The long-tail of face-to-face

The gentle end of the Tuttle ClubI don’t know where I’m going with this one, but I’m musing about some attitudes that I see popping up around face-to-face events.

One seems to be: Big is beautiful (or at least successful) ie in order for an event to be considered a success, you have to have loads of people there. I disagree. I look at Tuttle and shudder at the idea of there regularly being 100 people there. I find it’s pushing the format to have more than 50. New people seem to expect me to be disappointed if there are fewer people this week than last week. I keep telling them that it’s OK, I’ve experienced nobody turning up to something I’ve arranged, and it didn’t kill me. I think that I’m going to always represent an extreme of Tuttle attendee, if anyone’s going to make sure they meet everyone in the room then it’s going to be me. And meeting 40 people in 3 hours is a lot, fairly comfortable, but nearing the maximum.

Now that’s not to say that I don’t think big events are any good. I enjoyed Web2.0 and I’m sure I’ll enjoy LeWeb08 which is going to be huge. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think size is a sign of success, it’s just a sign of, well, how big something is…

Another side of this is the feeling that everyone’s got to go to everything. OK, so it’s not that bad, but I do see people feeling like they are seriously missing out by not getting to go to things. And I know that’s how I’ve felt as well. We tell ourselves that we know that no-one can go to everything and surely no-one can be that interested in everything, and if you spent all your time going to things, you wouldn’t get anything done. But still, it would be just my luck that it will be this event that I’m not going to where something brilliant and amazing and paradigm-shifting will happen, something that the attendees will remember for ever and tell their grandchildren about, and level of awesome that will never be repeated in our lifetimes.

I think we’re going to be doing more and more of these meetups, scaling from 4 or 5 right up to the thousands and recognising that we don’t need to go to everything just because it’s there, any more than we can buy, listen to and enjoy every CD available on Amazon.

In fact I’m personally going to be choosing to attend things that are the 4 or 5 right people to talk about a very niche, specific subject – I still love 40 people on a Friday, but next I want to add in some smaller, more focused things. Note, that the “right” people doesn’t necessarily imply the best, brightest, coolest, sexiest, funniest or any of those things. It just means, if anything at all, the most appropriate.