360Flex changes in the air

First off, if you’ve gone to a 360|Flex event or plan to someday, go answer this three question survey. Your answer will impact how Tom and I do business, and we spend your money at future events.

Since starting the planning efforts for 360|Flex Europe, and our as yet unofficially announced East Coast event, things have come up that completely surprised me.

I’ve been to many MAX’s, a DevCon (Macromedia), a CFUnited, a small event held by the SoCal CFUG, probably one or two others. As best I understand it, speakers speak at these events as a way to give back to the community that they come from. Aside of a few cases, this seems to be a universal concept, and speakers are honored to be doing it. All events pay speaker registration, some pay more. But the privilege of speaking not to mention publicity, new friendships and business arrangements that can come from it, make it all worthwhile. Or so I thought.

This vibe of "giving back" seems absent in Europe. I’m not mad about it, nor do I begrudge those that feel this way, their opinions. What I do get angry about is that Tom and I definitely failed one major business rule, we didn’t do enough due diligence. We relied on others, and while advisors are great, we need to make our own decisions based on our own research. As a rule, Tom and I agreed, we’d rely on ourselves to do the important tasks, and outsource to other pros the things we know nothing about. Picking a location is something we know a little about and something we like to do, we should not have let ourselves be swayed.

Paying for speaker’s airfare and hotel simply isn’t in our budget. Sure we could raise our prices to $1,000, then we’d have money to burn, but that’s not our model. However, to a tee, each person we’ve tapped to speak in Europe has wanted hotel and airfare. Tom and I make no money doing 360|Flex. If there’s money at the end of an event, it goes into the hopper, maybe we go out for Steak one night to celebrate, that’s all there is too it.

As Tom mentioned, our expenditures on food have been questioned. We’ve been told the food we provide is some of the best conference food around (having just been to MAX, I would agree). In the course of our last two events, only one speaker in San Jose wanted to be comped airfare and hotel expenses, we declined. We did have a kick ass BBQ one night, and a great adobe party the next. In Seattle we had a welcome reception for ALL attendees, on Sunday. If we’re to start paying speaker costs, something has to go (hence the survey).

I’m not a very religious person, except for my ritual sacrifices to the flying Spaghetti monster, that is. But there’s one book, and guiding principle that I am almost maniacal about, just ask Tom; The Cluetrain Manifesto. I even carry it in my bag where ever I go. I think all businesses should follow it’s easy and common sense dictums. I try to, that’s why Tom and I are so transparent. Attendees, if they care. need not wonder how much it costs to do the event, they need not wonder how much we put in our pockets. Email the coordinator of each conference you attended this year and ask for a rundown of the costs and income.  See what kinda response you get. I don’t believe in keeping that information secret.

It strengthens our relationship with our customers (you) to be honest and up front.  No business is ever weakened by answering to it’s customer, ever.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks. Because, all that said above basically means, that Tom and I aren’t in this for glory, we’re not in it to get rich, nor are we in it because some one is paying us to do it. We’re in it to strengthen the community we’re both a part of, We’re both Flex Developers.

So take a minute, help us better serve you, after all the conference is for the community, not us.

Fill out the 3 question survey.

42 thoughts on “360Flex changes in the air

  1. John Wilker

    @Jeff, @saj

    You're spot on. bringing outside food or drink, strictly a no no. In Seattle on the last day, we put out Red Bull we had left over… That was against the rules. We did it, because we didn't want it to go to waste, and I couldn't take it him (believe it! I woulda), but we risked getting in trouble from the Red Lion.

    We probably won't do shirts again, at least not soon. Consider those a keepsake LOL.

  2. Patrick Keating Post author

    Hi John, as a past speaker at 360Flex Seattle, I would like to say first off that that event was a blast and that you and Tom did a great job. With regard to your post, I think that the requests for air/hotel have more to do with the fact that the event is in Europe than with anything else. While this may be obvious, after reading your post I thought it might be worth mentioning. I know in my household the statement "Honey, I am thinking of going to Barcelona on a business tripĂ– " would need to be quickly followed up with "they are paying for it". The same statement with "San Jose" or "Chicago" would get a different reaction. I may be alone in having such a situation but I think that others may face a similar situation with their spouses or bosses. The whole conference in Europe things sounds good on paper but for us mere mortals it might be too far (and fun sounding). But what do I know?

