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What Do You Look For In a Conference? 186

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the real-technical-info-not-buzzword-bingo dept.
Michael Lato writes "I've been a speaker at several Information Technology conferences and I know that I use conferences as both an opportunity to gain new skills and to network with my peers. In hopes of assisting others, I've started my own conference in order to boost the soft skills of computer professionals. However, we may need to cancel due to a lack of attendees. What are people looking for in a conference in the midst of this recession? Have we missed the mark in thinking topics like project management and remote team leadership will be well-received?"
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What Do You Look For In a Conference?

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  • by nweaver (113078) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:16PM (#30358492) Homepage

    For a non-academic conference, it needs to be

    a: A good enough topic to convince the boss to pay...

    b: Cheap enough to convince the boss to pay...

    c: In a nice enough location that you want to go...

    So a $100/person conference in Hawaii sounds about right to me.

    • by Knara (9377) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:17PM (#30358516)
      d: Is in a hotel with a nice bar that has readily available escorts trolling for well-off professionals.
      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:19PM (#30358526) Journal

        d: Is in a hotel with a nice bar that has readily available escorts trolling for well-off professionals

        We know what you want, but what about the professionals?

        • by Cryacin (657549)
          I want a conference...
          With blackjack...
          And Hookers...
          In fact, screw the conference.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by davester666 (731373)

            I look for good, decently matched football teams. It makes the games much more interesting.

            • by OECD (639690)
              "I look for good, decently matched football teams. It makes the games much more interesting."

              I laughed, anyway.

      • by GPLDAN (732269)
        The new version of Apple MACOS will have a built in app that uses bluetooth to find local escorts in your hotel that want to sleep with you based on your fame on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

        Steve Jobs announced this 10.7 will be called "Woods Tiger"
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Knara (9377)

          Say what you will about Tiger Woods, the only thing he did wrong was get married.

          I think doing the "I'm a genuinely humbled man, blahblahblah" spiel is all wrong. He should set himself up as the next Hugh Hefner.

          • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:43PM (#30358798) Homepage
            Come on, you'd stray too if you had to wake up to this [thesunblog.com] every morning.
            • by vikstar (615372)

              you keep a photo of a girl in a bikini next to your bed?

          • by D Ninja (825055)

            Say what you will about Tiger Woods, the only thing he did wrong was get married.

            I don't know if you're trolling or what, but I'll bite.

            Quite honestly, yes, Tiger probably should not have married. It was a mistake (although, probably more of a mistake for his wife), especially considering how many women he apparently wanted to sleep with. However, it is a decision that he made. Nobody marched him down the aisle at gunpoint. He chose to do it. And, once he did that, then his whole life changed which set him up for many other mistakes (so far, 5 of them, if the news/rumors are all tr

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by i_ate_god (899684)

              Say what you will about Tiger Woods, the only thing he did wrong was get married.

              I don't know if you're trolling or what, but I'll bite.

              Quite honestly, yes, Tiger probably should not have married. It was a mistake (although, probably more of a mistake for his wife), especially considering how many women he apparently wanted to sleep with. However, it is a decision that he made. Nobody marched him down the aisle at gunpoint. He chose to do it. And, once he did that, then his whole life changed which set him up for many other mistakes (so far, 5 of them, if the news/rumors are all true).

              Your line of logic basically says, "You're only responsible for one mistake and not responsible for anything after that," which is absolutely wrong. If someone slams their car into a pedestrian and then drives away, their mistake doesn't stop with just hitting someone. It's now a Hit & Run. Each decision that Tiger made led to other decisions. He just kept making bad ones. Repeatedly.

              What you should be really asking yourself is why you care so much.

              • by D Ninja (825055)

                What you should be really asking yourself is why you care so much.

                Oh, I don't really. I mean, it stinks that he did those things because he put such a good face on the sport of golf and got people excited about it. That's awesome that he did that, but now it will be marred by his actions with these woman. But, other than that, I don't care - people screw up and make bad decisions. It's what we're good at.

