Elbows, Expo Floors, and Value

By March 23, 2010Uncategorized

It’s no secret that tech conferences can be very expensive to attend — some much more so than others. There are events with similar dates to Glue (different topic area) that have early bird prices set at more than 2.5x Gluecon’s early bird, and “regular” admission prices set at more than 4x Gluecon’s regular price. Similarly, there are some notable Cloud events that are roughly 3x the price of what it costs to attend Gluecon.

Not that I’m exactly comparing apples to apples. After all, the “common practice” with some events is to price their registration at $1895 (or $2995), and then offer 40% discounts (“secretly”) up to a week before the event. Similarly, a lot of events “gain size” by offering free “expo passes” — a tactic which certainly brings more “floor traffic” (though the quality of that traffic is always the hotly debated topic). Lastly, to be fair, I should note that while Gluecon is 3 tracks wide over 2 days, many other cloud events are 3 or 4 days long with 4-6 tracks of content — so the argument is certainly there to be made (I guess) that the prices are in-line.

In fact, I don’t begrudge other conference organizers charging whatever they want for whatever they offer (although I do think 3k for 2 days of startup launches is a bit ridiculous). In all honesty, “value” probably has to measured along multiple fronts when it comes to attending a conference:

1. Topic/Content: There’s a rough mix of speakers, topics, agenda items that should (frankly) excite you when you look at it.

2. Networking events/Interaction: The primary reason anyone goes to a conference is to interact (face to face) with either potential business prospects/partners/providers or like-minded individuals.

3. Quality of Event: Production value does matter. Not in “staging” (although, that’s cool), so much as in wifi (good wifi – yes, it can be done), power-strips, etc.

4. Intimacy: This is the one “value axis” that I think gets missed so often — and maybe this is just my personal preference – but I’d much rather have a great interaction setting with 300-400 people, than be in a mob scene with 800, 900, 1000’s (or multiples of thousands). Yea, there’s an excitement in the crowd — but it’s also incredibly hard to bump into that one guy that you’d really like to have lunch with when it’s all elbows and expo floors.

All of which leads me to what I’m trying to do in bringing Gluecon to life:

1. Topically: My sense after last year (post-show surveys, etc) was that there is a real thirst for technical/developer-oriented content/agenda items. My personal motto with Glue this year has been “go deeper,” and I think we’re starting to get there. Some of the recent additions to both breakout sessions and the keynoters have me very excited. I think Glue will bring *depth* of content, as well as an amazing cross-section of topics that you simply will not find elsewhere.

2. Networking/Interaction: I just consider this a given. We build interaction into the DNA of the event. We don’t want an “audience,” we want participants. It almost sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

3. Quality of Event: Anyone who has ever asked me logistical/operational questions about tech conferences knows how I am about this stuff. Fanatical.

4. Intimacy: Again, this is where I like to concentrate my energies. I don’t wanna “throw a party” or justify a boondoggle, I want to help *build* something. Something substantive. The only way that I know how to do this is intimacy.

The result: 2 days of 3 tracks of what I think will be incredible content; where the “audience” contributes more than the presenters; community gets built around things to do; and intimacy rules the day. We feed you. We give you drinks (even the adult variety). We take care of you for 2 days. Oh – and throw a Cloud Camp in front of those 2 days, and a Hackathon at the end of one of them.

And then I can circle back to price: $525 early bird (expires April 2nd). $472.50 if you use the discount code “twit1” (expires April 2nd). That means that if you’re coming in from out of state you can get airfare, hotel and registration for the cost of just registering for one of these other cloud events (even at their 40% off rate). Now, let’s talk value…

[sidenote: if you live in Colorado and are in software development and you’re NOT planning to come to Gluecon, you are quite simply missing out on a huge opportunity in your own backyard. You do not need to go to the Valley to interact with some of the leading developers in and for the cloud. They’re coming to you. The only question is if you will choose to join them.]