There seems to be some criticism of the upcoming Service Design Network conference floating around the web. There are even rumblings of a counter-conference in the coming year from the likes of Wenovski, 31Volts and Live|Work Brazil. The price of the Berlin conference seems to have sparked the discussion along with the practice of charging presenters for attendance.
Arne van Oosterom is leading the revolt with an online survey that seems less than neutral (to put it charitably).
But the issues do have some merit. The Service Design Network charges presenters (not keynote speakers) the full cost of attendance but SDN is not alone in that regard. The now-defunct DUX conference in 2005 was the first conference I attended as a presenter and I remember finding the same practice there. On the other hand conferences such as the IA Summit and the IDSA Conference offer all speakers roughly a 50% discount.
As to price the upcoming conference in Berlin is far and away the most expensive service design conference when compared to last year’s Nordic Conference on Service Design and Service Innovation and the now-defunct Emergence conferences at Carnegie Mellon. (All rates converted to US dollars, where applicable.)
- Emergence: $650
- Nordic Conference (3 days): $543
- SDN Berlin: $969
To be fair both Emergence and last winter’s conference in Oslo were organized by academic institutions. But putting the Service Design Network conference into context with other professional design events, it still seems to be on the high side:
- IA Summit (3 days): $600
- IDEA Conference: $550
- Interaction: $749 (plus $250 per workshop)
- SxSW Interactive (5 days): $450
The IDSA conference starts to put things into perspective at $1,595 for three and a half days, UX Week at $2,495 for four days and CHI 2010 at $1,160 for six days.
It’s only when you compare the SDN Conference with other design and business conferences that the registration fee starts to seem a little more reasonable.
- AIGA Business and Design Conference (2 days): $1,075
- How Business Conference (3 days): $1,195
- DMI Design/Management Europe (2 days): $1,279
- Service Innovation (2 days): $2,195
Of course price isn’t the only criticism of the conference and there isn’t much sense in the Service Design Network framing Berlin as a budget event. I have no idea how a free conference would fare in competition (if it’s even possible) but it’d be fun to see.