  3. John Wilker Post author

    @patrick

    Excellent point, and I wasn’t very clear. So far the requests have been in regards to Europe, from european speakers. Granted there’s a lot of countries and such, it’s not like going to the next state over, but the requests have all been from that side of the pond. We actually had one US speaker, planning to cross the pond, "So long as reg is covered, I can get there" And yeah we figured other than maybe adobe speakers, there wouldn’t be a lot of US speakers, but who knows.

    And we’re glad you had a good time. That’s great to hear! And it’s what we want to hear!

  4. Jason The Saj Post author

    Shirts: $8,000 for how many? 360 attendees + 40 or so auxilliaries. I’ve printed shirts once. It was done by a christian commune in Chicago. The quality was great… I did get a great deal because it was for a related event.

    Here is their website…
    http://www.bellyacres.com

    (I don’t know if they do the polo style shirts or not. I can find out. Not sure what they’d charge you for 1,000 shirts. If you can reach Don Hill you can mentioned that Jason "The Saj" referred you. )

    ****

    I think buying your own video gear is probably a good idea. I mean you can get those nice Canon semi-pro digital video cameras for like $1,000-$2,000.

    ****

    Food…man, did it really cost $94,000 for the food for only 400+ people. *ponders*

    You’ve just made me realize what an unbelievable deal I got on my wedding. One of my best friends, who happens to be a Chef and graduate of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) catered the food at my wedding. I had 100-125 people. And she did it for me at her cost (ie: food, warming oven rentals, etc). I wound up spending around $700 on some of the best food anyone ever ate at a buffet.

    I’m think we need to get you guys connected. *lol*

    (That said, I do understand the problem isn’t really that sodas cost $4.25 but rather the hotel won’t let you provide your own food service, etc. Otherwise you could go to Costco and pick up cases of soda. Hire my friend Tracy to cater. And for $40,000 have better food.)

    This does make me wonder if perhaps a hotel is not the best place for such a conference? What about some facility you could rent. Perhaps a ski lodge in summer. Or anywhere that would allow you to bring in your own food provisioning. This could potentially cut food related costs by 50%.

    ****

    One thing I think you are missing in your business planning is missing. Is polling people for resources. I don’t know how many T-shirts you guys bought for $8,000. Maybe you actually got 4,000 shirts @ $2. But $8K seems like a lot to me. Hence, I sent you the link to belly-acres.

    Who knows, maybe one of the 360Flex attendees works for a company that does audio/video and would trade recording the seminars for being able to send 4-5 of it’s employees free.

    But if you don’t put out feelers, how will we know the needs?

    ;-)

    I’m thinking we could have cut the net loss in half just on the T-shirt issue. Not saying we can solve everything. But we might be able to help.

    For example, if you did an event around the Pennsylvania/Maryland area. Being a DJ, I own a couple of sound systems. I’d have no problem using those for the conference if it saved you $1,000 on audio equipment rental. I wouldn’t doubt if there was some 360Flex attendee from the NW who also was a DJ or in a band and had some PA equipment.

  5. Jeffry Houser Post author

    Jason,

    You gotta admit, those were really great T-shirts. The stuff that I get for ‘free’ through Adobe User Groups generally wear out in 6 months. But, 360Flex actually gave me something I could wear to a client.

    I would expect most hotels or conference centers have a stipulation that you can’t bring in outside food. This is probably a liability, legal, and insurance issue. I haven’t research it, though, I’m just guessing.

  6. John Wilker Post author

    @Jeff, @saj

    You’re spot on. bringing outside food or drink, strictly a no no. In Seattle on the last day, we put out Red Bull we had left over… That was against the rules. We did it, because we didn’t want it to go to waste, and I couldn’t take it him (believe it! I woulda), but we risked getting in trouble from the Red Lion.

    We probably won’t do shirts again, at least not soon. Consider those a keepsake LOL.

  7. Dan Wilson Post author

    I attended 360 Flex in San Jose.

    I thought it was a phenomenal format and one of the better conferences I ever attended.

    People will always complain about something and you can go crazy trying to listen/appease everyone. Please try not to be discouraged.

    I’ll speak at your East Coast conference. And Pay Full Registration to boot.

    DW

  8. David Post author

    Hi John,

    Are you in touch with our (Adobe) evangelists in Europe? Folks like Andrew Shorten, Enrique Duvos, Waldo Smeets. (A) they might be able to speak and (b) they might be able to help you find speakers in Europe.

