On April 20th at the Harrington College of Design in Chicago, we held our first Mobile Camp. We learned a lot, and had a lot of fun–and we’re pretty grateful that we get to do this type of event with and for people in Chicago, which is a great city with a pretty incredible tech scene that we love. We asked for some feedback, and we’ve heard some really great things.
I’m going to go through some of the feedback and hopefully provide some insight and/or some ideas about what we think we may do differently in the future!
The things that people loved, they really loved.
This seems a bit obvious, but it was good to hear that people enjoyed the keynotes and that a few speakers really did draw some high praise. We’re sharing this feedback with them and encouraging them to continue to speak–both at Chicago Camps and other events. This is part of why we do the events and it really is awesome to be able to see these things happen!
People really enjoyed the give-aways that we were able to provide through our excellent sponsors. We have shared that with them, as well. I don’t generally think that I’ve done the best job in the world at post-conference communication, so I’ve really tried to focus on that this time. Brad pulled together a really nice infographic-esque PDF that we sent to all of the sponsors to break down what the day was like, and it was great to hear from them that this was appreciated–and in some cases, pretty rare. We’re going to keep doing that, and keep trying to get better at it. We’re really grateful that we’re able to structure sponsorships in such a way that we can bring great things–video seminars, software licenses, books, books, and more books, breakfast, and even some water and snacks. We really try hard to make sure that we can provide your money’s worth for your ticket price, and we want to keep making that happen. If you know someone who is interested in sponsoring one of our upcoming camps, we’d love to hear from them!
We also put one of these infographics together for everyone else, too. Brad did a great job pulling this stuff together and it’s on the Mobile Camp website to check out. And I’m putting it here, too:
The venue, well, some folks wish it was bigger.
I’m being very sincere when I say that we–and Harrington College of Design–wish the space was a little bit bigger, too! That said, Harrington is an amazing sponsor, and their sponsorship allows us to keep the ticket price at $50 without incurring a lot of risk on our part. They’re generous with us, and they’re great partners for experimenting–without them, there’s no way we would have been able to experiment (on a whim, and on the fly) with the Remote Track we had at Mobile Camp. They happily jumped right in and worked with us to allow us to line up top-notch talent in Christian Crumlish, Greg Nudelman, and Jason Cranford Teague, who were able to present from the comfort of their own location. The feedback that we hears is that this was pretty great, and people really enjoyed those talks.
We learned a lot from this, too, and there are more ideas we’re tinkering with because of it. We know there were some mistakes and challenges, so we’re going to see about doing even more cool things with that option.
We also learned from Prototype Camp 2012 that if we have anything more than 100 people, it gets pretty tight in our space, so we knowingly restrict ourselves to 100 people. At Prototype Camp, a lot of people couldn’t get into the room to see Jared Spool’s keynote and that was a miserable start to the day for me. I felt horrible, and I’d rather endure some of the upset emails about the lack of tickets than have someone miss out on part of the content. This time around, Harrington turned on a couple of projectors in their social space, and pushed the audio out there as well–you didn’t have to sit in the “main” room to enjoy the talks. It was just them tinkering around to help us out, and it was pretty cool.
Some people pointed out that we didn’t always have enough chairs in the classrooms–and we absolutely agree! We’re working with Harrington on that, too. This is also one of the reasons why we used some different rooms this time around compared to Prototype Camp, and this is part of the reason that we offer 3 rooms of talks. We want to try and prevent people from getting too crowded, and we’ll have to see how we can be a little better at trying to figure out which topics may be stronger than some of the others and try to place them in rooms accordingly. Sometimes, that feels like throwing darts, but I suspect we’ll get better at that over time.
5 minutes between sessions wasn’t enough.
No doubt. We learned that one the hard way, especially in the Remote track. We’re going to work through some of the scheduling to try and be more accommodating for future camps.
Better definition of the tracks would be useful.
This was a tough one, for me. There are a lot of things to balance when planning a schedule–from the topic balance (too much Responsive Design was a BIG concern), to topic level (beginner, intermediate, advanced), to finding the right people who are in Chicago and who have content to share, well, it gets challenging. And that is a pretty lousy excuse–we, and by we, I mean me, really need to step that up in the future, and we’re going to focus on making sure we can be more clear either in the way the tracks shape up, or how we define them. The feedback was a great reminder to renew that focus.
Some thought that a sponsored lunch would have been better than a sponsored breakfast.
We’re grateful for all of our sponsors, and this time around we simply were not able to identify a lunch sponsor to help us with that. SapientNitro not only graciously provided a generous spread, but they also gave away an iPad Mini, and we think that is a pretty fantastic sponsorship! We do realize that the Loop in Chicago gets a little empty on the weekends, and we’re fortunate enough to already have a lunch sponsor for Prototype Camp in August.
We’re all ears if there are ideas about other companies who are interested in sponsoring our meals or other aspects of the events–we’ll be revisiting our sponsorship options moving forward. Please share some additional ideas for sponsorships with us!
There were a lot of really great speakers. Some really shined brightly.
We worked with some speakers to be a sounding board for their abstracts and ideas, and we offered ourselves up for reviewing content prior to Mobile Camp. Timing didn’t always play to our favor, and some speakers have their own approach. We’re going to be a bit more proactive in the future about checking in with speakers and seeing if there is more we can do to be available to them. We’ve all got full time jobs, so this doesn’t always pan out, but there is likely more that we can do to be better stewards to our speakers and the attendees.
And! We’d also love to have more of you submit your ideas to us. We’re always going to seek out first-time presenters and help them get on stage. This type of venue is perfect for that, and our attendees are pretty over-the-top great when it comes to being supportive. If you’ve got an idea, please send it along to us so we can help you get up on stage!
Some thought it was well worth the value–and more! Others thought maybe we could have done better.
We agree! We really are proud of the value we provide, and it’s great to be able to supplement the content with nice things like complimentary water, snacks, breakfast, the give-aways, and the delicious beer, but none of those things are a replacement for quality content.
We’re going to focus on the value that we get through sponsors, but also focus on making sure we’re keeping our eyes on how the talks and the schedule balance out. We know it’s tricky, but hey, we signed up to do this thing, and we can always improve. And we want to always improve.
It was suggested that we could take and post notes, including many of the different tools, tips, etc. that were shared.
This is probably more than we can handle given our small size (3 people, not including a small band of volunteers). We can, however, do a better job of asking our speakers to post their slides to SlideShare or some other slide-sharing website so that attendees can find them. We know it would be nice if we could post notes, but we also know a lot of people attend so that they can do things like sketchnote and blog about the events later. We also would hate to miss out on notes that attendees might think are important but we overlooked–and outsourcing your own note taking seems slightly akin to outsourcing your vacation, minus all the vacation-y stuff.
That’s a lot to contend with–and we know we’ve got our work cut out for us. We hope you’ll continue to come hang out with us at our camps, and we hope to see you at Speaker Camp on June 22nd!