Are free events ever really free?
I have noticed that recently I am being bombarded with the offer to attend free education (webinars, seminars, audioseminars, etc.). I have always known that these types of things were available but there seem to be a lot more of them lately or groups are just promoting them more aggressively. This got me thinking about the following.
1. The free education I have heard of is typically given by a vendor. Do vendor-offered free events pose a risk to attendance levels at the associationâ€™s (ASAE in this case) own fee-based educational events? In some way are the vendors that are â€œmembersâ€ of the association biting the hand that feeds them? Or is this just the price of doing business and is beneficial to everyone involved? Normally I would say that having free education doesnâ€™t really affect the association much, but when money is tight like today, I am curious if the potential impact is much larger.
2. Are free events actually educational or are they just a disguised sales pitch? We all know that nothing in life is free. Have vendors realized that a sales pitch disguised as education is still a turn off even if it is free (I hope so)? Or are we as attendees so in need of education that does not hit our budget that we are willing to take a flier on an educational event that we know may be part sales pitch just with the hope that there is enough diamonds among the you-know-what that it ends up being worth our time?
3. For those of you who are members of other associations, is free education as prevalent in those associations as it seems to be within ASAE lately? I am a member of DMAW (Direct Marketing Association of Washington) and these types of things donâ€™t seem to be offered at all. I was also a member of AFP (fundraising professionals) for a while, and, again, I rarely heard about things like this. Is the association community unique, and if we are unique why is this only happening here?
I am curious to know what this trend is telling us and how it will impact associations today, and in the future, as technology makes it easier and easier to provide educate as well as let potential attendees know all about it. I await your thoughts.