I consider myself to be an expert when it comes to software trade shows. I have attended events with 130,000 attendees. I have attended events with 50 attendees. I have attended great events and some dreadful waste of time events.
There were a couple of reasons why I found GPUG Amplify in Anaheim last week to be a raging success.
Attentiveness: My number one attribute of a good conference is attentiveness. With an attendance of around 500-800 there as an opportunity for an attendee to get the attention they need from other attendees, from sponsors and in this case from Microsoft.
At a large event you feel pressured to meet too many people which reduces the conversation to short high level chats. A smaller event gives you time to truly engage and have real conversations. The smaller event also gives everyone a chance to engage with Microsoft representatives in a real way. Often at larger events these folk are unavailable or the conversations are short and dismissive.
The right crowd: Smaller focused conferences tend to draw the right crowd. People who are truly engaged on the topic and have a plan on what they need to achieve during the event. At large events you often find people who are there to tick off CPE credits or to get 2 days out of the office. I did not meet any of those people at Amplify.
Education: Everyone wants to leave a trade show smarter than when they arrived. Much of this comes from the attentiveness mentioned above, allowing you get to talk to the people you need to. The session content at Amplify was good, with well qualified presenters and the attendees were truly engaged. Very few had laptops out and were sending emails throughout a presentation – as I have seen at many other conference events. (This ties back to attentiveness of the audience – as the rooms were small enough that both the presenter and audience could engage).
Educational, Incorporated Expo: ISV’s and vendors were made to be part of the conference and not seen as a ‘necessary evil’. The vendors at Amplify were focused on the audience attending. At a large event you often get random vendors who really have little relevance to the attendees. This leads to attendees putting their heads down and doing their best NOT to make eye contact. Having relevant vendors and interested customers this became a big part of the educational experience at Amplify.
- The Bar: Many people do not feel comfortable walking up to start conversations in a bar after a long day of sessions. At a large event with big party’s this is a time for people to hide in a hotel room. At Amplify the conversations flowed easily from the meeting rooms to the Bar. Given the smaller number of attendees, most faces become familiar quickly. Given the focused topics of the event everyone had something in common. This was a great chance to talk about conference topics or to switch off and generally get to know people.
So hats off to the team at Microsoft and GPUG for putting together a great event. I think there is a recipe here for many more similar successful events. If you get the chance to attend the Summit events later this year I would recommend it (although this will be a much larger event) or slot in Amplify 2017 into your calendar.