Most recorded conference seminars and webinars should be shorter. About half of the content in most sessions is fluff and filler. There are always exceptions, but for the most part, I typically leave a 60-minute session thinking, "Hmmm, the speaker could have shared 90 percent of the best information in half the time." This is even true for speakers I like. Sadly enough, this critique applies to my own sessions, as well.
Network vs. Learn New Skills
Lately, I typically attend conferences to network and interact with people, rather than learn specific SQL Server skills. The trend is for leading conference organizers to offer their content online at no cost or make it very cost effective to buy. My time is too valuable to sit through a session when I can watch the session later and invest my current time building relationships with people at the event. But here's a dirty little secret: I typically don't watch the sessions later, even when I've promised myself at the conference that I will. I know I'm not alone. Here's what happens with me, perhaps it will ring a bell for you.
Sixty minutes is often too much time for me to reserve during any given day. That's a big chunk of time, and I can always watch the session tomorrow. But tomorrow is usually just as busy. Time management isn't the full extent of the problem. Often, I'll start watching a session and then I'll get into one of those sessions in which the 60-minute talk could have been done in 30 minutes and I start thinking, "Wow, I'm getting bored. I wish I could speed this up." Then, before I know it, I'm done watching. I either stop the recording early or I get to the end and realize I wasn't fully engaged the entire time. It's hard to capture my attention when I'm at a conference, and it's even harder when I'm watching a video by myself.
Staying Engaged for 60 Minutes is Tough
What if sessions were compressed into 30 minutes? I can't speak for everyone, but for me, a 30-minute block of time is much easier to carve out of my schedule. Heck, I could feel okay finding 30-minute chunks of time one or two times per week. Also, it's much easier for a webinar to capture my attention for 30 minutes when I'm sitting by myself compared to 60 minutes. Maybe I'm way more scattered than the rest of you. However, staying engaged for 60 minutes during a webinar is tough for me, even if each minute of the hour is filled with the most amazing wisdom and knowledge mankind has ever discovered.
What about sessions that truly need to be 60 minutes long? I would recommend two-part sessions that can run back-to-back and build so that each session can stand on its own, making it easier for me to consume the content later.
My gut tells me that 30-minute blocks of time for conference sessions in the technical realm would force speakers to be much more polished and achieve a much higher content-to-fluff ratio. I suspect that 30-minute blocks would be much easier for you to consume later from the comfort of your home or office. Perhaps the real audience for seminars is the people who will watch them privately later rather than live at the conference in a group. Maybe conference content should be optimized for the online audience rather than the live audience. Maybe I'm wrong. What do you think? Will you join my cause if I start a Facebook page that advocates for shorter online and in-person conference sessions?