Yes, I know in-person events are back. Yes, I’ve even been to a few of them in 2022. And yes, I know we’re only 6 month removed from the worst month of the pandemic.

But, I’ve also noticed a trend of late: People seem reticent to attend in-person professional development events.

As part of my work, I run two “Mastermind” groups. One is made up of senior-level communicators. The other is focused on social media experts. Recently, I’ve tried organizing in-person events for both these groups only to see very few attendees.

Now, there was interest. But interest did not translate to actually attending these events. And I wonder if there’s something larger at play here.

I’ve also noticed that some of the larger professional orgs in town (MIMA, PRSA, IABC, etc.) aren’t holding regular in-person programming. Sure there have been a few big events here and there (Classics, AdFeds 32 Under 32 event), but overall, no consistent in-person programming. That feels like a reflection of where we’re at right now.

People aren’t attending in-person professional development events.

Because our lives have changed since early 2020.

Many of us are pretty comfortable with working at home now. So, the process of showering, getting ready, driving to the event and driving home seems like a lot. And, it is. Consider a noon hour event in downtown Minneapolis. Even if you lived in an inner-ring suburb like Edina, that one-hour event over the lunch hour translates into at least 2 hours of time–probably more like 2.5-3 hours. That’s a lot of time to give up in a workday.

Not to mention, people’s priorities have changed since 2020. More people are prioritizing family and health over work and getting ahead–and, for good reason! However, professional development seems to be falling lower on the priority list these days. People want to do it. But at the end of the day, soccer practices, working out and having dinner with the family are trumping it (again, for good reason).

There’s just a lot of barriers right now in getting someone to an in-person event. And you’ll notice the events that have probably had the best success rate in the last few months are those where personal recognition is front-and-center (Classics, 32 Under 32). In other words: I will show up if there’s something big in it for me.

I even wonder if people will still attend big national events the same way they once did–events like Social Media Marketing World, IABC International (which just occurred) and PRSA’s National Conference. Will those seem similar attendance levels to pre-pando times? I’d bet a lot of money the answer is “no.”

However, I am excited to get back to in-person events. I’m excited for the upcoming Digital Marketing Summit in Minneapolis (I’m speaking, but I’m also very excited to see a lot of familiar faces and learn some new things myself). I’m excited for PRSA’s upcoming Midwest District Conference. I’m excited to hear to Orlando in Aug. and speak and learn at the Florida PRSA annual conference.

I really hope we get back to more regular in-person events. But, I understand the reasons why it’s not happening right now. A lot can change over time. Here’s hoping we’re seeing a lot more of each other come 2023.

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