                What I do care about is how dismissive Knara seemed of what it means to be married (by saying his only mistake was to get married). Whether its Tiger or somebody who

            • by cayenne8 (626475)
              "Quite honestly, yes, Tiger probably should not have married. It was a mistake (although, probably more of a mistake for his wife), especially considering how many women he apparently wanted to sleep with. However, it is a decision that he made. Nobody marched him down the aisle at gunpoint. He chose to do it. And, once he did that, then his whole life changed which set him up for many other mistakes (so far, 5 of them, if the news/rumors are all true)."

              Well, my thoughts are, really...unless you want to h

              • by Knara (9377)

                When you are married to someone who is a superstar, expecting that they will never have dalliances with their preferred sex is unrealistic. They did, apparently, have a prenup, but I think he (and his PR team) are going the wrong direction on how to maintain his "public image".

                Of course, Woods also appears to have a thing for women who aren't particularly bright, so that may be figuring into the whargarbl, here. I liked the one mistress who was mad he was stepping out on her. It's as if she didn't read

              • Well, my thoughts are, really...unless you want to have kids, there is really NO reason to ever get married. Why risk losing half your **** over a piece of ***?

                I don't know, maybe some of us don't see every other human as a piece of meat, and like having a companion who will always be there. Maybe we find satisfaction in knowing someone intimately, and taking care of them, instead of having an endless parade of meaningless dates and shallow conversations. Maybe we find it deeply comforting to have someone l

                • by cayenne8 (626475)
                  "I don't know, maybe some of us don't see every other human as a piece of meat, and like having a companion who will always be there. Maybe we find satisfaction in knowing someone intimately, and taking care of them, instead of having an endless parade of meaningless dates and shallow conversations. Maybe we find it deeply comforting to have someone love us despite knowing our worst faults, and to be able to do the same for them."

                  Wow...people still really try for that kind of thing? Well, good luck to you

            • by Knara (9377)

              Gettin' pretty wound up from a comment I made that implied billionaires should get laid, not married.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by onionman (975962)

      For a non-academic conference, it needs to be

      a: A good enough topic to convince the boss to pay...

      b: Cheap enough to convince the boss to pay...

      c: In a nice enough location that you want to go...

      So a $100/person conference in Hawaii sounds about right to me.

      Yep, that all sounds about right to me, but one more thing to add is a good schedule. The conference needs to have built-in breaks for both formal and informal peer networking/socializing. Formal networking can be small-group break-out sessions or very small panel talks on technical topics. Some of the best conferences I've been to for this have "coding sprints" on open source projects in the afternoons.

      Informal socializing doesn't necessarily require booze. Some of the best I've attended have included

      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "Informal socializing doesn't necessarily require booze."

        Hmm....you lost me on this one...

        :)

        I pretty much can't think of a situation where a little "conversation lubrication" doesn't help a lot!!

        "I think that there are plenty of self-identified geeks who are uncomfortable with the whole booze+mingling thing, so give everyone some options."

        Well, if there are there and booze is present...no one holds a gun to anyone's head to drink. Heck, sometimes that IS a good thing to do, let the chicks get liquore

      • by Knara (9377)

        Informal socializing doesn't necessarily require booze. Some of the best I've attended have included hiking trips, museum tours, or even theater presentations. Don't get me wrong, I like alcohol as much as the next guy, but I think that there are plenty of self-identified geeks who are uncomfortable with the whole booze+mingling thing, so give everyone some options.

        If they're uncomfortable with socializing, I'm not sure how adding in other possibility *group activities* will help it any.

        As someone once said, you don't need to drink to have a good time, but why make it harder than it needs to be.

  • Free stuff, free food and free beer. Only reasons I ever go.
  • by NoYob (1630681) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:17PM (#30358502)
    What I look for in a Conference:
    1. Free Booze
    2. Scantily clad hot booth chicks
    3. Porn stars
    4. Free shit
    5. Free food
    6. Drunk career women looking for a little "fun"
    • by SomeJoel (1061138)

      Free shit

      Careful now, you know how literal these sciency types can be.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by NoYob (1630681)

        Free shit

        Careful now, you know how literal these sciency types can be.

        So, I have a garden. It beats having to buy it at Home Depot.