    Good luck. I hope you don’t have to raise prices generally. That said, costs in Europe are generally much higher than in the US these days so it might be tough.

    Regards,
    David
    Adobe

  9. Jeffry Houser Post author

    No shirts? Say, it ain’t so…
    I’d rather crappy ones that wear out in 6 months than none at all.

    In every instance where you have to shell out money (Party, lunch food, Shirts, etc.. ) I’d try to get a sponsor associated with that… Is that obvious? Is that easier said than done? I have no idea…

  10. John Wilker Post author

    @Dave,

    We’re actually talking to Sumi Lim as our Adobe point of contact. I think raising our prices will be our last resort, at least I hope.

  11. John Wilker Post author

    @Jeff

    oops forgot to answer your comment. Maybe shirts of lesser quality, i dunno we haven’t talked about that yet. And yeah we’re going to try to get sponsors for each and every thing we can.

  12. polyGeek Post author

    Random thoughs: I think everyone who has been to the 360Flex events would say it’s all about community. You could hold the event in a tent in the middle of a cow pasture for all I care. In fact, that might be better. No distractions.

    As for food: coffee, cookies for breakfast, some sandwiches for lunch and a burger for dinner. Keep it cheap. Keep it simple. I think you’ve done a great job of that so far.

    My idea of a great conference is a place where there’s no where to go outside of the conference. Keep the coffee flowing and have a midnight session. It would be great if every 360 conference had a code jam associated with it.

    WiFi, WiFi, WiFi. Plugins EVERYWHERE!

  13. Christopher Keeler Post author

    It still has to be an event though…locked in a room for 3 days all hopped up on coffee would make for a dull experience. (It’d be kinda like work.) I go to these conferences to also get away from the everyday, and to explore (see/smell/taste) the venue city as well. Sponsors should be the way to go to stay in the balck, and speakers can just bring stuff to sell and promote at the end of the session.

    The Seattle shirts were really really nice (not expecting that), and the food was really good too, but just providing lunch a snack or two throughout the day would have been just fine too. I can use my per diem for the rest of the meals, and I’m assuming most attendees have this option too.

    A good idea would be to have a web board where attendees can lend the conference some items to use. i.e A/V equipement, WiFi units, etc. I would be willing to bring some of my A/V stuff and lend it at the next event. If BurningMan can setup a working airport, and Internet access in the middle of the desert, then I’m sure the Flex community donate thier skills and equipment to pull off a conference.

  14. Jason The Saj Post author

    My suggestion for next city to host 360Flex.

    Whatever city you can find a hotel/venue that will allow you to privately have the food catered.

    Seems this could make a difference of an easy $50 grand.

  15. John Wilker Post author

    @the Saj

    I’m not sure such a place exists… well maybe there is, but the location might not be one we’d want to go out into the streets LOL. Let alone be anywhere near an airport ha!

    But we are looking at lots of options and those that don’t make you spend a butt load on food are the one’s that are winning.

  16. Sean Voisen

    Little late to add my comments here, but I took the survey :)

    I attended the San Jose 360Flex and thought it was one of the best conferences I've ever attended. No pretensions. No over-the-top high-dollar shows. Just real developers and designers helping each other. I say keep it that way, which means keeping it accessible from a monetary standpoint.

    Assuming the conf was anywhere reasonably accessible in the U.S., I'd gladly speak and pay my own way.

  17. Sean Voisen Post author

    Little late to add my comments here, but I took the survey :)

    I attended the San Jose 360Flex and thought it was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. No pretensions. No over-the-top high-dollar shows. Just real developers and designers helping each other. I say keep it that way, which means keeping it accessible from a monetary standpoint.

    Assuming the conf was anywhere reasonably accessible in the U.S., I’d gladly speak and pay my own way.

  18. Joey Post author

    When and where can I register for the 360|Flex East Coast event. When and whre will it be. Don’t say "East Coast"

  19. John Wilker Post author

    @Joey,

    Hopefully in the next week or two, we’re THIS close to signing a contract…. as for location it WILL BE on the east coast, more specifically……

    wait for it…..

    Atlanta GA.

  20. John Wilker Post author

    Damn you joey!

    Sorry Jeff I totally forgot, I was waiting, long crappy day yesterday.

    Everyone please look at this little pen like gadget I’m holding, there will be a flash of light, wait for it….

