Many folks often complain about the cost of legal conferences – but trust me, the $300-$500 price range is pocket change compared to many events in my industry that start at one thousand dollars. If that’s true for conferences that you may want to attend, why not try lobby conning instead?
The New York Times recently reported on the practice of lobby conning which involves showing up at a conference but hanging out in the lobby to avoid paying the registration fee. Frugality isn’t the only motivation behind Lobbyconning; as frequent conference goers know, the most valuable parts of a conference take place in the hallways, outside of the formal presentations which can often be found online anyway. So why not skip them altogether, the theory goes.
Needless to say, conference organizers aren’t crazy about lobby conners, nor are participants who pay full freight to attend. I can see both sides – for solos and smalls, conference costs do add up and many starting out simply can’t afford to go. Still, there are alternatives to lobby conning or freeloading – such as one day passes or attending a per diem breakfast or cocktail reception if that option is available. Cash-strapped lawyers should also consider offering services for admission – for example, offering to blog or tweet the conference in exchange for a limited attendance pass. That’s a great way to make connections while providing value to conference organizers.
As for conference planners, they need to be sensitive to conference costs. Having been involved in the planning of a 400-person conference for my marine renewables trade association, I know that the costs add up quickly. But by choosing lower cost venues, offering day-pass or single-activity options and aggressively seeking sponsors, conference planners can reduce costs for attendees and discourage lobby conning.