    • by pla (258480)
      Why did the parent get modded troll? "Crude humor", perhaps, but hardly a troll.

      Although we may well go for less base reasons, let's not act all stuck-up about it. We go to these events for two reasons - Our jobs force us to; or our jobs "allow" us to, pay for it, and will count the three days in Vegas as actually "working".

      Now, if I see some cool toys relating to my profession while there, yeah, I might chat up the poor bastard at the booth about what he has. But at every single convention I've ever
    • by Tablizer (95088)

      I'm with you on the babes, boobs, booze, and beef [1], but there also needs to be some nerdy fun, such as:

      * Giant penguin for photo ops

      * Bill Gates impersonator dunk tank; extra points for a one-way lid

      * Case mods that look like toilets and toilets that look like case mods (careful to check when drunk).

      * Perl obfuscation contest using boothbabe body paint

      * Emacs vs. Vi food-fight in the caf

      * Chair-tossing/monkey-dance contest

      * A dark, quiet basement-like room with wifi in case we need a break from all that

  • What I look for is a decent lunch. No tuna-fish sandwiches or fricken' bagels. Food's the only expectation I have, because, without exception, every conference I've been to has been as dull as watching shit turn into soil.

    • Depending on your ambitions for booking targets, of course, but there are some very good people out in the industry who are very well known but still aren't rich. You might be able to entice them to speak for a cut of the gate. Go after a luminary and ask them.

      Given your interest in the "soft skills" I'd suggest going after someone like Pamela Jones, Richard Stallman, Randall Munroe, Cory Doctorow, Rob Malda, or Simon Travaglia. People who would drive geeks through the door, just for the opportunity to

  • by rjstanford (69735) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:22PM (#30358554) Homepage Journal

    Lots of good peering, accessibility to presenters, decent happy hours. Good stock content is a strong 2nd place, but definitely a 2nd place.

  • by geekboybt (866398) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:23PM (#30358570)
    My employer deals almost entirely with higher ed clients. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, our customers basically *aren't* looking to go to conferences. Instead of our yearly training, which goes for 3 solid days, and costs over $1000, we're doing webcasts once a week for free. The end cost to us is about the same (we don't aim to profit off the conferences monetarily, so they break even, and WebEx is relatively cheap), they're getting the training they need, and our customers are happier.

    So, to answer your question, I'd say they're either not looking for a conference, or for something really cheap. Try again when the economy picks up.
    • This time last year, I had a job that would pay for all of its employees to go to about a conference per year within a certain budget. It would also give them paid time off to go.

      Since then, that company cut many of its senior/expensive people (including me) and eliminated that benefit for those that remained. My new job doesn't have such a benefit and I'm not likely to attend a conference I have to pay for purely out of pocket and take vacation time for. Probably a lot of former conference attendees are

      • I might be willing to pay for professional development, but there's limits as to how much. Unless I've got lots of vacation time (and that's not common in the US), I want it to at least count as work.

    • by pete6677 (681676)

      I wondered when the day would come that companies would wake up and realize that conferences, along with the vast majority of other business travel, is a total waste of company funds. WebEx should be able to replace 90% of business travel. I never did understand the stupidity of flying across the country just for a 2 hour meeting.

      • by DeadChobi (740395)

        I can tell when a person is baiting me, being facetious, or otherwise playing me more readily when they're in the same room with me.

      • by AlXtreme (223728)

        I never did understand the stupidity of flying across the country just for a 2 hour meeting.

        Meeting face to face is more effective, helps you to get to know other people and do business. I agree with you that conferences can be a waste of time & funds, however what counts is the face time _after_ that 2 hour meeting or half-day conference.

        The important talks are held after meetings and conferences during drinks and dinner.

