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All hail the lobbyconners

Why pay for hefty conference fees when you can hang out in the hallway and network for free?

Over the last few years, I have been to a whole lot of conferences. They've been in cities like Austin, Phoenix, San Diego, New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco and so on, and have covered any number of topics.

And over the years, I've started to come to the conclusion--as so many have before me--that the endless panels and keynotes are hardly worth the time it takes to sit through them. After all, how much value is there really in listening to six people talk over each other for 35 minutes?

In the end, as everyone knows, the true value in a conference is in the networking. And most of that gets done in the hallway anyway.

Well, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, there's a boom in people who have figured out that they don't need to pay the hefty attendance fees if all they want to do is swap business cards with or make pitches to the folks milling around talking outside ballrooms.

Why should they, since most times the event staff only check passes at the door to the panels or speeches.

There's even a verb for the scam: Lobbycon.

I think this is ingenious. Part of what makes a good entrepreneur, of course, is figuring out the most efficient way of getting something done, and lobbyconning certainly qualifies. If it costs you nothing to stand in the hallway at Web 2.0 and shmooze Craig Newmark or some Google exec, how efficient is that? Even if you have to fly to San Francisco, that's still a savings of $3,595 for a pass.

Some would say, of course, that lobbyconning is an iffy proposition, at best. But come on? How many of you have gone into a conference wearing someone else's badge? See? Most of your hands are up. So, what's the difference?

Frankly, I think there's way too many conferences in the first place, and part of the reason for that is that so many of the organizers have figured out that for a lot of people, there's an acute sense that if they miss this confernce or that symposium, they're harming their business prospects. Even if they've heard all the speeches before. Even if that acute sense is actually not at all accurate.

And besides, these conferences are often sold out, anyway.

Now, I know. It sounds like I'm promoting theft. But I'm not. It's not theft if the lobbyconners aren't going through the pass checks without a pass. It's just a clever way to peel off the benefits of those who did pay.