January 2012. M3 Conference has had it’s inaugural run in Nov of 2011. After a few months break from the planning madness, the M3 crew was back at it. The goal was to make M3Conf truly a hallmark mobile conference in the midwest & increase the value proposition for attendees. Oct 25-26 of 2012, and we’ve just wrapped up the second year of the conference. Only attendee feedback will say how successful we were, but at least, there were no major hiccups.
Here are some things that stood out for me from this year’s M3 Conference:
- We started the year re-evaluating the core promise of M3 Conference – an all-out mobile conference, catering the midwest with some of the best brains in the industry. Focus on not just one, but all aspects & all major platforms of the mobile ecosystem. Thankfully, we were still golden; an unique offering for a town full of passionate developers.
- However, there was plenty of feedback to improve upon – the need for more hands-on experience, the big no-no of lunch boxes etc. So, months of planning ensued.
- Quick tip for fellow conference organizers: If budget permits, get a solid event organizer on the team. Since we’re forgetful geeks, the event organizer role does immediately take a lot of pressure off our shoulders. Smaller details and on-the-day logistics can be nicely delegated to. Thanks Cindy Groeniger for all the help!
- We had really pushed COSI to it’s capacity last year; so a short venue search followed. There really aren’t a whole lot of choices for such event hosting in Columbus and the Ohio Union was a natural fit. Boy, it did not disappoint on M3 day. I would admiringly take photos of the Archie Griffin ballroom chandeliers & wooden flooring; glad that most attendees I talked to said the venue worked out perfect.
- We talked at length about extending the conference to 2 days to provide for an intimate learning experience through workshops. There were, off course, challenges like finding the right tracks for the workshops, folks to run it, finances and so on; but in the end, it was a go. Feedback & high interest in learning mobile development hands-on was hard to ignore; we took the plunge and experts in our awesome developer community stepped forward to help.
- Unless a conference makes a huge name for itself & is guaranteed a sell-out, there is always the guessing game of attendee count. Despite a sold out M3 Conference in 2011, we’re not sure of hitting the projected headcount and spent several nervous weeks wondering about our bottomline and commitments. IT, business & local media blood streams help a lot, as do alumni of the conference .. we finally proudly sold out our Day 1 workshop day & reached near full Day 2 headcount targets.
- One of the things we were most proud of was the kind of speaker talent we attracted this year. The speaker line-up was simply stellar – http://m3conf.com/home/speakers.
- I have always had much to learn from & proud of my primary partners in crime – Tim Hibner & Phil Wilson. Tim’s superb organizational skills holds the conference planning together. And I’m convinced that Phil and his folks @ Fine Citizens have a magic wand to make just about anything look good.
- An event of the size of M3 Conference now takes a lot of orchestration to pull off. And we would not get much going without the help of our awesome volunteers. True champions of selfless help, hats off to my dear friends for your volunteering spirit – Travis Smith, Matthew Noggle, Matthew Middendorf, Bob Reid, Troy GIbson, Brenda Hibner, Chris Judd, Carl Brack & others. Honest thank you from the bottom of my heart.
- While we got praise for serving steak @ lunch, the parking scenario left a bad taste. Essentially, there were big misunderstandings between the parking ramp operator & the Ohio Union; rest assured, we’re consolidating records and reimbursements.
- Clash of the Titans – this was an curious experiment and ended up being one the high-points for me during M3 Conference. I was to be the anchor for a panel discussion involving 3 rockstars in the mobile space: Jeff Blankenburg for Windows Phone, Ben Von Handorf for Android & Leon Gersing for iOS. With greek mythical references & audience tweet-up questions, we tried our best to harass our esteemed panelists, without success. It ended up being a energetic discussion about mobile strategies from MSFT/Apple/Google and developer polyglotism. Thanks guys!
- Surface giveaways – Now, we had built the tradition of M3Conf raffle prizes to be the latest & greatest. With Windows 8 launch on the same day, and the MSFT Surface selling like hot cakes, what better way to top off our raffle prizes with 2 of the shiny tablets.