I've often been asked what my policy is on attending and speaking at vendor conferences. To state it for the record, I thought it would be worth writing a quick post on the subject. My policy is actually quite simple. First and foremost, if a large software or solutions provider holds a conference that covers issues specifically around the areas I cover on this blog and is willing to provide access to the right set of customers and product managers, I'm more than happy to go, provided my travel costs are covered (which is a similar policy to how the analysts have operated for decades). In fact, I view it as an obligation given my coverage of the sector to attend the annual events hosted by providers such as SAP, Ariba and Emptoris (I'd like to go to Oracle's event, but I refuse to pay my own way, especially given they cover travel costs for other analysts affiliated with larger firms, but not bloggers).
My attendance at an event to cover it on the blog and for my advisory work, however, is different from my speaking at events. When I go to events where I play a speaking role, it is almost always a paid engagement (unless I owe a favor to someone or it's part of a previous commercial agreement). No provider can, however, pay me to come and cover an event on the blog (i.e., buying coverage). Moreover, when I attend an event from a paid speaking standpoint, I offer no guarantee of coverage on the blog.
In general, I will not travel to vendor events outside of those of the top providers (even if costs are covered). I'd be on the road too much if I had such a policy. However, as an enticement to bring much needed travel and conference dollars into my hometown, Chicago, I'm more than happy to attend any provider events held in the area, even if they're held by smaller providers, so long that it does not conflict with my travel schedule and that I'm given sufficient notice.
If anyone has any questions on my travel / speaking policies, please don't hesitate to reach out. I've tried to make my approach as cut and dry -- and hopefully as transparent and reasonable -- as possible.