Yeah, that title is a bold statement. However, the great thing is that we’re not the one making the statement. Seth Godin is. We just happen to be the ones already executing what he thinks the new standard of conferences is going to be.
Brooks Andrus seems like a smart guy, but I think he’s got Seth’s post incorrect. Brooks says Seth’s post “smells of Singularity ” (an online conference). While it may “smell” of a future conference, I can honestly say we’ve been executing the new standard for over a year now. Four shows done with a fifth in the works. (Seth and Brooks, complimentary tickets on us if you want to experience the show first hand in August. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll hook you up.)
We’ll give Brooks a break as our conference business has only touched the Flex community (so far). We do want to offer our thoughts and attendee/speaker/sponsor quotes as evidence that we execute this new standard.
One thing Seth and Brooks don’t cover is price. While many shows hover around $1000 USD or higher, ours is $480 USD for 3 days (of 30+ sessions). We believe the lower price point enables independent developers to come and participate when it would otherwise cost too much. We think an overpriced show is bad, but an overpriced show that’s living the “old standard” should just die.
Now, we’d like to take on a few of Seth’s points directly to prove our case.
If you think a great conference is one where the presenters read a script while showing the audience bullet points, you’re wrong.
I specifically tell speakers, “If you had no powerpoint slides and just showed code and examples, I’d love you. Anyone can read a slide deck at home.” Our speakers also know that they can depend on conversation with the audience, so real time interaction is almost standard.
Here’s some quotes from attendees:
“Although I give huge props to the two [speakers], I really enjoyed the input from the crowd. I think this is where 360|Flex shines.” – Ryan Campbell
“At 360Flex, speakers are just ‘attendees with a little more responsibility.’ This is just one of those things that makes smaller conferences more special.” – Jeff Houser
Seth also says:
Or if you leave little time for attendees to engage with others, or worse, if you don’t provide the levers to make it more likely that others will engage with each other, you’re wrong as well.
When we started this business, we did it as two wallflowers. What we wanted was a show where the wallflowers were going to be converted to social butterflies.
I even call it out publicly and during the shows, I pull the flowers off the wall and teach them to fly socially. Strangely enough, they seem to be thankful instead of mad.
We try to have parties all 3 nights of the show (money permitting) and serve at least lunch (if not more). This way, attendees spend more time just hanging and chatting as a whole versus leaving to head offsite in little groups.
Here’s some quotes from attendees:
“As always the best part of a conference is what happens outside the sessions.” – Dan Florio
” I really appreciated there being lunch. Without it so much time would have been lost, as well as a lot of connectivity [to other attendees]. ” – Jason Epperson
One last quote from Seth:
And here’s what a conference organizer owes the attendees: surprise, juxtaposition, drama, engagement, souvenirs and just possibly, excitement.
We’ll just let the attendees comments speak for this one.
“As the Atlanta conference was ending, I was already getting excited hearing about when/where the next conference will happen.” – Ryan Campbell
“Now I’m no stranger to conferences…360|Flex was a totally different feel.” – Andy Powell
“360|Flex was a blast and it seems to get better at each conference.” – Juan Sanchez
“360|Flex is an absolute blast, it’s great company, full of intelligent people, and I couldn’t ask for more of a conference to go to.” – Axel Jensen
“Regardless, I am ecstatic that I was able to attend and start to meet many of the friendly yet a bit eccentric members of the Flex community.” – Jim Boone
“Last week I had an exciting opportunity to attend the 360|Flex Atlanta conference…Exciting. Inspiring. Aspiring. Can you tell how I felt leaving the sessions?” – Bill Christian
“The conference was incredible.” – Blake Eaton
“I don’t know if they have a long term plan for world domination, or are just doing things right by instinct, but they’re doing just what I’d do if I had a five or ten year strategy to totally own the ‘small high-value technical conference’ brand.” – Dave Coletta
Are we perfect? No. Do we make mistakes? Yes. I hope it’s obvious though, that we’re executing that new standard now. There’s no need to wait for the future, it’s here.