We’re not the first business to embrace the concepts of the Cluetrain Manifesto. Lego’s done it, I’m certain more have. I’m more certain that more should.
I’m not sure if there’s any start ups that ‘started cluetrain’ like we did. From the very first days of 360Conferences, even before the company was formed, we made sure that openness and transparency, and conversation were the core tenets. We started blogs, we approached user group managers to spread the word. We polled our customers, asking them what kind of conference they wanted.
Tom and I know we don’t know what we’re doing :) but we know what we like, and at least for me, as a conference goer (usually on my own dime) I know what I like, and what’s lame.
From there, we just ‘did it’. No mission statements, no venture funding, no outside Board of Directors, just Tom and I. Well, we had Ryan Stewart for like a month, until Adobe snatched him away from us. :)
I literally (I know I’ve said this before) carry cluetrain in my bag. Everything we do, we ask ourselves, “Is this the most open way we can do it? Is this too close to ‘business as usual’?”
When we launch an event, we used to put a percentage sold ticker up. We’ve had people tell us, “Why would you do that? It might scare people into not registering.” Yeah, it might, but it also shows the community roughly how much space is left. It hopefully shows people that waiting around ’til the last minute, may mean not attending. We also have had people ask, “Why don’t you prop the numbers up? Make it say 75% instead of 25%” I’ll admit, for a fraction of a second, we thought about it, but then realized, in terms of keeping ourselves open and trying to maintain a conversation with our customers, that we’d be lying. To their faces. We couldn’t do it.
However, our sponsors have told us that the ticker scares them. I’m the money man too, so I need to weigh our decisions against the money option. Sponsors pay money to make the shows better for the attendees. While being open is good, having money to make the shows better is more important. Therefore, the ticker is gone. We’ll still blog about the numbers though if we get close to sold out, etc.
We strive to be essentially the opposite of the existing conference industry. To us, conferences aren’t just a “profit center”. Ideally, shows should make a profit since it is a business. We don’t, however, see a single show as a our “bread and butter” or “cash cow”. Our plan is to grow to many shows, making a little bit of profit with each show. As we grow the business, hopefully more communities bloom and grow with us. We’re not trying to “get rich quick”. We’re not even in a super big hurry to leave our day jobs. We do want to share our vision for community with as many industries and groups as we can. We don’t think Flex developers (though we do love ya’ll) are the only group that would enjoy our style of events.