CDO Matters Ep. 10 | Are In-Person Conferences Dead in 2022?

November 3, 2022

Episode Overview:

The world changed in March 2020. Public events and social gatherings took a backseat. As we recover from the pandemic over two years later, are we ready to attend large in-person conferences?

In this special 10th episode of CDO Matters, Malcolm becomes his own guest and takes a look into the future of in-person conferences through the lens of his experiences at four industry events this summer including an in-depth review of a celebrated annual conference, Microsoft Ignite.    

Malcolm details the pros and cons of the conference. The highly-anticipated event hosted 3,500 in-person attendees in Seattle, but over 200,000 online attendees around the globe. Most notably, the in-person attendees – many of whom came from overseas – paid thousands of dollars to attend while online attendees received free admission. Malcolm discusses the differences between the two experiences such as peer networking, vendor interactions, and expert advice. Was the in-person experience worth it?

He also discusses the incredible diversity of conference content – ranging from the desktop to the cloud and everything in between – being an additional challenge for CDOs seeking in-person networking and peer interactions. Unexpectedly, any data-related content that was available focused on data infrastructure, but not on people or processes supporting data management. The irony of a conference with little CDO-centric content or networking opportunities, but with a primary theme/track of “becoming data-driven” is highlighted in this episode. Here, Malcolm is forced to question the future of these events and whether in-person conferences remain relevant in 2022.   

Despite a suboptimal experience in Seattle, Malcolm shares his firm belief that in-person conferences are still alive, and that creating a highly effective ‘hybrid’ event, based on experiences at other conferences he attended this summer – most notably the CDOIQ conference – is doable. There is a pent-up demand for conferences coming out of COVID-related lockdowns driving attendance, but more importantly at the right conference, there are still significant benefits CDOs can gain from in-person exchanges of insights and experiences that online events cannot provide.

Key Moments

  • [2:07] The Role of the CDO and Why We Started the Podcast
  • [6:07] Audience Attendance
  • [8:52] Networking Challenges
  • [10:17] Presentation Style and Sensory Output
  • [12:37] Are In-Person Conferences Dead?
  • [14:02] The Future of Hybrid Events
  • [16:07] On-Site vs. Online Event Experience
  • [18:22] Discussions and Interaction
  • [20:07] Presentation Hubs and Breakout Sessions
  • [25:07] Conference Layout
  • [28:22] The Good and the Bad (What Worked and What Didn’t)
  • [34:27] Closing Statements

Key Takeaways

Why the Podcast Started (1:33)

“We started this podcast because…what I saw in the market were really things that just weren’t working for CDOs…a lot of the same messages that we had been hearing for years. What I see less of is moving the needle: results. We know that CDO tenures are very short. Anywhere from two to two and a half years…when I look to the community of people, like myself, that are providing insights, providing best practices, providing the tips and tricks on how to be a better CDO, I saw very little derivation…yet, businesses changed.” — Malcolm Hawker

Are In-Person Conferences Dead? (13:07)

“Are on-site, in-person events dead? Most certainly not. I went to four this year. I went to Ignite, the DGIQ conference in San Diego, the CDOIQ conference in Boston and I went to the Gartner Data and Analytics conference in September in Orlando and they were all full…there’s most certainly a demand for on-site events. Now whether this is a post-COVID phenomenon? I really don’t think so.” — Malcolm Hawker

In-Person vs. Online (16:07)

“Some people do actually enjoy interacting with vendors and being able to talk to others about their solutions. But if you don’t get the networking, if you don’t get to interact with vendors, if you don’t get the peer, one-to-one opportunities, then why would you attend in person?  It would be really tough to justify spending thousands of dollars if you can do the exact same thing online”. — Malcolm Hawker

Episode Links & Resources:


How can today’s Chief Data Officers help their organizations become more data-driven? Join former Gartner analyst Malcolm Hawker as he interviews thought leaders on all things data management – ranging from data fabrics to blockchain and more — and learns why they matter to today’s CDOs. If you want to dig deep into the CDO Matters that are top-of-mind for today’s modern data leaders, this show is for you.

Malcolm Hawker
Malcolm Hawker is an experienced thought leader in data management and governance and has consulted on thousands of software implementations in his years as a Gartner analyst, architect at Dun & Bradstreet and more. Now as an evangelist for helping companies become truly data-driven, he’s here to help CDOs understand how data can be a competitive advantage.


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