I’ve written in my Daily Pilot column that the board’s approach to conference attendance should be reviewed. I am qualified to weigh in on this subject because I have extensive conference experience, having attended, exhibited, and spoken at dozens of conferences during my career. I’ve even been responsible for designing and building some of the booths when we exhibited. I know all about conferences.

Today, conference attendance is no longer essential. Today, conference organizers usually have the presentations available as audio files which can be purchased for far less than the cost of registration and travel expenses.

One may ask, “What about interacting with the speaker?” There is value in that, to be sure, but I have found that after listening to a presentation online, I have the ability to reach out to the speaker directly as they are almost always required to provide contact information. In those cases, I have the speaker all to myself, with no time pressure, as I would have had at a conference.

But let’s say for the sake of an argument that conference attendance is required. In those cases, it is the responsibility of everyone who attends to generate a report for the benefit of taxpayers. The key elements of this report state:

1. The subject matter of each presentation
2. The names of the people with whom there were discussions
3. (Most important) How the information gathered at the conference will serve to improve the conditions in our district

I don’t think this report is too much to ask.

I’m not opposed to some conference attendance. But I am opposed to continuing conference attendance when we cannot draw a line from the expense to the benefit in our district.

As your representative on the board, I will oppose conference attendance when online participation is an acceptable substitute. In the event I do attend a conference, I will submit a travel summary shortly thereafter.


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