By Jeff Jedras

Orlando — One interesting thing I’ll be watching in 2009 is how the state of the economy impacts conference attendance. With companies tightening their travel budgets, we’re expecting a slower year on the IT conference circuit. Indeed, we’ve already seen some cancellations and cutbacks. For example, Novell recently canceled its annual BrainShare conference, scheduled for March in Salt Lake City, citing a lack of confirmed attendees. And while still busy, the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was a little slower than in past years.

But by all signs IBM’s Lotusphere conference in Orlando is still going full-steam ahead. After having breakfast in a packed cavernous hall on Monday I encountered one of the longest lines to enter a keynote speech I’ve ever seen in nearly 10 years covering IT, stretching outside the conference area of the Dolphin Hotel out to the hotel lobby, snaking around the rotunda in a circle.

And once I made it inside for the keynote, Bob Picciano, general manager, IBM Lotus Software, said Lotusphere attendance this year was up two per cent this year over last year's attendance of appx. 7000. Not a large increase to be sure, but any increase at all is impressive in this market.

I think the lesson is that, while vendors and partners will be tightening their travel and training budgets, they will still pull the trigger where they see real strategic value that will improve their skillsets and help them drive new business opportunities. And they’d be wise to adopt such an approach. Even in a downturn, skill and business development can’t stop. Just be smart about it. And with other competitors retrenching, there is opportunity out there if you have the resources to be strategically aggressive.

What are your IT conference plans for 2009? Will you be scaling back your travel? Are you identifying strategic events and conferences where you'll be focusing your travel and training budget? Who's in, and who's out? CDN would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments section, or e-mail

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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