How to make a great conference

I received a bit of critique for my Review of Euruko 2011. Granted I was a bit more critical of a few things compared to my twitter feed, but well…

But what do people look for in a conference? No idea. So what do I look for in a conference?

The marketing

There’s nothing worse than hearing about a conference just when its finished. Maybe I forgot about it, or maybe I just don’t follow the right people on Twitter…

Whatever the case I really wanted to go, but since the marketing failed I missed out!

Lanyrd solves this problem partially, but not every conference is listed there. I also don’t check it regularly.

Even when I hear about an event, there are still more problems that can crop up. Quite a few times i’ve noticed events listed with poor directions. Please, tell me where your event is, otherwise I can’t get to it!

The talks

A great talk is made up of several factors, notably…

  • The speaker
  • The content
  • Relevance to the event

So I would suggest a great talk has the best speaker, with the best content which is completely related to the event.

Whereas the worst talk is narrated by the worst speaker, with the most boring content, which is completely unrelated to the event.

Personally I think this is where Barcamp-style conferences shine: there are no rules. A talk could literally be about anything. Everything is relevant.

Then again themed conferences are better in that you know what to expect when you get there. If you go to a ruby conference you get Ruby, not PHP. Not to mention the schedule is usually predetermined.

The venue

A venue can be the breaking point of the event. It needs to be large enough to accommodate the attendees. It also needs a good layout otherwise congestion will form, making everything look too crowded.

Crowds are great, until everyone starts talking and we bump into the nightclub problem: I CAN’T HEAR WHAT ANYONE IS SAYING.

Besides the specifics of the building, the venue also needs to be in an accessible location. I don’t want to trek 10 miles to the venue, and if there is no food provided people need somewhere near to go to eat.

After-events

I think after-events are also a key part of a conference. Without them your post-conference networking opportunities are limited to the people you just happened to bump into at the conference.

Its also a good opportunity for forming a lasting impression of the event in the heads of attendees. If the party last night was awesome, i’ll probably be thinking of it months down the line when the next conference is on.