  • In times like these, people don't want to be seen as expensive to their company. Unless the conference is for hard technical skills, people don't want to attend. Even for people who are not hardcore technical, the conferences have to be seen as "must attend".
  • Simple (Score:4, Informative)

    by eln (21727) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:28PM (#30358640) Homepage
    Pick any random 25 conference attendees. If at least one of them doesn't end up waking up in a ditch on the side of a highway 50 miles from your conference with no memory of the preceding three days except vague flashes involving tequila, three midgets, and a donkey, the conference is too lame for anyone to go to.
    • Re:Simple (Score:4, Funny)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:46PM (#30358824) Journal

      Pick any random 25 conference attendees. If at least one of them doesn't end up waking up in a ditch on the side of a highway 50 miles from your conference with no memory of the preceding three days except vague flashes involving tequila, three midgets, and a donkey, the conference is too lame for anyone to go to.

      Look, it was two midgets and a mule, and maybe its owner (or possibly Art Gufunkel). I don't know why people can't get the story straight.

      • by corbettw (214229)

        I don't know why people can't get the story straight.

        You missed the part where tequila was involved, didn't you?

  • by ArchieBunker (132337) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:29PM (#30358648) Homepage

    You're a self absorbed douchebag who got a taste of reality when nobody wanted to attend your coma inducing conference.

  • Two words (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Booth babes!

  • What it really comes down to is that in a recessions companies cut back their training dollars. Think of it this way, if they just laid-off 10 workers then it generally does not look very good to send remaining employees on expensive training or conferences. Having said that, if the conference hours can be applied to maintaining a professional designation (i.e.: PDU's to maintain your PMP ) then you'll always get those people attending.
  • by RichMan (8097) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:32PM (#30358672)

    This sort of thing only seems to happen at the political conferences, not the technical ones.

    --
    Copenhagen's city council in conjunction with Lord Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard sent postcards out to 160 Copenhagen hotels urging COP15 guests and delegates to 'Be sustainable - don't buy sex'.

    "Dear hotel owner, we would like to urge you not to arrange contacts between hotel guests and prostitutes," the approach to hotels says.

    Now, Copenhagen prostitutes are up in arms, saying that the council has no business meddling in their affairs. They have now offered free sex to anyone who can produce one of the offending postcards and their COP15 identity card, according to the Web site avisen.dk.
    --

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,665182,00.html

  • That's it, basically. For IT people, finding information is *easy*. Why would I go to your conference, when everything you have to say is available for free from some website (and I *guarantee* it is).

    I have yet to attend a conference that told me anything I didn't already know. The whole idea of a "conference" is pretty flawed. I want a *class*, with highly-qualified instructors that can answer my questions. I also want the class to only be attended by people that know why they are attending. Too many of t

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dHagger (1192545)
      The problem with google is that it is both time-consuming and difficult to filter out the crap. The good thing about conferences and lectures (at least those I have attended) is that most of the crap has already been filtered by someone who knows about the subject. A good lecture usually get me thinking in new directions, talking about best practices and giving good advice - usually things that drowns in a flood of useless/amateur advice when using google.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sexconker (1179573)

        The good thing about conferences and lectures (at least those I have attended) is that most of the crap has already been filtered by someone who knows about the subject. A good lecture usually get me thinking in new directions, talking about best practices and giving good advice - usually things that drowns in a flood of useless/amateur advice when using google.

        Filtering out the crap and giving you zero substance.

        Conferences are you sitting down and listening to some schlub talk for an hour or two in vague generalities about a topic barely related to your work.

        Thinking about stuff is great, but at the end of the conference you've got nothing implemented. At best, you've got some scrappy notes about things you might want to look into.

        People talking at conferences see ego boosters and paychecks.

        People sending you to conferences expect you to somehow come back on Mo

    • by pz (113803)

      That's it, basically. For IT people, finding information is *easy*. Why would I go to your conference, when everything you have to say is available for free from some website (and I *guarantee* it is).

      Agreed. Why should we have conferences at all when such things like Google and Skype exist?

      The organizers need to be able to answer that question without hesitation, and in detail, or will face certain failure. Answers exist (I run a conference, so have thought long and hard about this), but they aren't necessarily the ones that immediately come to mind. Mostly, it isn't about learning and teaching, but is about making good professional contacts, the sort of contacts that would be considered colleagues.

    • by belthize (990217)

      Completely agree. I was a fairly regular attendee at SANS, LISA, Usenix type conferences from about 90 to 99. Now I almost never go. If I need to know something 30 minutes of Google is more than sufficient.

