I wanted to stew a bit over my impressions of BlogWorld in Las Vegas this last week. My experience, as it related to the conference itself, was both good and bad. I thought I’d feel more definitive on the subject, but in some ways, I’m neutral towards the event as a whole.
The organization was great. Registration was easy, signage was plentiful, and the staff helpful. Seminar rooms were set up with tables and chairs, most useful for the hordes traveling with laptops. In all, a very well-run event on the physical side of things.
For me, the real issue was the lack of soul in many of the seminars I attended. I can’t diagnose the exact reason, but a few contributing factors might include single person seminars or a seeming lack of collaboration (again, based on my experience) amongst the panel members. I don’t know for sure what role either of these possibilities played, but something was missing. To compensate, I spent less time in the seminars, particularly on the last day, and more time talking with people I’d met throughout the week.
The first time you do anything, especially putting on an event, you expend a great deal of effort working out the snags of actually doing the thing in real time. My hope for next year’s BlogWorld is that since the structure part went so well this year, they’ll spend more time on the soul part. For instance, the distraction of wondering why advertised speakers didn’t attend raises question in my mind about how well objectives and other details were communicated to speakers. I don’t believe the success or failure of BlogWorld rests on any one speaker or organizer, but if the two sides aren’t talking…
My suggestions for adding a little soul to the event are pretty easy:
1. Less is more. The number of tracks as BlogWorld was amazing, but I’m not sure that the attendee numbers justify splitting the group into so many small parts. As the conference grows, adjustments can be made and more tracks added. At last count, I think there were five or six. I never heard the total number of attendees, but I’d be surprised if it was more that 1,500. Given those numbers, I suspect 3-4 tracks would be more than enough for now.
With multiple options to choose from, equally interesting seminars competed against each other, dividing audiences. Tightening up the options would help improve the overall success of the scheduled seminars. For instance, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I was one of NINE attendees to a great presentation by Shel Israel and Mike Prosceno. Granted, this presentation was on the first day of the Executive- and Entrepreneur-only portion of the conference, but only nine people? Why this happened is also tied into my number two suggestion.
2. Descriptions matter. My biggest disappointment was attending a seminar only to learn that it was either more basic than I wanted or less focused that I desired. The lack of descriptions for each of the seminars meant that attendees could only make a decision to attend based on the seminar title and the listed speakers.
As I mentioned earlier, I suspect the reason so few attended Shel and Mike’s presentation had to do with a lack of knowledge. The title itself was non-descriptive (SAP Global Survey) and only one speaker name was readily identifiable to this particular group. I believe a description of the topic to be discussed would have made a huge difference in the attendance. A lack of descriptors also made it difficult to chose between similar-sounding seminar titles. I’m positive I overlooked more relevant seminars because of this.
3. You have an exhibit hall for a reason. I felt incredibly bad for the exhibitors scheduled to present on the stage in the expo hall. I believe few attendees knew that presentations were being given or even when to attend (see suggestion #1). The timing of these presentations also made it difficult to round up a potential audience among the attendees because they usually happened during other scheduled seminars located away from the expo area.
Ultimately, this conferences comes down to a question of whether its organizers can see value in the overall concept of doing less and being more focused. My initial excitement that such a conference exists remains, and I know that many people had a great time. However, the urge to attend next year will be tempered by whether some of these improvements happen between now and then, giving this conference a chance to earn a place in the industry.
My thanks to the brains and muscle behind BlogWorld for attempting to pull together so many diverse people in one place at one event. I’m hoping it’s even more successful next year.