  21. Tom Barr Post author

    Maybe I am a little different but food I generally don’t like tastes pretty good at geek events. I don’t like Pizza Hut pizza at all ….except at ColdFusion User Group meetings. Turkey on white with packets of mayo and mustard, a sealed container of pasta salad, a cookie, and Lay’s potato chips in a cardboard box is very unappealing in real life but at a one day tech conference, it’s as yummy as Ortega’s handcrafted quacamole. I’d never question tortega on food though. :D

  22. John Wilker

    @Dan

    Thanks, very true…

    And send us an email to info@360flex we'll make sure you're on the list :)

    and you won't pay reg :)

  23. David

    Hi John,

    Are you in touch with our (Adobe) evangelists in Europe? Folks like Andrew Shorten, Enrique Duvos, Waldo Smeets. (A) they might be able to speak and (b) they might be able to help you find speakers in Europe.

    Good luck. I hope you don't have to raise prices generally. That said, costs in Europe are generally much higher than in the US these days so it might be tough.

    Regards,
    David
    Adobe

  24. Patrick Keating

    Hi John, as a past speaker at 360Flex Seattle, I would like to say first off that that event was a blast and that you and Tom did a great job. With regard to your post, I think that the requests for air/hotel have more to do with the fact that the event is in Europe than with anything else. While this may be obvious, after reading your post I thought it might be worth mentioning. I know in my household the statement "Honey, I am thinking of going to Barcelona on a business tripÖ " would need to be quickly followed up with "they are paying for it". The same statement with "San Jose" or "Chicago" would get a different reaction. I may be alone in having such a situation but I think that others may face a similar situation with their spouses or bosses. The whole conference in Europe things sounds good on paper but for us mere mortals it might be too far (and fun sounding). But what do I know?

  25. Jeffry Houser

    Jason,

    You gotta admit, those were really great T-shirts. The stuff that I get for 'free' through Adobe User Groups generally wear out in 6 months. But, 360Flex actually gave me something I could wear to a client.

    I would expect most hotels or conference centers have a stipulation that you can't bring in outside food. This is probably a liability, legal, and insurance issue. I haven't research it, though, I'm just guessing.

  26. John Wilker

    @patrick

    Excellent point, and I wasn't very clear. So far the requests have been in regards to Europe, from european speakers. Granted there's a lot of countries and such, it's not like going to the next state over, but the requests have all been from that side of the pond. We actually had one US speaker, planning to cross the pond, "So long as reg is covered, I can get there" And yeah we figured other than maybe adobe speakers, there wouldn't be a lot of US speakers, but who knows.

    And we're glad you had a good time. That's great to hear! And it's what we want to hear!

  27. Jeffry Houser

    No shirts? Say, it ain't so…
    I'd rather crappy ones that wear out in 6 months than none at all.

    In every instance where you have to shell out money (Party, lunch food, Shirts, etc.. ) I'd try to get a sponsor associated with that… Is that obvious? Is that easier said than done? I have no idea…

  28. John Wilker

    @Dave,

    We're actually talking to Sumi Lim as our Adobe point of contact. I think raising our prices will be our last resort, at least I hope.

  29. Dan Wilson

    I attended 360 Flex in San Jose.

    I thought it was a phenomenal format and one of the better conferences I ever attended.

    People will always complain about something and you can go crazy trying to listen/appease everyone. Please try not to be discouraged.

    I'll speak at your East Coast conference. And Pay Full Registration to boot.

    DW

  30. Jason The Saj

    Shirts: $8,000 for how many? 360 attendees 40 or so auxilliaries. I've printed shirts once. It was done by a christian commune in Chicago. The quality was great… I did get a great deal because it was for a related event.

    Here is their website…
    http://www.bellyacres.com

    (I don't know if they do the polo style shirts or not. I can find out. Not sure what they'd charge you for 1,000 shirts. If you can reach Don Hill you can mentioned that Jason "The Saj" referred you. )

    ****

    I think buying your own video gear is probably a good idea. I mean you can get those nice Canon semi-pro digital video cameras for like $1,000-$2,000.

    ****

    Food…man, did it really cost $94,000 for the food for only 400 people. *ponders*

    You've just made me realize what an unbelievable deal I got on my wedding. One of my best friends, who happens to be a Chef and graduate of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) catered the food at my wedding. I had 100-125 people. And she did it for me at her cost (ie: food, warming oven rentals, etc). I wound up spending around $700 on some of the best food anyone ever ate at a buffet.

