Tech conferences: strive for intimacy and quality

Summary:Since moving to San Francisco in 2007, I have attended well over 50 tech conferences: from Web 2.0, to Macworld, to Google I/O, to SxSW.

Since moving to San Francisco in 2007, I have attended well over 50 tech conferences: from Web 2.0, to Macworld, to Google I/O, to SxSW. When you're new to the scene, all of them seem amazing. Tons of different speakers, multiple sessions at a time, after parties, free swag, you name it.

Sounds great, right? And the bigger the better, right? No. The best conferences are small (100-300 people), brief (no longer than one day), and rich with good quality speakers.

Two conferences come to mind right away: Big Omaha, hosted by Jeff Slobotski, and Tahoe Tech Talk, hosted by Gary Vaynerchuk. Carsonified also does a good job with this with their "Future Of" conferences.

By hosting a small conference, everyone has a chance to network with each other. The speakers don't feel overwhelmed by the fact that they might have to meet 500 people, and they don't feel bad about ignoring someone.

Big Omaha faithful

Last night at the mixer for Tahoe Tech Talk, there were about 100 people there, and everyone could meet each other.

Also, by having a one-track conference that lasts a whole day, you have everyone's undivided attention. You can engage the audience.

One trick that makes a conference feel more intimate is having it in a small town. Omaha is comfortably small, and today's conference is in Stateline, Nv. If someone has to travel a long way to get somewhere, it's gonna be a more meaningful experience for that person.

Outside of Silicon Valley and New York, everyone is using computers to do things on the internet. These communities need to get together and talk about what their doing. They need to learn from each other instead of spending a couple thousand dollars to goto Web 2.0 Expo.

Someone in Tuscaloosa should take 3 months off from his day job and throw an intimate tech meetup.

I no longer have the urge to attend huge tech conferences. The unique, intimate conferences with really good speakers are the ones I want to attend.

Am I completely off base? What are your thoughts on this?

Topics: Enterprise Software


Andrew Mager is a hacker advocate at Spotify in New York City. Before moving to NY, Andrew worked at SimpleGeo & Ning in San Francisco. Previously, he was an associate technical producer at CBS Interactive. Andrew studied print & electronic journalism at Virginia Tech, where he created a student-run online news publication called Planet B... Full Bio

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