I won’t be going to the FTTH Council North America Conference…

On September 26-30th, the FTTH Council North America will be holding it's 10th annual conference in Orlando. I won't be there. I submitted a paper, which was accepted, but I made the decision today that I would not attend.

When you're an analyst, especially in a small firm like mine that has been recently created, attending events and conferences is both important and complicated. It's important because that's how your name travels, it's how you establish recognition (assuming the papers you present are of interest, of course…) It's complicated because it costs you valuable time and sometimes money. 

My general policy these days is that I don't speak at an event that won't at least pay for travel and accomodation. There are exceptions to that rule when the event itself is such that I personally want to attend. E-Comm Europe in 2009 was such an event, but to be fair, they are few and far between.

I originally submitted a paper to the FTTH Council North America knowing that it would cost me a lot of money to go there and eat a week out of my production time. I was ready to accept these costs because I guessed that the event could have commercial windfall for me (let's not pretend that's not why every speaker attends an event…) Still, I wanted to present something of value to the attendees, drawing from my international experience and imagined that the Council valued that. 

There are a couple of things that spread doubt in my mind in the last few months though:

  • First, the choice of dates. The Council's event was traditionally a few weeks earlier in September. This year, they pushed it back to the exact same dates as Broadband World Forum Europe. BBWF is the most important broadband event in Europe, and there's no way the Council could not know that, considering it will have largely the same sponsors as their own event.
  • Second, the absence of the new Council president at the recent European and Asian conferences. Traditionally, all three presidents are present at all three conferences. While their presence may not contribute much in terms of content, it shows an interest in understanding the FTTH experiences outside of their home markets.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but my sneaky suspscion here was that the new Council management didn't care much about what was happening outside the US. And fair enough, who am I to say whether that's right or wrong? But the thing is, my value to that event is in my international experience, not in any US experience. So if they don't really value that, what's the point in having me there ?

So I've been wavering for a few weeks. There's a lot of good people who will be there and I would have loved to meet again. But that's not enough for the trip to make business sense for me. The straw that broke the camel's back was when they emailed me and asked me to pay for my attendance. Sure, it was only a couple of hundred bucks, and yes, it was written somewhere in the 7 pages of T&Cs that I agreed to when I submitted my paper, but who reads these things ?

So, to cut a long story short, I won't be going. I'll be spending two days at BBWF and save the travel budget to maybe attend FOE in Japan or another US event more open to international content. Any recommendations?