Category Archives: Conferences

Gratitude

IMG_2478Saying “Thank you” is important. If nothing else it’s polite, but for events, it’s important to realize, you’re the least important piece of the pie.

No one is buying a ticket to hang out with you. They’re coming to see the speakers, possibly to meet sponsors (especially if they’re looking for work). If you factor in at all, it’s a distant third.

For every event I organize I hand write thank you cards. Every speaker gets one (barring hiccups in the process, etc) when they check into the hotel or when they arrive at the conference.

For 360|iDev that’s almost 60 cards. For 360|AnDev is was just under 30.

I think too many event organizers forget that it’s not about them, they form a cult of personality around them as if their presence is the key. Sure great organizers do great events, but the ‘great’  part is the event, not the organizer.

 

I’ve thought about using something to automate my thank you cards, but realized that’s not what I’m about. Sure some have words crossed out, because my hand moved faster than my brain, sure I sometimes write them upside down, or misspell a word, but that’s what authenticity looks like.

Conference Signage V3

IMG_2523So I wrote a while back about Conference signage, and what my “version 1” looked like, and where I wanted to see version 2 come in.

Turns out V2 came sooner than expected. The awesome team at Essemble, who built the conference app, were able to quickly work up. rough version 1 of a conference signage AppleTV app.

It wasn’t fancy to start, I have a few things I’d like to change for next year, but overall it was awesome. Of course training people to look at this vs. the crappy little monitors hotels install outside conference rooms might be a bigger challenge than I expected.

IMG_2542Each room had a large monitor out front, and an AppleTV. The app had a list of rooms, you selected the room the TV was in front of and that was it. The app polled the server that drives the conference app, so any changes I made to the schedule in the app, were reflected almost immediately on the screens. Certainly faster than I could update the website.

 

As a first cut of this, done in … I think 2-3 weeks at most, I’m thrilled. The information I wanted to present was presented. I didn’t have to print out session signs for every session in every room, and have volunteers running around to change them. I was able to quickly move sessions based on capacity, and everything I needed to reflect those changes, did so quickly.

IMG_2540There were a few hang ups, the way the app pulled data left the previous evenings listing until 15 minutes before the next mornings event, vs. starting wth the first thing that day. Not a big deal, and easily addressed.

I loved that general sessions were able to be called out as basically “Not in this room” so anyone walking in, not only knew it was a general session, but where it was, and that it wasn’t in the room they were standing at.

I’d love to have them run in portrait, mostly because hotels don’t have small screens, and nearly 50″ is a lot to have sitting there in landscape. Not a deal breaker.

I’d love to have a bit more styling on the display, maybe using the header image for the event along the top, or as a full background, again not a deal breaker.

Down the road, a bit down the road, I’d like to own my own displays (probably smaller, 46″ was nice, but I felt it was a bit overkill) so I have more control on size, and placement, etc. but even using hotel kit, it worked out great.

I’d love to make conference signage more valuable and realistically more trustworthy for attendees. Hotels have small monitors that they use, but those changes aren’t in my control, they’re scraped from the schedule and any changes require emails to be sent, delay, etc. Updating the website is something I do as we go, but it’s also not as fast as simply changing the data the app uses, and not just updating the app, but the room signs at the some time.

Keeping Conference Attendees Informed.

We moved to re-usable signage to save money. looks awesome!

We moved to re-usable signage to save money. looks awesome!

For years we invested in these really nice stand up banners for room signs. Each one listed the entire 4 day conference line up for that exact room.

Great in theory, not in practice.

Speaker backs out last minute, sharpie out their session, tape a folded piece of paper of that slot. Two speakers need to swap rooms, now you’re taping paper, WITH sharpie written information onto this nice standup vinyl banner. Now by the 4th day of the conference, the nice room signs look like shit.

Add to the overall shabbiness they now show, they aren’t the best at providing information. I’d watch people all day, each day, walk up to a sign, stand in front of it. I realized they were walking up, figuring out what time it was right now, then seeing if they wanted the current session, or maybe the next one.

I was presenting too much information.

Capture 2016-07-15 at 2.05.51 PMEnter room sign version one.

Several improvements:

  1. Not date specific, I can reuse these signs over years, WAY economical.
  2. Provide the exact amount of information someone needs, “What’s in this room now.” and “What’s in this room next”. Want more detail use the app to see the whole schedule
  3. WAY more green (see 1). no more annual vinyl banner cartridge replacement.
  4. Easy to manage. Volunteers swap out printed pages, and should something be moved, it’s easy to move the printed page. Canceled talk? Leave it blank, or quickly print up a “cancelled” sign. Easy Peasy.

Version One?