      For a while going just to meet with vendors was useful but even that's old hat. 10-20 years ago most of the vendors front line were technically knowledgeable now they're just stock MBA sales teams talking about their forward looking expanding market to maximally leverage their virtual synergy. A

    • by ajlisows (768780)

      Hmmmm. I'm replying to a post modded redundant to agree with him....that probably isn't good. But, what the hell, I agree and have more to add.

      I've been to about ten conferences in all ranging from things like iTech where there was no real focus but "IT" to pretty small conferences that were based on really specific pieces of software. To be honest, I can't with a clear conscience ever ask my employer to send me to one that is longer than 1 day and costs more than free. Simply put, I never felt that the

  • by daveime (1253762) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:36PM (#30358712)

    What Do *I* Look For In a Conference?

    The exit to the buffet / bar.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MightyMartian (840721)

      Worst conference I was ever at was an IBM conference. Most of it was the same buzz-word heavy bullshit, but I remember one laughably bad little meeting IBM sales reps had with us VARs, where about the most substance there was was how many colors the computers should be. The fucking thing was an hour and a half long.

      Most disappointing was attending the launching of OS/2 Warp 4, where the buttholes at IBM didn't even hand out OS/2 install CDs, but a fucking slide show CD that played on Windows!

      In both cases

    • by tool462 (677306)

      What Do *I* Look For In a Conference?

      The exit to the buffet / bar.

      I read this as "The exit to the buffet /. bar"

      Would that be all the CmdrTaco you can eat?

  • Ok, firstly, how did you advertise your conference? Secondly, how many of these types of conferences are there already, and how well attended are they? Lastly, in your presentations in existing conferences on this topic (assuming in a wider scope conference), how many people actually attended YOUR talks?

    You need to make sure that you are adding enough value for people to pay the money to attend and for employers to believe that the time spent at your conference is a better use of the paid time for their

    • Forgive the double post, but the other question was "how much are you charging, and is this reasonable value for what the professionals expect to get for their money?"
  • by pz (113803) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:41PM (#30358772) Journal

    I run a biennial scientific conference. The first two times we had it, it sold out (we had to turn people away); there is every indication that the next session in 2010 will be the same.

    What makes it a successful conference?

    1. Fantastic location (we chose a Greek island).

    2. It's a little hard to get there, and a little expensive -- so people are committed to being at the conference.

    3. We serve lunch on-site -- so people have good opportunities to be engaged.

    4. There are plenty of breaks -- so people have good opportunities to interact with the speakers.

    5. We have lots of time for discussion after each talk, and good moderators. Also, the length of time for each talk is just long enough to present one idea in detail and depth.

    6. All of the speakers are invited and meet three strict criteria: (a) they are widely recognized as experts in their field; (b) they give excellent presentations; (c) they are people you want to hang out with for a few days. You would be surprised at how many potential speakers fail at one or more of those criteria, especially the last two.

    7. We have separate periods for social interactions (a welcoming reception, and a final banquet).

    8. The morning of the third day of our four day conference has no formal presentations, to help avoid attendee fatigue.

    9. We serve alcohol during the poster presentations in the evening.

    • by GWBasic (900357)

      The parent couldn't have said it better, but may I add:

      Make sure your speakers aren't giving blatant advertisements for commercial products. While this is less likely to happen at academic conferences; some speakers at industry conferences will spend the entire time promoting their product or services. I'm okay with a speaker plugging a book or services, but when the topic is "adjusted" to be an infomercial; I walk out.

      If you have less experienced speakers, (the parent has the luxury of picking the cream

    • by GWBasic (900357)

      We serve lunch on-site -- so people have good opportunities to be engaged.

      Careful here: You don't need to go gormet, but make sure to avoid the mistake of only serving hot dogs drenched in ketchup or ham sandwiches loaded with mayo.

      Make sure there is enough variety so that vegetarians, picky eaters, people with food allergies, and religious restrictions can still have a good meal. Buffets are good. Having to choose between a mayo-drenched ham sandwich or a bag of sour cream potato chips is a great way to make someone's afternoon miserable.

