Top 5 tips from confconf

scott badgeConfConf as you might of guessed from the name is a conference about conferences (how meta!), specifically how to run them better! It’s a small single track conference based on professional event organisers sharing their top tips on making the best conferences.

Top 5 tips for running your first technical conference

At SWmobile (a meetup group which I co-run) we’ve talked a little about running our own conference. Here’s the top tips I picked up for others also looking to do this:

  • Independent and for profit – The conference should be independent financially from any non-profit group and the aim should be to make a profit with the conference. This separation helps focus the effort required to setup and run a conference. I thought a good suggestion was to aim to run it for 3 years and if it’s not profitable after 3 years to abandon.
  • Ticket price – The super secret but also simple ticket price calculator should be the total costs / total number of tickets. It’s important not to include sponsor money and so the focus of the marketing is ticket sales. Any money you get from the partners you get on board will increase the chances of it being profitable and allow you to improve things like swag, free beers etc
  • One day only – One day conferences have tended to be more popular recently as it helps keep cost down and it’s easier to convince bosses for the time off to attend.
  • WiFi – Get this right! don’t skimp or rely on the venue’s setup. Sure they’ll say they have a great network but remember this is a tech conference and most attendees will have multiple devices. Rule of thumb 2.7 devices per attendee. Great article from last years confconf.
  • Ditch lunch – Don’t bother with lunch, catering costs allot and is generally crappy quality. This really hit home for me as I cannot think of a conference I’ve attended where the food was good. It’s also one of the main things people moan about!  confconf’s lunch was fairly standard meeting food which was above average for a conference. However they did win the day by pulling out afternoon cream tea!

 

Top 5 tips for monthly meetups

This is geared up for monthly, free to attend meetup groups such as SWmobile. This list is geared more to the sorts of things I think we can improve on so your mileage may vary. 

  • Sponsors == Partners – referring to and treating sponsors as partners helps emphasise they are more than just giving money. By working together you can use their ‘reach’ to promote your events.
  • Improve speaker management – Be up front about talk timings, whether costs are covered, venue directions, uniqueness of talk, number of attendees, type of audience, who to call in emergency, and in general communicating better before and after an event. 
  • Open a CFP – have a Call For Papers [CFP] for monthly meetups where prospective speakers can easily submit talks. Allow them to indicate if they are new to speaking as this allow you to mix up evenings with pro and newbie speakers. As with the above point and speaker management, be sure to include things on the CFP things like the typical location of meetups, average number attendees, attendee skill/experience level. 
  • Create Code of Conduct policy – If you already have a code of conduct like we do at SWmobile, that’s a great start. But what happens when a complaint or issue is raised? this is where a policy comes in. Be sure to ensure all organisers/volunteers are briefed on this. 
  • Video promo reel – Recording talks are a good way to allow people who couldn’t attend to watch the talk. They also serve as a way to promote the group. However recording and editing can be costly and time consuming. A better use of video would be a promo reel to promote the group and ideally a separate video tailored to prospective speakers, members and partners. 

As in mention in my tweet above I had tons of notes and this is just a small portion of the knowledge gained. I’d definately recommend confconf.com to techincal meetup and conference organisers. Hope to attend next year! Also more tips can be found on the confconf blog.