I run technology conferences. I want to leverage technology whenever I can. A lot of conference technology sucks, hotels usually under invest and over charge, hotel internet is well… we all know. While these poster boards are great and re-useable, my ideal Version Two is a monitor or TV, on it’s side. Either running an AppleTV or iPad. (Or something else)

I’d be able to (from my laptop or iPad) control what each monitor is showing, set up the schedule so the signs change without human intervention.

Definitely not a cheap solution, but very much a build once and reuse until the equipment dies solution, which i like. Also I like that it’s a technology solution, for a technology conference.

V 2 is a ways away probably, but it’s on the radar.

Bushel to the Rescue!

So I heard about Bushel on a podcast i was interviewed for. I fell in love.

I’ve had a long standing family rule, use the devices I tell you to, and you get support, use something else, and you’re on your own. My mom until recently was a PC user, she was hella on her own!

Then she got a macbook air. I have lots… and I mean LOTS of macs. The conferences have 4 for session recording, i have mine. I have 2 mac mini’s, various iOS devices, my wife has a Macbook Pro and iOs devices, etc.

Work and family devices, managedI can now manage them all. No more “Gah, you have 3,542 updates waiting” or “Why don’t you do X?”

Between bushel and Screens (i just the other day remotely helped my mom, not by trying to understand what she was seeing on the screen, but by seeing the screen directly.) I can make sure everyone uses strong passwords, disk encryption, and more.

What’s nice, I can establish different schemes (called blueprints in Bushel), so i have work computers managed one way, family machines managed another. This is especially awesome since work machines can all have the same settings, and this let’s me manage that much easier than touching each one.

Setup is easy, you toggle on “open enrollment” go to a website on the device, install the certs, done. (Well done on the client, you have to do some Apple stuff as far as management certs, approval, etc. But just once)

What’s nice, you can use it for free for the first few devices. See if you like it. If you do sign up, use this link.

 

Nomad Pod Pro Review

IMG_0851This might be the perfect travel companion for iOS device owners. The Nomad Pod Pro. Love it!

tl;dr;

  • just under 4″ diameter.
  • just over 1″ tall
  • under a half pound in weight
  • 6,000 mAh battery
  • built in (mfi) lightning connector

Mine came the other day and I’m excited for my next trip, which sadly since it’s winter and camping/conference season has more or less wrapped up, but we’ve got a long road trip, might be a good test.

Never the less, this thing is cool.

You supply the watch charger, and for mine I just bought the shortest cable one Apple has, but there’s enough room to wrap a much longer cord if that’s what you’ve got. You pull the top off, held on by really strong magnets, wrap your Watch charger around it, and set the base in the center, then pop the top back on… MAGNETS!

On top of being a nice portable watch charger, it’s an iOS Device charger too. a 6,000 mAh battery gives it enough juice to charge your iPhone 6 and watch, 2x each (per the marketing copy). While in most scenarios my watch lasts all day easy, there’s been at least one time so far (I’ve only owned mine about 2 months so far) when something went sideways and drained the battery to 0 in about 5 hours. Charging your phone at dinner, not a huge deal, happens a lot, IMG_0853easy to be inconspicuous. Charging your watch at dinner, … less so. You can’t wear it and charge (I tried), and you can’t just shove it all in a pocket like you would a charging phone since the charger magnet isn’t nearly strong enough for that.

While I hope to never again have to charge my watch at dinner, at least this thing isn’t ugly and is pretty compact and easy to use.

This will likely replace my EDC battery pack, since most of my charging needs are iOS devices and the built in lightning connector makes it perfect. I’m not sure if I’ll fully commit, but I could certainly reduce my cable and battery carrying with this device. If you charge lots of older iOS stuff or non iOS stuff you’re kinda SOL. The Nomad has 1 port, micro USB to charge it’s battery. The lightning connector is built in. In a pinch you could open it up and plug something other than a watch charger into the USB port inside the unit, but it’d have to be desperate times for sure.

IMG_0852All that said, where this will really shine for me, is camping. A friend asked my thoughts on Pebble vs. Apple Watch (when i had a Pebble) and my only caution was at least with my Pebble i charge it up and have no worries that a 2-3 day camping trip won’t dent the battery.
This will work just fine next to the sleeping bag charging the watch at night just like at home. Keeping my watch and my iPhone charged when camping, while not life or death certainly is nice, and this will make it that much easier, and be that much less I don’t have to bring with me.

So yeah I’m pretty excited for this thing.

360|iDev 2015, What an amazing thing we did.

So i just finished my big event of the year, 360|iDev and wow. What a rush (as always).

TL;DR; So honored to share a room with so many awesome people being awesome. Making amazing things, being parts of amazing teams, etc. I honestly feel this event not only has a positive impact on my life each year, but also does on others, which is humbling to say the least.

