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Novell cancels its 2009 BrainShare conference

Software company puts on hold its annual event, designed to educate customers and partners, citing potential attendees' difficulties in getting travel expense approval.

Novell just announced that it is canceling its annual BrainShare conference, a place for customers and partners to gather for training and discussion around Novell technology. Citing the desire to cater to attendee cost considerations, Novell's vice president of marketing, John Dragoon, is shuttering a 20-year tradition, at least for 2009:

As many of you know, Novell has held BrainShare for more than 20 years, and it is a tradition we are proud of. I also know that our customers and partners always look forward to this conference.

Despite this, many of you have indicated that because of the current economic climate, you are under increasing pressure to reduce travel and other controllable expenses, and are hesitant to commit to attending our BrainShare 2009 conference.

BrainShare exists for only one reason: to educate and enable our customers and partners around our technology. Let me be clear, though: just because we are not holding the in-person BrainShare conference does not mean that we will not provide the important information and training you are counting on.

An internal FAQ provided to me indicates that registrations were way off past years, which have seen BrainShare increase registrations year over year by a considerable amount. It also states that those who have registered will get full refunds.

What the FAQ doesn't state is how much Dragoon was probably pleased to free up a significant chunk of his marketing budget tied up in the annual conference. He won't state it publicly, but I'm betting that he's cheering to have so much of his marketing budget available for other activities.

This isn't the only event Novell has canceled recently. It also opted to cancel its internal sales conference last month, preferring to run a series of recorded videos instead. Not as fun, but also a prudent decision, in light of the downturn.

With Apple backing out of Macworld, and BrainShare switching off, it's not a good time to be in the big-conference business. I expect smaller, more targeted events like InfoWorld's Open Source Business Conference will do reasonably well, though no events that require travel are going to do famously well.