Thoughts on the next DO

Matt

Administrator
Staff member
While PHX was a success, I feel that we delivered a Beginners format of presentations to an overall more experienced group, and that is why it perhaps fell a little short of my expectations. I've allowed these thoughts to percolate for sometime as I think about going forward, and want to build on some great insights I received from a couple of the guys at the DO in PHX (Simon and Mark spring to mind, and some other guys had solid input also).

The upshot of it is that I envisaged a split going forward, into a Beginners group, where people were paying for knowledge, and an Advanced group, where knowledge wouldn't be sold. I do think that there is a graduation system out there where beginners need a foundation, an understanding of how things work and how to do them right, but I think also, if we are to be truthful to our mission, you shouldn't profit from bringing together experts.

The Beginners group I may or may not proceed with at this time, but the Advanced Group I find exciting as a concept. Here's what is on my mind:

  • We have a similar sized group, perhaps smaller. 100-125 people.
  • We create a central space, perhaps not a meeting room in a hotel, somewhere we can have as our own, but without the stuffiness. If we were in the US for this, perhaps a brewery that had a big hall we could use.
  • The space is split into zones, but without walls segregating them, people can flow back and forth between zones.
  • Each zone is a topic, led by a moderator who has some experience on the subject, but wherever possible we crowdsource the knowledge and the moderator just guides the discussion.
  • We break every 30-45 minutes and use a private forum here to propose new topics, this is realtime, and members can upvote or downvote the proposed topics - the most popular will be selected. Popular topics might stay throughout the day, and unpopular ones might be replaced with 'better ideas'. The value of that is we also 'capture' the thoughts of the day and we can discuss them both online and in person, it allows people to pick up conversations again with their fellow attendees.
In addition, I like the idea of keeping the ticket price as close to zero as possible and making it al a carte. While I really enjoyed the F&B at the DOs we had in the past I think that they were overpriced (Lunch Buffet at PHX cost me $60-70 per plate...) and also I don't think it is fair that non drinkers pay the same ticket price as drinkers.

I think it better to strip all that out, and allow people to drink/eat what they like on their dime. The challenge then becomes how to manage supply and demand on this, because if the ticket price is as low as I can make it, how will we control the demand? A thought on that is to make it invitation only.

With all due respect to the awesome people who presented at previous DOs, I think it is time to stop pretending that bloggers are the experts, and make a DO that kicks some serious arse.

Who's with me?
 

tmount

Administrator
Smaller groups, crowdsourced topics - great ideas. Agree that the challenge is how folks get in so to speak (invitation etc.).

I think there are tons of experts sharing information on the forums on a daily, if not hourly basis. I'm sure many have been at both DOs - I know I learned a ton from the mixer at CLT DO. That's always the best part of these events, so your concept of taking the greatest value part of the DO and making that the centerpiece, is spot on.
 
I love it! Sounds like a fabulous idea. I especially like the idea of having it at a less "formal" and business style location - I get enough of those kinds of conferences at work. Talking to other people and interacting are the best ways to be able to learn new ideas and to share information.
 

PatMike

Level 2 Member
As long as I've been going to these type of events, beginning with the Chicago Seminars in the "old days", before the credit card sale-a-thons, I've always enjoyed the interpersonal interactions the most.
With a speaker and audience format, there is little time for that, and often people spend the "in between" time to catch up with old friends & acquaintances.

Your idea of smaller "roundtable-like" groups, would give more interaction between more people.

I like the idea of paying something though. I thought the price in the past was fair. Too low of a price and you will get speculative registrations.

I'm in, for sure!
Can never get enough of BMG!

+1 for PDX...I know some people are interested in Austin too.
 

pier11

Level 2 Member
I'd love to be a part of it. The issue is how to do an invitation and cap the number of people. I would think everyone in the forum would want to go if they could.
I've voiced the idea already, since it's Saverocity meeting, invite the most useful/helpful participating people. Closest approximation, IMO, would be 'likes' on the forum...
 

ElainePDX

Level 2 Member
Premium Supporter
I like this idea, and would hope to get an invitation.

Some advantages:

1) with The Forum, the tech needed to crowdsource topics to start things and to change it up during the day is already is in place

2) the organizers can spend more time getting the format/topics/content right as opposed to dealing with hotels and picking menu choices for lunch and cocktail hours

I also agree that, unless it is possible for the planners to know in advance what a presenter will say, you always run the risk that a presentation will miss the mark of what is hoped for. The most useful session for me at the CLT DO was the panel and question/answer session that followed it. Perhaps that could be added to the format you describe.

I agree with @PatMike; probably a good idea to charge something. Organizing it will still take your time and there will inevitably be some costs.

While I know we all are eager to see the DO at our fav city or near where we live, the choice of location can also be a way to limit who wants to/can go....

The downside is that it runs the risk of developing an "in group" and some hurt feelings, as not everyone can be invited. It would be a shame to damage The Forum if some folks who wanted to attend, but were not invited, decide to leave the community we are developing here.

