If you’ve been around our hobby for a few months, you’ve probably come across an announcement ( or two) on convention-type events. Several major ones are FTU, Chicago Seminars and TravelCon. And the list keeps on growing.
In fact, if you head on over to this page of my blog, you’ll see all the details on the latest FamilyTravel4RealLife seminar organized by Dia from TheDealMommy blog (make sure to read Kathy L comment on it after the post).
Does it mean that I think all the other miles and points conferences are worthless? Not at all. Dia’s project aligns closely with my goals, so I’m happy to promote it (at no cost).
Whether something is worth money and effort is not up to me to decide. Ultimately, the market will make that determination. As I’ve pointed out, there is plenty of competition, so monopoly isn’t an issue in our neck of the woods. It appears every weird hobby has a convention associated with it, and The Hobby is no exception.
That said, I wanted to share my thoughts on this matter and hopefully, help you decide if it’s worth spending your hard-earned money, miles or points on this type of an event. I want to be clear, I don’t have an agenda or bias. And frankly, my blog isn’t that much of an influencer to sway hobbyists one way or the other.
Two years ago, I had a chance to attend FTU seminar in Tampa (located 1.5 hours from my home). I wrote two posts on the subject:
I strongly recommend you read them, but if you are too lazy, let me summarize. Miles and points conventions are big business. Yes, they are advertised as non-profit. It is my firm belief that they are anything but. How come?
The point is to give a platform to movers and shakers of our hobby, with some smaller bloggers sprinkled in-between (just for kicks). It’s a promotional event intended to further other people’s business. Yes, there is a social aspect to it. Who says you can’t mix business with pleasure?
But at its core, these seminars are intended to make money for big name bloggers…in the long run. It goes something like this. Readers get to meet blogger in person. They get to chat with him/her. They feel personal connection. They come home and read their blog. They apply for a credit card via their site which allows blogger to make commission. They recommend the site to their family and friends. And the cycle continues.
Does it make this whole thing icky and repulsive? Should you be shocked and offended? No, not really. Remember, bloggers are people too. They take time off their regular jobs, they leave loved ones behind, including small kids. I imagine the first few seminars are fun and exciting, but they probably get old real quick. I am willing to bet my stash of IHG points that many would rather be home watching TV with their spouse than talk to yet another eager hobbyist/fan IRL.
But doing a dedicated session at a seminar is literally an offer they can’t refuse. In order to be considered an influencer in their niche, they have no choice but to agree. Also, from what I’ve understood, presenters get reimbursed for their airfare and hotel expenses. Aside from being away from their family, it’s a win/win proposition.
I do have to say that the sessions I’ve attended were well done, so no problem there. Bloggers do put a lot of work into their presentations. The beginner’s session was mainly focused on economy seats and ways average folks can stretch their miles and points. If I said it was meant for 1-percenters it would be a lie. I don’t intend to further my blog based on half-truths and slander. Just wanted to make that clear and to stress again that I have no bad motives behind this post.
Now let’s talk about you, the reader. What do you have to gain from one of these events? But first, let’s talk about what you have to lose. Well, a whole lot of money, actually. Look at the announcement of new FTU Signature event scheduled at the end of April. The ticket that includes a special session on manufactured spending costs $249 per person, $199 without. Yes, that’s a lot of money. No, it does not include hotel or airfare. Back when I attended FTU the cost was $99 per person. Hmm…
Of course, the organizers are entitled to set prices as they please. Once again, the market will decide if this exorbitant cost is palatable to hobbyists. Something tells me they’ll have no problem filling the venue. But it does make me question the whole non-profit aspect. How much of the ticket price goes to cover organizers’ salaries? Again, something for you, the reader to think about.
If your main purpose in attending a seminar is to learn, then I have bad news for you. Most of the info can be found for free on the web already. In fact, many bloggers will put up a slideshow in a blog post which will contain the same exact presentation. What about special manufactured spending secrets? You can also find them online for free if you know where to look.
I recommend Saverocity forums and Flyertalk m/s thread It may take you awhile to gain trust but eventually, people will be willing to share underground tricks. In fact, the likelihood of you stumbling upon something really juicy is much greater online than in a conversation with a random hobbyist at a convention.
So, should you go? Only you can answer that question. It’s your money and time. I think from the tone of my post you can probably tell how I feel. I will not be going back. That said, I don’t regret attending either. My husband and I got a fun getaway out of it. I didn’t have to buy airfare and used my hotel stay to hit a promotion. I did get to deduct $99 on my taxes as a business expense due to having a miles and points blog. I also got two posts out of it (well, three if you count this one). Not too shabby!
Readers, I know many of you have been to these seminars. Did you find them beneficial? Please, share your experience and don’t be afraid to contradict what I said.