  • Free software. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Schnapple (262314) <tomkidd@via[ ]as.com ['tex' in gap]> on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:43PM (#30358796) Homepage
    Microsoft events involving free software are very well attended. Over the years I've acquired Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows 7 Ultimate, Visual Studio 2005/2008 Standard, SQL Server 2005/2008 Standard and Windows Server 2008 all for just showing up.

    Of course it helped that the conferences themselves were also free.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by h4rr4r (612664)

      That is not Free software, just no-cost software.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      Microsoft events involving free software are very well attended. Over the years I've acquired Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows 7 Ultimate, Visual Studio 2005/2008 Standard, SQL Server 2005/2008 Standard and Windows Server 2008 all for just showing up.

      I tried that, but the handouts were yawners. I'll trade you 3,827 AOL disks for your SQL-Server.
           

    • by nametaken (610866) *

      The copies of SQL Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 were trials (and CTP) at the Heroes Happen Here partner events. That was a total bummer.

      The copy of Visual Studio 2008 Std bundled with those was a full copy, just like VS2005 previously, as was the separate copy of Vista Ultimate. I was disappointed to learn that they'd stripped mobile development from VS2008. Brilliant move when everyone is getting hard over the iPhone and its gajillions of apps.

      Bonus trivia - They destroyed thousands of copies of t

  • And you have to recoup the cost somewhere, meaning from attendees or exhibitors.

    Figure out how to do that in a recession, you're golden.

    If you can't do that, reduce costs by producing an online/virtual conference.

    A couple of months ago, I attended a virtual conference. It was quite successful, all things considered. The had 4000 + attendees, good exhibitors, good raffles, etc. And judging from the forum entries by attendees, everyone got something positive out of it.

  • However, we may need to cancel due to a lack of attendees. What are people looking for in a conference in the midst of this recession?

    Free is nice. Can you host one on the east coast, west coast, and midwest so people can drive to their destination? Oh, and Friday through Monday is ideal because it has to be vacation-time (If I'm "working" at the conference they have to pay travel expenses, but the travel budget was the first thing to go, so it would come from the emergency fund which I'd like to keep for real emergencies).

  • It is unlikely that attending people will really learn something interesting in a conference. However, it is the perfect place to meet people; your next employer or your next employe.

  • by pz (113803) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:53PM (#30358918) Journal

    The best way to organize a conference is to attend lots of them and pay attention to what works and what does not. Take the positive aspects and concentrate them. Make sure you don't nickel and dime your attendees. Have on-site food that is good, and serve alcohol with it. Have a single-track. Pick speakers very, very well. Pick a great location. Visit the location well beforehand (months) and talk to the people who run the facility. Get to know your vendors. Give attendees decent take-home items (pens, pads, etc.) that won't be thrown away immediately. Provide maps. Make sure the program is trivially easy to use. Make sure the conference site is trivially easy to find. Have a good web site that's easy to navigate. Make it easy for potentially interested attendees to contact you. Advertise. Promise the best experience ever, and follow through. Make sure your finances are well-planned so that if something goes wrong, you, and your attendees, aren't screwed. Ask for feedback, and take it to heart. Hire an A/V person and tell them that under no circumstances are they allowed to dim the lights (or promise a big bonus if that never happens), and that they should feel free to interrupt speakers to adjust microphones until such time as the speakers are clearly audible.

    • by pz (113803)

      Damn ... I forgot one important thing: turn off wireless internet access (and block cell phone reception, if that's possible) in the room where the presentations are taking place. Make it just a little hard for people to use the net. After all, you want people who are there to pay attention to the speakers, not to email back at home. Plug-in net access can be provided in a small, separate room; people who must have net access can either go find an internet cafe nearby, or wait until they get back to thei

      • by selven (1556643)

        Why? If people want to reduce a $100 conference to a crowded, inconvenient room for surfing facebook, why not let them hurt themselves?

        • by pz (113803)

          Why? If people want to reduce a $100 conference to a crowded, inconvenient room for surfing facebook, why not let them hurt themselves?

