The gang's all here but we don't have the overall conference evals.
A) Attendance Update
B) Financial Update
D) Go Around the table
E) Discuss Evaluation Results
A) We had 80 people the 1st day (tutorial day) and 140 the second. Those numbers include about 17 speakers on the second day, a nine sponor representatives on the second day, eight volunteers, and six representatives from calvin college on both days. (So pay customers were around 70% of the attendees, more or less)
B) We did end up with a little bit of money in the bank, but this is clearly a non-profit venture. The only reason we made it work was because volunteers were unpaid. Still, now we have a small cushion for next year.
We had a 50% refund advertised on the website; we need to make it clear that the refund ends 72 hours before the conference begins.
A process for capturing the waiting list would probably have been helpful. Also, one of the tutorials was very specific about how the tables should be organized and this artificially decreased the number of attendees; we sold out without knowing it. We got lucky because a few people cancelled at the last minute and that talk wasn't very popular with the Calvin staff.
At one point we were 5K in the red. This was scary, and we made a number of compromises (cheap food, cheap snacks, small conference brochure) to minimize risk. It's good to have a "big brother" so you don't have to make such compromises. We'll have that next year.
C) It might to helpful next year to provide a packet for sponsors that give them some insight into how to sell - have a raffle, make it clear that a list is not part of the deal, help them to evaluate if sponsoring is good for you, what you can get out of it, and so on. We could try to do more for our sponsors next year, including pushing sponsoring specific _events_, like lunch or a speaker.
D) It was nice to have a small space; this made the number of sponsors feel more. Then again, physically 'case the joint' and plan the sponsor space. To get to the food, people should have to walk past the spsonsors.
It's nice to have mints at the tables and water at the tables when possible.
We need a role of 'tutorial tender', much like the track chairs do the track days. (The speaker coordinator) Find out if tutorial speakers would like to be introduced.
Schedule Volunteer dinner early - Schedule meetings further in advance
More formally define committee vs. volunteer
Consider recognizing implicit sponsors (Companies that let employees do GLSEC work during company time)
Consider giving tickets to XPWM sponsors next year
Use the survey feature in registration software to capture all attendees, emails, and company names
Order books by authors sooner (Try harder to make the book signing work)
Give Aways are fun - Encourage Sponsors to do more - Encourage Publishers
We need to firm up how we deal with sponsors who want to add more people beyond the one freebie attendee (This should be in our packet)
We need to be very about the expectations for attendance from partners
Laptops for tutorials - If laptops are required, we need to make the rediculously clear. Use follow-up features in registration software if possible, or, better yet, have the tutorial liason person do it.
When picking a date, try to coordinate with other conferences. I think fall is a pretty good niche for regional conferences. In theory we compete with PNSQC but the overlap between our conferences are minor because they are so local.
People have lives. So if we want to have evening events, they need to be advertised on the website months in advance.
Overall, we think middle of the week is better than the end. Easier to book, cheaper for travel, you can stay in town for the weekend if you want.
Make sure you can print nametags on-the-fly, just in case of typos and late registration.
More tangible, non-monetary rewards for out-of-town speakers and volenteers. Take people to a hockey game?
We like a small conference, high quality. That probably means we'll have to get some high-quality speakers either increase rates (slightly) or get more sponsor support.
Lock in keynotes and tutorials early. In general, the team should determine who they want to invite for keynotes and tutorials vs. a call for papers.
Suggest experience reports in the call for papers.
Give guidance to speakers about how to fit into 45 minutes, or limit talks to 30 minutes and push them hard. Get serious about giving presentors advice on how to give good talks.
Get serious about the peer review process - ask for an outline of what the person will do.
Try harder to get slides up on the website by 8:00AM the day after the conference.
The biggest take-home from one of our volunteers was Tim Lister's Risk Management talk. Consider bringing him back to do his Risk Management Tutorial next year.
The hickory room felt small.
E) We didn't get to this. More later ...
Schedule and Events
March 26-29, 2012, Software Test Professionals Conference, New Orleans
July, 14-15, 2012 - Test Coach Camp, San Jose, California
July, 16-18, 2012 - Conference for the Association for Software Testing (CAST 2012), San Jose, California
August 2012+ - At Liberty; available. Contact me by email: Matt.Heusser@gmail.com