What I Look for in a Conference
Mark Evans, and friends, are organizing a blogging conference in Toronto.
This is awesome. Seriously. I love it.
They’re asking for general ideas, thoughts, advice, etc. As someone who’s done about a dozen blogging conferences (all but one as a speaker), I felt it’d be good to chime in. But, really, when have I felt it wasn’t good to chime in, eh? ;-)
Here are my initial thoughts:
1. Focus: Everyone’s mentioned this, but “web 2.0 / blogging” is just too vague. BlogOn was about high-end corporate blogging. Northern Voice was about the “blogging community”. NewComm will be about blogging as it relates to marketing, PR, etc. What will this conference be? Blogging as a business communication tool? Another NV-style conference? How to become a professional blogger? Focus is key.
2. Speakers: Get good ones. Personally I’d stay away from Scoble largely because every conference has him and there’s no differentiating factor there… But, maybe there’s a reason every conference has him too! Doc, Dave Winer, Tim Bray and Jory are all fantastic speakers in my opinion. Especially Doc and Tim (but that’s my personal preference).
3. Venue: Choose one that’s central enough to be convenient, cheap enough to work or partner with something like a University and offer free passes to 50 students or whatever in exchange for it.
4. Power and wifi: Darren mentioned this in the thread, and it’s really, really key. A conference without these is really, really bad. A blogging conference without these is insane. Power bars every 2 rows, under every seat. Wifi everywhere (and decent wifi at that, not just one netgear router).
5. Food: There needs to be decent food close by. NorthernVoice did this really well.
6. Non-conference events: Ask 3-4 people to lead some events that newbies can join in with. People who already have a social circle from other conferences will likely opt out, but those who are new to this will really, really appreciate it. Blog walks are good. Dinners are good. Trips to some local sights are good (better if you call ahead and arrange a discount).
7. Open sessions: While these can be difficult to manage, and VERY difficult to guarantee quality, having a few BoF or open discussions can really transform a conference from average to fantastic. Obviously the opposite can be true as well, so some management is best.
8. For speakers: While most small conferences can’t afford to pay speakers, make sure you set aside some money in the budget to ‘help’ speakers who may have hit a ‘famine’ spot in the typical speaker ‘feast or famine’ cycle. It happens. More often than most of us would like to admit. And having the option there allows us to decide if it’s really appropriate to go, instead of disqualifying ourselves immediately. For small conferences there is no need to cover all expenses, though the more you can the better. And any free / cheap / discounted rooms you can find, the better.
9. Wiki: A wiki is a fantastic way to allow other events to organize, to do ride organization, hotel room sharing, etc. Use it early. Use it well. Mention it A LOT.
10. Broadcasting: Having audio of the conference be broadcast is huge. Thankfully, there are lots and lots and lots of companies in Toronto that do this quite inexpensively. Some are better than others. Happy to put you guys in touch if you need it :) If you’re doing audio, having an official conference IRC channel is a great way for people outside to communicate with people inside. Gnomedex often does a great job of this, and it really opens the conference up to the world.
Also, think about sponsors and sponsorship packages early on. Lots of companies in Toronto would be into this, depending on the focus (Q9, iUpload, etc, have been known to sponsor these types of events, and the Star is always a sucker for anything that will get them in front of people). Consider doing an ‘expo’ if there are enough local companies (again, depending on focus). Either way, if this conference is going to happen in May, a lot of things need to be decided RIGHT NOW so you can lock down speakers and sponsors and venue ASAP. Once those are down, there is still a tonne of work to do organizing books, schedules, working with speakers on flights, finding partners, promoting it, finding volunteers for setup, etc.
Either way, guys, fantastic idea. I’d love to be involved any way I can, including speaking, organizing, advertising the conference (on b5′s blogs, at a huge discount), etc.
This conference really, really needs to happen. Please be aware of how much the Toronto blogging community is pumped about this. Please do us proud!
Update: For reference, here is a previous piece where I ranted about what is wrong with conferences.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Jeremy Wright on February 24, 2006 at 10:26 am, and is filed under General. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|
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