          Who said anything about a $100 conference, or it being crowded? A good conference is not cheap (for a number of reasons that would take too long to explain here), but between $400 and $800 for round figures. It should be comfortably full, but never feel crowded.

          And the WHOLE POINT of being at a conference -- that is, interacting with other people -- is undermined if you, the audience member, is not paying attention to what is being said. If you can't be bothered to listen after paying your entrance fee,

  • Even if your conference is free to attend, it still costs the delegates their travel costs, their accommodation and food, and covering the time away from their workplace. The tough question is- does your conference have enough to persuade your delegates' bosses that it's worth it?

    Unfortunately as a new conference you are going to have to work that bit harder, can you bring in something with pulling power? Once you've got a good reputation it gets easier, there are some conferences which have a strong enough

  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:59PM (#30358980) Journal

    Have we missed the mark in thinking topics like project management and remote team leadership will be well-received?

    Short answer: Yes

    Long answer:

    I personally wouldn't want to attend such conferences. Why? I'm not a project manager nor do I plan to be, and thus team leadership is another thing I generally don't need. Now, when I look at any team of IT pros, I see ONE person in that position, with several underlings to do the dirty work. I don't know about you, but in any of the companies I've worked at, there are AT MOST 2 managers for Information Technology and Services. One will generally handle all the in-house software and bug requests while the other one will handle everything else.

    There are more people NOT in that position then there are IN that position. If you were to cover things that applied to my job specifically, like expected coding practices, I might be more inclined to attend.

    And those Managers who ARE in those positions are usually too busy to attend a conference, they're on Call 24/7 in case a server goes down or Exchange goes nuts.

    However, what REALLY draws the crowds is something new. New Technology, new methodology, new something. If you have something they haven't seen before, they want to check it out. Once you hook them into going, you can continue upon whatever you dang well please. If I book the time off for a conference about the advantages of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 working together, and you happen to spend half the conference talking about Management, I'll feel obligated to stick around till you get to the good stuff.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday December 07, 2009 @07:16PM (#30359180)

    I've had my share of security cons in my life. Invariably, whether I liked them or not boils down to a few simple points:

    1) Interesting talks from interesting people. I don't want to hear about something I knew since 2 years ago from someone who was just accepted because nobody would willingly come. Have a lineup of people presenting something new and I'm there.

    2) Spare the ad blitz. Concerning point 1, spare the corporate sponsored talks that peddle some of their latest crap and give little to no information. First, they're boring and second, the people who attend the cons I attend don't make the sales decisions anyway. I actually remember one talk by a certain poor fellow from a certain security company that I will not mention to protect the guilty who couldn't get his presentation done because everyone just started chattering amongst themselves without listening. And nobody was bothered by it. It was one of those "mandatory attendence" talks, so we were there. And made the best out of the situation. It was really embarrassing for the poor guy and him talking through a microphone kinda interfered with our conversation...

    3) Make sure your guests feel welcome. Hire local students if you need cheap labour, but I want to get my registration done speedily and I want to have someone to ask organisational questions whenever I have one. It's kinda bugging me when I stand there and would like to know my way around and there's nobody to ask. Yes, signs help but not always. Also make sure the hotel bar has enough Vodka if you invite people from east/northeast Europe! GOOD VODKA! I can't stress it enough.

    4) Don't put the most interesting talks at 9am. That Vodka needs time to settle, ya know...

    • How much is that?

      All of it?

      • by sowth (748135) *

        They only have had enough when their jet fighter's fuel tank is empty and they can't fly home. [image: sad deflated jet fighter]

        But wait! All the hookers are trapped on this island too. [image: happy erect jet fighter]

      • 1-2 bottles per person and night, in my experience. They're geeks after all, they don't need a lot to be drunk.

  • So hang on. You're holding a face-to-face social event to help antisocial people gain more comfort and skill in handling face-to-face social situations?

    And you're surprised that nobody showed up?

    Next time, why not hold a conference on "Conquering Acrophobia" at the top of the Seattle Space Needle?

