I figured this year I’d break up my annual reviews of my various businesses.
2021 was certainly…. better… no… the same… mmm no… Different, yes. Different from 2020 for conferences.
This year, two of my events remained entirely online, while one went hybrid.
A few ‘global’ observations.
Folks were tired of online events. I think the talking heads that keep shouting about online events are here to stay, etc. are wrong. Maybe when we’re able to socialize in the real world daily, online events won’t be looked at like, ‘meh’ but for now. No.
We (the global we) went into 2021 thinking we were nearing the end of the nightmare that was the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccinations were available, travel (at least in the US) was opening back up again. Then came Delta and the US backslid hard. Summer turned into a mixed bag of ‘like it was’ and ‘not at all like it was’.
Conference season for the most part fell smack in the middle of the muck and people were just left not knowing what to do, how big was the risk, etc.
The hardest part of 2021 was making these online/in-person/hybrid decisions early in the year. January/February of 2021 was not at all like July 2021.
We decided that since we didn’t know what summer was going to be like, we’d err on the side of keeping things online.
It was the right call. The US was beginning to fall before the Delta variant. Companies that had relaxed travel were beginning to restrict it again. Return to the office plans were all torched.
Attendance was ok, but low. The lowest ever, which sucked but wasn’t as bad given the low overhead of online only.
I’m hoping that’s just folks having (understandably) no interest in more zoom stuff in a year that was supposed to be zoom stuff free but wasn’t.
Overall, 360|AnDev was a success. I can’t thank the attendees and my co-chair, Chiu-Ki enough.
Early in the year, the Hyatt said (paraphrasing), “You’re having an event. How we do it, is open to interpretation, but you are having an event, in our building, in August.”
They floated some non-starters like pushing the dates and splitting the event into days spread out over a few weeks. Obviously, no.
To their credit, despite my contract, the Grand Hyatt’s position was “Do the event. pay for what you use. If you don’t fill the rooms you contracted to fill, oh well.”
We in fact did not fill our hotel room contract. Far from it.
Turn out wise it actually worked ok. We held the event in-person, with an online option.
We sold almost as many in-person tickets as online. The ratio shifted the last week before the conference as the US’s Delta surge was fully underway. Companies revoked travel and entire teams had to switch out to online tickets.
While I woulda loved a few more folks in the rooms, it was probably for the best in that it never felt ‘too much’ and at least that I know of, we weren’t a super spreader event.
People appreciated being able to come in person.
Cost-wise. Hybrid events are tricky. We had to rely on hotel internet, which is expensive, and not awesome. We had to pay for a live streaming service, which wasn’t outrageous but was a budget item. We also had to hire a tech to sit and manage the live stream. Also not outrageous, but a budget item, and one that only scales linearly. If I stream 2 rooms, I need two techs, and probably twice the live streaming bandwidth.
Overall, 360|iDev was a success. I can’t thank the attendees and sponsors enough.
Chicago Roboto (Still online, from Denver)
Another one that was hard to make a call on. Victoria (My Co-chair) and I had to decide not just online or in-person, but April/May like originally planned or later in the year like we did in 2020. We opted to for one more year of fall, and one more (We hope) year online.
I was initially worried that by September, people would be dancing in the streets, and would have zero interest in online events. A few optimistic events tried for in-person stuff mid-late fall (They bailed on those plans and pushed to 2022).
Those worries were for naught. By September Delta was shutting things back down.
Attendance, like 360|AnDev was low. The lowest ever again. After AnDev it made sense. Add in the trauma of not being through the pandemic like we all hoped, and zoom fatigue, it just wasn’t in the cards. Having planned to be online we at least were able to continue on, giving those who participated a chance to see others (albeit online), vs. having to cancel events and reschedule.
Not mad. We still covered the minimal costs involved which was good.
I couldn’t have done it without Victoria, she rocked it. I can’t wait for us to crush 2022 with Chicago Roboto, actually in Chicago :)
This post was light on facts and figures. Mostly because they’re not even remotely impressive, beyond the simple fact that they got me through the year.
2021, like the year that came before it, will be a year we all look back on, shudder, and say. “We made it through.”