Is it the Number of People? (WMaCG series)
Wesley’s third question in the “What Makes a Conference Great?” series – respond here with a comment or visit Linked in to respond.
Far and away my favourite piece of feedback from last year’s inaugural North American conference went something along the lines of:“Even though we ran out of time to get my question answered in session, the speaker said to find him at lunch and we could discuss it. I could, and we did!”
This is so pleasing to me because it demonstrates one of the fundamentals of what we have always strived for at RTC – the scale to provide a wide range of engaging and informative high level classes and discussions, married to a level of intimacy that encourages interaction between all attendees, speaker and delegate alike.
There is a tipping point where a conference becomes too big to maintain a sense of intimacy, but interestingly, that point varies based on region, culture, and ‘programmed response’. In Australasia, it seems that this level is in the 450-500 attendee range, while in North America it could be as much as 600-750. We watch and test this on an ongoing basis, and are always trying to ensure we manage to float along just under that ceiling. In Australia we have reached that level, and so our numbers are now being capped, and we expect that we will have to turn some people away this year. In the US we would not expect that we would reach a cap for another year or two, though we do not have the historical data to draw on there that we do in Australasia.
Some might argue that bigger means broader, and therefore more opportunities. I am inclined to believe that, as I can still only be in one place at any one time (working on it…), those extra opportunities are ones I can not take up, and so have no value to me.
In considering what I wanted to say here, I went back and reread the US feedback comments and it is extraordinary just how many people highlighted the scale and intimacy of the conference as one of their favourite parts of the event. We WILL NOT lose this! If we do find that we have allowed it to get too big to remain intimate, then we will scale it back the following year. Like you, we are active users of the software, and intimacy and connection is important to us too. If you want big, there are other conferences you can go to. :-)
So this one seems pretty easy… YES, the number of people is a critical factor.