“Please enter your professional email address” – a fair request?

As mentioned previously, I attend a lot of free webinars, seminars, etc.

My attendance of in-person events has dropped somewhat since my most recent change of jobs (almost two years ago now!) as it is not so easy for me to attend things in the centre of London.  I always tried to take advantage of events ‘in town’, especially the multitude that happen around the academic hub that is Bloomsbury, all too aware that when the time comes for me to abandon London (hopefully career driven rather than meteorological) online events will be all that I have.

One worrying trend I have noticed though, with a number of recent events, is an increase in the insistence of registering with ‘professional’ credentials.  This takes a number of approaches, including:

  • registration forms that block @yahoo/hotmail/gmail addresses or insist on a certain suffix (such as .ac.uk)
  • selection of your organization from a drop down list (usually UK HEIs for the kind of events I want to attend)
  • increasingly clever forms that do not take, for example, 0 or 00000000000 as a valid phone number

Now I have a number of issues with this, including:

  1. I want to attend events for MY personal development, by registering with my personal email address the organizer has all they need to realize this fact.  If they want to know who I am they can Google me still, or look me up on LinkedIn (which I know plenty have done).
  2. If it is an event to create sales or, at least, to encourage follow up sale calls then by not completing my organization you should see that this is PRIMARILY for my personal interest, this is not to say that I will not repay a good event (especially if it was free) with business in the future, this saves the organizers time by not having to do followup calls.
  3. There are a lot of unemployed people who would, no doubt, find webinars useful for keeping up-to-date whilst out of work.  Certainly any charity or academic organization’s webinars, I feel, should not block these people, they may well be your future workforce.
  4. I appreciate some events (I’m thinking of those organized by JISC here) are for a particular community and are effectively prepaid for by those attending organizations via existing funding arrangements.  However, as MOOCs have shown, there is value in opening events up to get input from others, one enlightening comment from ‘the outside’ might make the event useful for the majority.
  5. You can use polls in a webinar to learn more about me than what a registration form typically asks for, this can be used to tailor a session so it is of most use for the majority of the attendees.

Overall, it seems to be a failure by some organizations to realise the importance in person-to-person relationships (and therefore sales) instead thinking about things from too much of a business-to-business/organization-to-organization viewpoint.

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