most important conversation of your life. Whether this be a new personal connection made, a big business deal, or an important life decision.
  3. Recall where you were, why the conversation was important, and what impact it had on your life.

At the conclusion of the exercise each participant was asked the following question: “How many people participated in your life’s most important conversation?” The majority of participants answered either one other person or 2-3 other people were a part of the conversation. So, what does this say about large versus small conferences? Adrian says, “Want significant connection (and effective learning) at events? Then attendees need to spend significant time talking, interacting, and thinking in small groups. Not just at meals or socials, but in the conference sessions.”[iii]

Attending small conferences provides benefits for hosts, attendees, and sponsors. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of attending small conferences versus large conferences:

Realistic Networking Opportunities

Ever been to a tradeshow where at the end of three days you still hadn’t connected with the colleagues or clients you wanted to connect with? Small tradeshows help keep instances like this at a minimum. By keeping the attendance numbers low, tradeshows create an environment where networking with other professionals is realistic, approachable, and less intimidating.[iv]

Targeted Attendee Demographics

The great thing about small conferences is that they typically have a sense of exclusivity. Rather than marketing just to fill a room, smaller conferences are often targeted towards a very specific group or niche. All of which share similar roles, experiences, or goals.  The host organization is typically not looking to fill the seats with just anyone, they are making sure to fill their limited number of seats with the right people. By attending small shows, you are more likely to connect with like minded individuals and form valuable relationships.

Idea Sharing

Small conferences create a better space for idea sharing than large tradeshows. Smaller sessions create more collaborative environments where attendees are free to share ideas. Smaller sessions also create opportunities to do workshop sessions where participants work together to solve a problem or come up with a new idea.


2019 TTA Learning Retreat

We’d be remiss not to plug in our own small conference, the TTA Learning Retreat taking place at the Crowne Plaza in Natick, MA on September 25th.  The retreat will feature education seminars, led by thought leaders and industry professionals. We hand-picked a variety of timely, compelling and innovative topics. The Learning Retreat creates opportunities for like-minded professionals to share ideas and network in an approachable setting. To find out more or to purchase tickets, check out the Learning Retreat webpage: .