And I thought there was a recession going on

I attended the MITX awards this week.  Fantastic party — open bar, great food, a live band on stage, 1100 guests.  Unbelievable production values across the board.  If you closed your eyes and inhaled slowly, you could almost transport yourself back to 1999.

At one point during the evening, my neighbor leaned over and said, “And I thought there was a recession going on.  If you look around you’d never believe it.”  The point was well taken.  There are people out of work everywhere and yet the industry is indulging in a round of self-congratulatory fluff.

Enjoyable though the gala was, it did have a purpose.  To educate and inspire the industry, and to raise money for MITX, an organization devoted to supporting the industry with educational programs and industry advocacy.  And, the price on the seats did their job.  Ticket sales and sponsorships undoubtedly contributed significantly to MITX’s coffers.  People and companies buy tickets and tables because they need to connect with other movers and shakers in the industry.  An awards gala by definition brings out some of the best and brightest, concentrating your chances of connecting.

One thing I have noticed lately is that while there are a good number of these “exclusive” events, more and more of the industry galas are being followed up by a free and open to the public tweetup.  Even if you can’t afford a ticket to the main event, you probably can get yourself down to a bar nearby to mingle with the hoi polloi.  These events acknowledge that not everyone can afford to throw down on a pricey ticket but they still might want to try to meet some of the award winners.  It’s another ‘everyone wins’ type of maneuver.

Believe me, I know what it takes to run an event — even a free, crowd-sourced, low expectation event like Mass Innovation Nights requires a huge amount of work to make happen.  The MITX awards, the MHT gala are giant events that require weeks worth of planning by a whole team of people.  That costs money.  Don’t knock the price until you’ve priced out doing one on your own — scary expensive.  If you can’t afford that ticket, that free tweetup afterward?  It can still be networking gold for you.