Maybe the way round that problem is that if the new format works, it could be replicated (relatively easily?) with a new set of 100-125 people (and perhaps by tapping other people to do more of the organizing?). The new format does sound like it would demand a lot less organizing than the old way, so doing it again might not be a considerable task.

I look forward to seeing how this idea develops.
 

Fishing4Deals

Level 2 Member
I attended a public meeting (re local city planning) that used a similar format. Each table had a moderator and topical questions and everyone had their say. I learned a lot from the other participants.
 

James from BNA

VR Jacket Guy
More interaction and less PowerPoint is a good idea.

Kimpton PHX was awesome, but I propose staying with Hilton, Hyatt, SPG, or IHG so we can use points at the host hotel.

I thought the price was very reasonable even though I don't drink. I would pay double the price of CLT and/or PHX for a 3rd DO.

I was lucky to get tickets to PHX. I was on the golf course and happened to check twitter between holes. I made my client wait 10 min so I could buy the tickets before we teed off. :) 100-125 tickets will sell out in 10 minutes, so unless you check twitter around the clock, folks are going to be left out. Could you give priority ticket purchasing to alumni of CLT and/or PHX?

Time to dust off the VGC sport coat.
 

bayguy

Level 2 Member
Never been to any DO and would love to attend. It depends on the location(based in Bay Area and can make it to Portland).

I like the direction we are going.

Also, pl. consider folks who did not get an opportunity to attend any of the previous two conferences ;)
 

skydancer

Level 2 Member
Missed the last one (offline for a day, and tickets sold out...) I'm really hoping to make this next one, and hoping there will be a way for those of us who were not able to be there for the first ones to somehow still make the invitation list. Tricky to know how to manage so much interest and a limited number of spaces... Please add me to your very interested list if you have one.
 

Matt

Administrator
Staff member
I agree with @PatMike; probably a good idea to charge something. Organizing it will still take your time and there will inevitably be some costs.
I'd still charge something for incidentals, but I like the idea of baking out the Lunch and cocktails. I really think Lunch is overpriced... unless of course the venue swap to something more casual comes with better options for this, which it may.

Pat also raised a good point about speculative bookings. My generous refund policy has encouraged that in the past, however, there was always sufficient demand to swap people out, so 99% of people were able to transfer bookings even up to the day prior to the event. That said, I do dislike speculative bookings, and will need to work around that.

The downside is that it runs the risk of developing an "in group" and some hurt feelings, as not everyone can be invited. It would be a shame to damage The Forum if some folks who wanted to attend, but were not invited, decide to leave the community we are developing here.
Frankly, while I like the idea of this being somewhat forum centric, I also don't want to blinker it to that. There are many good people who aren't overly active here, or who didn't join. For example, there are some people who joined TravelCodex and feel some allegiance to the forum there. In my mind, that doesn't change the value that they could have to the community.

Also, some people are just silly. I had one guy rip into me for putting the last tickets on sale the day before a national holiday which meant he was in a car and therefore missed buying them.
 

Matt

Administrator
Staff member
Kimpton PHX was awesome, but I propose staying with Hilton, Hyatt, SPG, or IHG so we can use points at the host hotel.
While i'm not against it totally, I'd rather not have a host hotel at all. I'd rather have a venue like a Brewery/Restaurant/Distillery.

I thought the price was very reasonable even though I don't drink. I would pay double the price of CLT and/or PHX for a 3rd DO.
Thanks - the price was reasonable in the sense that all the money went into the event, so it hopefully should have felt like 'value'. PHX lost money.

Could you give priority ticket purchasing to alumni of CLT and/or PHX?
Also, pl. consider folks who did not get an opportunity to attend any of the previous two conferences ;)
I'll let you two figure out this part :)
 

Matt

Administrator
Staff member
I've voiced the idea already, since it's Saverocity meeting, invite the most useful/helpful participating people. Closest approximation, IMO, would be 'likes' on the forum...
There is something to be said for that. But at the same time there are many 'useful' people who might post less frequently, or not at all, but could offer good value. Perhaps some sort of hybrid where a portion of tickets are offered on some sort of forum metric, but I don't want to make it the only way to gain entrance.
 

manicsocks

Level 2 Member
Garrison, NYDO. I'm a fan of Stadium Bar and Grill. Has two rooms: one larger that fits like 100 and the other about half that. Haven't been there in about 7 years but they had great service and atmosphere in the past. Near MTA-North and good access to the rest of the region near I-84.
 

henrygeorge

Level 2 Member
Having never attended, what is discussed at these meetings? Or is the point that you have them so the contents are not distributed?
I'll let you two figure out this part :)
This will be bloody. As a new person myself, I hope there isn't a preference for former attendees.
 

SCC

Level 2 Member
I wonder if one way to address the fact that far more people will want to go than are able is to put an onus on those that attend to share what they learned with those who couldn't attend.

I'm not a beginner to this hobby, but I am also far from an expert or major player. So when I went to PDX I was hoping to learn something new and exciting. In reality I learned a few tips or tricks but nothing significant. What I did get was an opportunity to build some relationships. Not sure what that contributes to this discussion but I felt it was worth sharing.
 