There’s an amazing photo pool here.

Now the long form.

I start planning 360|iDev the moment the preceding event ends, so yes, I’ve already begun work on next years event.  A 4 day conference with 55 speakers, 400 attendees and a handful of sponsors isn’t something that comes together in a few weeks.

There were a few good, and one bad thing this year. One of the things I like about doing 360|iDev is that we bring about 400 people into Denver, more than 85% of whom aren’t local to CO. Many who aren’t local to the United States. Sure when compared to city wide events, that’s nothing, but to me it’s a big damn deal.

360|iDev is my bread-n-butter. It keeps enough money coming in, my wife hasn’t forced me to get a job… yet, LOL. I get to see people from around the world that i may only see once (maybe twice if I’m lucky) a year. I get to show off my home town (by claim, if not birth), and show everyone why Denver is so awesome, why it’s where I’m where I am.

There was a lot of great stuff this week, much of it conference specific, so I’ll talk about it on the conference blog, but some of it more personal and Denver specific.

Lunch (good)

Last year we ate lunch outside the hotel because yeah $50/person for conference lunch is stupid and well hotels are often stupid. One place however can’t handle 400 ppl, no matter what they think or say. Lunch last year wasn’t awesome. Long lines, long waits, etc. As experiments go, it failed.

This year I had 3 (4 on Tuesday because of Civic Center eats) options for attendees. Lunch tickets were available for each place, people picked what they wanted to eat. It was awesome to see groups form on the fly each day to explore someplace new. We spread the lunch tickets, so no single vendor had more than 150 people a day. So far (bills are still coming in) it looks like i spent half as much this year as last, and had 3x more options for people. That’s awesome!

The only thing that went a bit sideways was my failure to account for vendors not being open on weekends. Out of 3 only 1 was open on Sundays. Oops.

Local Community (good)

One of the things being downtown has afforded was the opportunity to spread some money around vs. bottling it up in a hotel chain. This year we spread about $18,000 to local restaurants in the downtown area. I think that’s pretty awesome, i know i’m not a rain maker, but i think any time I can give money to local businesses, that’s a great thing. Not only am i not paying for over priced hotel food, but I’m boosting (in a small way, sure) the local economy.

While small, i think every dollar helps. I think as a conference organizer, it’s my job to not just dump money into the pockets of a massive hotel chain. It’s my job to better the city that is hosting my event. Whether that’s financially or even just from exposure like not keeping everyone indoors all day and night.

Police (Bad)

During lunch on Tuesday, the attendees ate lunch at Civic Center Eats. A few attendees were enjoying their meal on the grass when some Denver PD officers came over. Sadly instead of assuming these folks weren’t criminals, vagrants or some type of malcontents, they treated a group of international visitors to Denver like criminals, demanding they all present ID while telling them they were sitting in the wrong grass. Not cool Denver PD, not cool. I get we’re trying to revitalize the grass in the park, but maybe wrap that section in tape, vs. the handful of tiny ass signs. Also maybe, just maybe assume people (wearing conference badges, even!) aren’t trying to kill the grass or break the rules and start with “Hey guys, can you move elsewhere, this grass is off limits for now.” vs. oh i dunno, accosting people eating their lunch, making them all present ID before letting them go.

back-side-black-textAs someone who brings people from around the world to Denver, i’m not super thrilled that happened. Small incident, yes? bad experience for people in Denver the first time ever, yup. In the end we all joked about it, but is that really what Denver wants people to remember about it?

I have much respect for law enforcement, I know their jobs are hard, but that’s not an excuse. Be better please Denver PD.

If you’re one of this years’ attendees, thank you, really, truly, thank you. Being able to do this event, and make even a small living is huge! I can’t thank every single speaker, sponsor and attendee enough for being a part of something so truly amazing. Conferences are hard, harder still when balancing making a living, with making an awesome experience. I already can’t wait until next year.

Event Consulting

I just wrapped up RWDevCon, which by all measures was a huge success. Kudos to Ray Wenderlich and his amazing team.

I handled logistics, and Ray’s team put together an amazing two days of tutorial based content.

For my part, things went well I think. Nothing too crazy came up with the hotel, the other group didn’t interfere with us at all. We didn’t run out of food, or have a projector crap out :) All win’s

This was my first “conference consulting” gig. I really enjoyed it and think I gave great value to the client (Ray).

I’m really excited to help make other events in the community awesome!

Also, I’m happy to announce that I’ve joined the AltConf 2015 team, so that’s gonna rock! I’ve sponsored, and volunteered in the past and this year I get to have a more direct role, which I love.

See you at AltConf! Or any of my 360|Conferences events; 360|intersect, 360|iDev or [360|iDev min] :)