  • The problem with technical conferences is that there are too many people at widely varying levels of skill to fully satisfy anyone. The newbies are going to feel like they have just had their butts kicked while the more experienced will feel like their time has been wasted. When I am looking to spend time training I prefer to do it with books, frameworks, and google at my own pace and level of competence. The last conference that I attended was mostly a waste of time and money IMHO. Conferences are among th
  • Unemployment is out of control and NOBODY in their right mind is gonna ask to go to a conference with all of the hungry competition out there. Conferences are gonna have to chill until after we have a domestic prosperity that justifies titties and beer at the casino.
  • Same as in meetings: The DOOR and the CLOCK of course! ^^

  • as everyone else here, but obviously this isn't a place where you can ask a question and expect a worthwhile response.

  • by Eil (82413) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:49PM (#30360490) Homepage Journal

    Without more detail, the conference you started sounds suspiciously like every other "professional" conference I've ever heard of. You know, the ones middle managers dream up and attend to make it look and sound like they're busier and more important than they really are.

    You don't say who your target audience is exactly, but if you're looking to attract the Slashdot crowd, you have to have:

    1. 1. A solid set of speakers and panels. Geeks justify their time and money spent at a conference by what they'll be able to learn.
    2. Lots to do that is cheap or free. One of the more popular cons around here has free beer on tap from 8PM throughout the night and snacks all weekend long. I've personally never attended a con with a ticket price over $75.
    3. Fun. Related to #2, you need something (or more likely, many somethings) to guarantee that the attendees will have fun. This means interactive panels, workshops, competitions, and so on.
    4. Sponsors. Most cons expect to barely break even where funds are concerned. If your conference is any good, you almost certainly need at least one major sponsor and a few minor ones.

    Running a con is hard. I was on a conference committee once and while my job was comparatively easy, many other organizers (especially the conchair) spent an entire year of their free time all for the sake of one great weekend. If you really want to figure out what makes a con tick, get involved with another con before diving into one of your own, no matter how great you think your event planning skills are. There are a few cons with a relatively open planning process, one in particular that I can recommend is Penguicon [penguicon.org].

  • In hopes of assisting others, I've started my own conference in order to boost the soft skills of computer professionals.

    That's why no one is attending.

  • I attend two technical conferences a year. One of them is very big (but shrinking), the other one small (but growing). Since I am on the steering committee of the small one, I'll share some of the things that I think make it successful:

    1. Free. The conference is almost entirely funded by the sponsors (vendors) who set up booths outside the conference rooms. The vendors end up paying for the conference facility, a catered lunch for the guests, and beer and wine for the panel session (more on that in a minut
  • My favorite reasons is as an "attaboy". You do something really great at work and they send you someplace nice, give you an expense account, let you hang out with the kind of people you like... Sending you to a conference makes you feel good. Everyone who wanted to go, but didn't get sent, knows you have more "mojo" with the pointy haired bosses than they do. It is a whole lot cheaper than a raise or even a real bonus. And, who knows, you might actually learn something of use to the company.

    By far the most

  • Just checked out your conference sessions http://www.worktamer.com/conference_sessions.cfm [worktamer.com] it looks awful. Just awful.

    1. Parachuting Into a Brownfield
    2. Fail Fast and Succeed
    3. Design Planning
    4. Software Craftsmanship
    5. Project Management: Old School
    6. Running Better Meetings
    7. Team Building
    8. Time Management
    9. How to Get Promoted and Dump Your Pager
    10. Talk Your Way to the Top
    11. Successful Telecommuting
    12. My Co-workers Are 9000 Miles Away! How to Succeed on a Distributed Team
    13. Doing Business with the Government of Canada
    14. Women in Technology: S
  • What Do You Look For In a Conference?

    Decent Wi-Fi access. Thank you.

  • MORE REAL WORLD EXAMPLES!
    MORE REAL CODE YOU CAN USE!
    MORE FREE GIVEAWAYS!

    If I have to drive all the way to ____ city from mine, and then get a hotel room, then pay through the nose (which is almost always the case) and then get disappointed by sloppy examples that barely work, without even seeing real world code or real world application of why I could use this technology or not. Then add to that you give away a stupid tshirt or pen (yes I am looking at you M$)
    I will be pissed and never come back to your con

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