Matt

Administrator
Staff member
Having never attended, what is discussed at these meetings? Or is the point that you have them so the contents are not distributed?
I've never controlled the content, people can share what they like. However, I do not believe that you can stand up in front of a group of 100+ people and give away gigs just because they bought a ticket.

I'm not a beginner to this hobby, but I am also far from an expert or major player. So when I went to PDX I was hoping to learn something new and exciting. In reality I learned a few tips or tricks but nothing significant.
Yes, which is why I dislike the mix of beginner (speakers) format and advanced audience. There's a disconnect there. The only thing that seems to work is when you have an interesting personality, but that makes it fun, but still not always informative.

What I did get was an opportunity to build some relationships. Not sure what that contributes to this discussion but I felt it was worth sharing.
That's 100% of the reason for a DO IMO. However, some central theme helps create a gathering of people, as not all are immediately open to talking with new people, it breaks the ice.
 

wasabirobot

Level 2 Member
What you've described here has some similarities with the model of an unconference. You might look into that format and see if it would suit your purposes. I've attended a few in the past and had incredibly positive experiences.
 

Matt

Administrator
Staff member
What you've described here has some similarities with the model of an unconference. You might look into that format and see if it would suit your purposes. I've attended a few in the past and had incredibly positive experiences.
Yeah a couple of the guys were describing something like this and it may have been based on that concept - today's thoughts are just pulling back from that conversation and some more ideas I had. I'll certainly check that out.
 

Matt

Administrator
Staff member
Just thinking more about the allocations...

Maybe a mix:

  • Some members of this forum get the option based upon a metric
  • Some members of another forum (but not this one) such as Travel Codex get an option ( I give away X to Scott/Tahsir to manage)
  • We run some sort of giveaway/lottery for remaining tickets
That would be a good way to help reward people who are here, but also 'mix the gene pool' which is a goal since I want people to share knowledge and skills. Cross pollination might make it interesting...
 

kampung

Level 2 Member
This sounds really good. I have never attended any DO/seminar before so definitely looking forward to attend my 1st one.

My 2 cents

- venue should be somewhere other than a hotel, which should result in lower overhead cost and also provide a change to the conference like/formal setting of a hotel.

- there should be definitely be separate events/sessions for the beginner and advanced category in order to keep both groups interested and tuned-in.

- in case the demand is too high perhaps we can have region based DO which i assume may help to reduce the travelling cost for some. Besides it can also help to better address certain topics ie MS which may have different attributes based on the geography.
 

Haley

I am not a robot
I like the gene pool mixing idea.

No matter what the best conversations happen during self selected small group break outs, over drinks the night before the 'DO' or at dinner afterwards, or breakfast the next day. Not always with old friends either. The wine hour at Firesky helped facilitate this, it served as a great 'mixer' where people that didn't already know each other could chat for a few minutes or introductions could be made.

ETA: self selected might be key as it is where the comfort about what or how much you say comes from. This is hard to replicate, but I gather is sort of the goal.

I like the idea of getting out of confrence rooms, but I think that staying somewhere as a group adds a lot of value as it facilitates the breakfasts and dinners and wine hours where the best conversations happen.

ETA: I think without a declared place to sleep (need not be a hotel) you will get people that already know each other coordinating plans, and this would offer less gene-pool mixing.

I might be in the minority, but I also like like talking to people who are very new to this whole world. Nothing cements understanding of anything as well as teaching it to someone else.
 
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Weezl

Level 2 Member
I too have never been to a DO. Frankly, with all of the crazy biz travel I have away from the Fam, it would be a hard sell for me to leave SoCal (hint-it's 75 degrees today) but I sure would love to meet you all. Putting a face to the avatar would be great (here I am with only a question mark for mine!)<--edit; not anymore ;)

At a DO, I would think that, for advanced MSers, the idea-exchange aspect doesn't seem to be as important as the networking/socializing aspect, unless of course there are some secretive new MS schemes that could only be learned at a DO. Among the Saverocity group, isn't that what we are already getting from the MS Forums?

For the less experienced, a separate DO as you suggest, Matt, makes sense to have powerpoints and formal presentations to present a sort of Wiki overview, to tackle all of the novice questions that some up from those that want to dabble in MS but really can't figure it out from the forums.

I would vote for a venue with lower overhead especially after hearing PDX lost money. Beer halls I love but even a park with a tent would be great, weather-permitting (hint#2).

I also like the region-based DO idea kampung suggested above. Back when I was in training, an older group of friends I knew met monthly at iHop to discuss investments. It was a great way to solidify ideas and bounce prospects around. Something like that would be awesome in SoCal, I would sign up in a heartbeat. I have no idea if my neighbor or colleague has any interest in MSing but if there were 10 or more of us, it would be a blast to have regular meets. Most of those friends/colleagues that I do broach the subject with have no interest whatsoever and sometimes I feel my asking only alienates them. Go figga'.
 
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