    I'm think we need to get you guys connected. *lol*

    (That said, I do understand the problem isn't really that sodas cost $4.25 but rather the hotel won't let you provide your own food service, etc. Otherwise you could go to Costco and pick up cases of soda. Hire my friend Tracy to cater. And for $40,000 have better food.)

    This does make me wonder if perhaps a hotel is not the best place for such a conference? What about some facility you could rent. Perhaps a ski lodge in summer. Or anywhere that would allow you to bring in your own food provisioning. This could potentially cut food related costs by 50%.

    ****

    One thing I think you are missing in your business planning is missing. Is polling people for resources. I don't know how many T-shirts you guys bought for $8,000. Maybe you actually got 4,000 shirts @ $2. But $8K seems like a lot to me. Hence, I sent you the link to belly-acres.

    Who knows, maybe one of the 360Flex attendees works for a company that does audio/video and would trade recording the seminars for being able to send 4-5 of it's employees free.

    But if you don't put out feelers, how will we know the needs?

    ;-)

    I'm thinking we could have cut the net loss in half just on the T-shirt issue. Not saying we can solve everything. But we might be able to help.

    For example, if you did an event around the Pennsylvania/Maryland area. Being a DJ, I own a couple of sound systems. I'd have no problem using those for the conference if it saved you $1,000 on audio equipment rental. I wouldn't doubt if there was some 360Flex attendee from the NW who also was a DJ or in a band and had some PA equipment.

  31. John Wilker

    @Jeff

    oops forgot to answer your comment. Maybe shirts of lesser quality, i dunno we haven't talked about that yet. And yeah we're going to try to get sponsors for each and every thing we can.

  32. Christopher Keeler

    It still has to be an event though…locked in a room for 3 days all hopped up on coffee would make for a dull experience. (It'd be kinda like work.) I go to these conferences to also get away from the everyday, and to explore (see/smell/taste) the venue city as well. Sponsors should be the way to go to stay in the balck, and speakers can just bring stuff to sell and promote at the end of the session.

    The Seattle shirts were really really nice (not expecting that), and the food was really good too, but just providing lunch a snack or two throughout the day would have been just fine too. I can use my per diem for the rest of the meals, and I'm assuming most attendees have this option too.

    A good idea would be to have a web board where attendees can lend the conference some items to use. i.e A/V equipement, WiFi units, etc. I would be willing to bring some of my A/V stuff and lend it at the next event. If BurningMan can setup a working airport, and Internet access in the middle of the desert, then I'm sure the Flex community donate thier skills and equipment to pull off a conference.

  33. polyGeek

    Random thoughs: I think everyone who has been to the 360Flex events would say it's all about community. You could hold the event in a tent in the middle of a cow pasture for all I care. In fact, that might be better. No distractions.

    As for food: coffee, cookies for breakfast, some sandwiches for lunch and a burger for dinner. Keep it cheap. Keep it simple. I think you've done a great job of that so far.

    My idea of a great conference is a place where there's no where to go outside of the conference. Keep the coffee flowing and have a midnight session. It would be great if every 360 conference had a code jam associated with it.

    WiFi, WiFi, WiFi. Plugins EVERYWHERE!

  34. John Wilker

    @the Saj

    I'm not sure such a place exists… well maybe there is, but the location might not be one we'd want to go out into the streets LOL. Let alone be anywhere near an airport ha!

    But we are looking at lots of options and those that don't make you spend a butt load on food are the one's that are winning.

  35. Joey

    When and where can I register for the 360|Flex East Coast event. When and whre will it be. Don't say "East Coast"

  36. John Wilker

    @Joey,

    Hopefully in the next week or two, we're THIS close to signing a contract…. as for location it WILL BE on the east coast, more specifically……

    wait for it…..

    Atlanta GA.

  37. John Wilker

    Damn you joey!

    Sorry Jeff I totally forgot, I was waiting, long crappy day yesterday.

    Everyone please look at this little pen like gadget I'm holding, there will be a flash of light, wait for it….

  38. Tom Barr

    Maybe I am a little different but food I generally don't like tastes pretty good at geek events. I don't like Pizza Hut pizza at all ….except at ColdFusion User Group meetings. Turkey on white with packets of mayo and mustard, a sealed container of pasta salad, a cookie, and Lay's potato chips in a cardboard box is very unappealing in real life but at a one day tech conference, it's as yummy as Ortega's handcrafted quacamole. I'd never question tortega on food though. :D

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