Relevent Conference 2009

This morning, I leaked high level information about a new conference I’m organizing here in the DC area. This conference was born out of over a year of attending conferences and events that were mostly good but seemed to be missing key components. The most recent was WordCamp Dallas where I noted in previous post:

At the end of the day, it’s not about if you use WordPress or Typepad or any other blog platform. Sure, there are things to consider when choosing. However, at the end of the day, it’s about creating engaging content that creates community between author and readers. That’s the important part.

The conference, that is being called the Relevent Conference (typo intended, play on words), is all about relevancy, a topic that I talk about a lot in various forms on this blog. I see relevancy in social media that meets real life needs, brings real life value to individuals and businesses. I see relevancy as being as much a philosophical factor as it is a practical factor. Why is Twitter more relevant than Pownce? To me, it’s because I can use it from my cellphone much easier than Pownce. Just a single example.

So the goal in Relevent 2009 is to bring together web people tot talk about relevancy in the social space. how can we do better? What is being done right? How can I contribute? What is relevant to me?

To that end, I’ve got a rough list of folks I’d like to have come and speak, but the list is far from complete or set in stone. The distinctive nature of the event is that fewer of the “typical players” that make the conference speaking circuit will be speakers and more folks that can speak to the application of social media in their mainstream lives will be there. Hopefully a few you might know of. ;-)

The questions I have to answer before going into a whole lot more details are:

  1. Can we get the speakers? How much will they cost me?
  2. Where in the Baltimore/Washington area can we host this?
  3. What is a good balance between conference pricetag and sponsorship?
  4. Which companies (with a good mix of local companies) can sponsor?
  5. Who will design our site and blog?
  6. Who can step up as a facilitator and help with the logisitcs of bookings, phone calls, etc?
  7. Dates
  8. Parties and Dinners
  9. Wifi
  10. Which bands will be asked if they will come and perform? (Yes, I want a mini-concert or two from a local band – distinctive! ;-) )
  11. ______

I’ve never organized a conference so this will be a learning experience. Any advice, pointers and volunteers are welcome. Email me at aaron@technosailor.com and I will also certainly share more as the details become clearer.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

5 thoughts on “Relevent Conference 2009”

  1. Aaron it sounds like you’ve got a good idea and foundation in place. As I said on Twitter, I don’t think speakers will be a huge problem since many will attend if you agree to cover travel. And if even that is a problem, there’s no shortage of quite capable social media smartees in the DC area.

    BTW I love how bloggers get tired of waiting for the event they want to see and say ‘screw it, I’ll do it myself!’

  2. I think it could be a fun social experiment to just start selling tickets first and ask your loyal readership to take a leap of faith that you’ll figure it out. If this conference doesn’t happen, then they get their money back.

    Then, do exactly as you’re doing and involve your own loyal (and already invested) readership in organizing the actual thing. Make this web 2.0 conference actually participatory and explorative in all aspects.

    I’ll buy the first ticket for $100 and help plan.

  3. When you and I started talking over a pint in Frisco about doing this, I could tell this was an idea that really animates you. You know I’ll help you any way I can.

    Regarding the payment of speakers: Once the website is being developed, consider adding a section where potential speakers might provide background on themselves and what they intend to speak about. That way you’ll choose the speakers you find relevant (no pun intended) to your focus. As for payment, remember that simply by being there it benefits them, since they’ll be able to promote themselves, their blog, their business, their books, etc. Waive any registration fees, but other than that, travel and hotel are considered a cost of doing business, they should cover that. If down the road the event turns out to be profitable, (expect it to lose money at first) you might consider sharing a percentage of the profits based upon attendee feedback or attendance at their session, whatever.

    Also, watch out for sponsors wanting to speak or sit on panels: That’s a good way to quickly appear to be a shill for your sponsors. This is your conference, not theirs!

    As for facilitators: There are companies who do these things for a living, but I’m not sure that’s the way you want to go. If you can’t do it yourself, you might consider factoring in the cost of hiring a local personal assistant (maybe a college kid you trust) to come up with possible venues, etc. and handle the minutia, but keep the big decisions for yourself!

    Finally, talk to the DC/Baltimore area Tourism Bureaus. They’ll ask for your requirements and send out requests for proposals to all of their local area hotels. They’ll also connect you with local businesses and restaurants who’ll offer you and your attendees deals on food, shopping, events, etc.

    I’m so glad you’ve decided to go forward with this!

  4. Aaron, this isn’t too far off from what we’re doing with PHP Appalachia. We chose a date, chose a location, and then started selling the hell out of it. Once we got 10 people to sign up and pay, we had enough for the deposit. Getting the right people in at that point is helping us sell the rest of the tickets.

    The venue and the date are by far the most important.

    And #10 is the easiest. One of the guys with The Franchise – http://cdbaby.com/cd/thefranchise2 – is a close friend.

  5. Great idea – I like this conference concept.

    I’ve organized several large conferences for client companies over the years – so I can provide you with some advice along the way.

    And if you want me as a speaker (for free), then consider it a date ;)
    M

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