Well it was another weekend conference, coming on the heals of Northern Voice in Vancouver last weekend (moved because of Olympics) I had a back to back with WordCamp Victoria. My brain is still trying to process all the great stuff I’ve heard over the last two weeks.
My first ‘big’ thought is on session selection at conferences. Researching presenters before you go to a conference really helps reduce disappointment. Read these folks blogs, follow them on twitter, look at their writing elsewhere.Presenters I know from other events like Nancy White(Full Circle) and Dave Olson (UncleWeed) at Northern Voice or Tris Hussey (A View from the Isle) and Mike Vardy (The Mike Vardy) at WordCamp are examples of folks I will always put on my schedule. But you need to start finding new people an new voices. Cathie Walker’s session at WordCamp was a good example. I’ve been following Cathie on Twitter for a while and that made putting her session on my schedule was also I no-brainer and I wasn’t disappointed.
My second ‘big’ thought is “small is awesome”. Northern Voice got a little bigger and I felt less engaged in it than I had in previous years. WordCamp Victoria is still growing but can handle getting a lot bigger before I’d worry about it being too big. I think conferences that really engage have to be in the Dunbar Number range or at least your stream of the connference shouldn’t get much over 100 people. You can have big conferences with awesome keynotes but if you want to have a sharing and supportive breakout environment you need to form relationships and trust – and if people don’t already know each other – you may need to do that very quickly.
That is why local Victoria events like WordCamp really can compete with anything. If you can be the smaller conference but still draw the good speakers then your Golden. Anything bigger I’ll catch on TED talks or the Conversations Network.