As much as attending industry conferences is considered a must for mid- to senior-level digital professionals, few can afford to go to more than two or three events a year. In this article, I will go through five key considerations that web managers and digital leaders can use to help them determine whether an industry conference is worth their time and money. I will then explain what JBoye Aarhus Conference delivers in each of these categories (from my experience of attending JBoye conference annually since 2011), so that you can decide for yourself whether JBoye conference is right for you.
Conference consideration #1: Size.
There’s conferences, and there’s conferences. Some attract thousands of people (Web Summit and Adobe Summit are good examples), and others – such as JBoye, NNGroup or IWMW – bring together several hundreds of participants. Both types can be useful and fun, but they offer totally different experiences. Large conferences are more like going to a theatre – there’s more of a wow factor and there’s a higher number of totally awesome inspirational speakers (think Kevin Spacey or George Clooney), but just like in a theatre, you don’t really get to interact with them in a meaningful way. Nor do you get to talk properly to the other umpteen thousands attendees. It’s a show. By contrast, smaller conferences are more like communities, where you can build meaningful relationships with a lot of people, speakers and participants alike.
At JBoye Aarhus 2015 there were 225 delegates from 17 countries. JBoye conference is definitely a smaller, community-like event – big enough to attract great speakers, and small enough for networking to be effective and easy. Even if you feel somewhat uncomfortable in a busy, crowded social setting (many people are), Janus and his team will be happy to introduce you to the people you want to meet. This is really helpful because at conferences it’s not always easy to track down a particular individual, and the task is even harder if you’ve not met that person before.
Conference consideration #2: Keynotes and presentations, format.
Some conferences offer deep-dive training courses, which equip you with practical skills that you can apply to your own projects. Others offer shorter, introductory sessions that inspire you to find out more.
JBoye conference has both types of presentations. The first of the three days offers 3-hours workshops – interactive sessions with group exercises and plenty of opportunities for audience participation. After attending a workshop you should be equipped with practical tools that allow you to put the acquired knowledge into practice. Workshops also kick-start your networking at JBoye – by the end of the three hour workshop you’re bound to know the names of everyone in your room. It’ll almost feel like you’re friends.
The second and third day feature shorter presentations on a wide variety of subjects, as well as some roundtables and expert panels. In this fast paced format you constantly move from one room to another, and it’s a lot to take in, but you get to meet a lot of people and you get to hear about a lot of different ideas. It’s a bit like speed dating. The format gives you an opportunity to consider a number of perspectives, and identify the right people to talk to later in the day.
Quite an impressive thing about JBoye conference that I’ve not seen at other community-level conferences, is that everything runs on time. To the minute. If the presentation is scheduled for 9:00am then that’s precisely when it will start. More importantly, if a presentation is scheduled to finish at 9:45am then that’s when it will finish. This applies even to the morning Run with the Vikings at 6:30am. No time to lose.
Presentation slides usually appear on Slideshare within days after the conference is finished.
Conference consideration #3. Keynotes and presentations, content.
A major factor in deciding whether to attend a particular conference is how relevant the covered material is to your job. JBoye covers the following topics:
- Digital Transformation
- Digital Strategy
- Customer Experience
- Marketing Technology
- Digital Business Development
- Collaboration / Digital Workplace
Some of the most popular recent presentations are:
- The future of enterprise social networks: Powering business beyond social collaboration by Joachim Heinz (DE), BOSCH
- The total impossibility of CEM by Tim Walters (DE), Digital Clarity Group
- 10 Top tips for digital transformation by Rob Gethen Smith (UK), Anthony Nolan Trust
If you need to know the best approach for multithreading in node.js, or the best way to track call-to-action button clicks in Google Analytics, JBoye is not the right conference for you. Consider conferences targeted specifically at web developers and web designers instead, such as Smashing Conference, NDC, Web Summer Camp or Future of Web Design. Equally, if you’re after the roadmap and nitty-gritty of a specific software product, you’ll be much better off attending a vendor (or open source community) user conference – DrupalCon, 404 Kentico, or Hippo.Connect are some examples.
Conference consideration #4. Business networking and social events.
Being able to make useful contacts at an industry conference depends on two factors. The first is the make-up of the audience. Who are these people? What can you learn from them? Are they the type of people that you would like to work with? Are they likely to boost your energy with new ideas, or drain it with the sales speak?
The second factor determining how effective your networking will be, is the nature of social events. Are conference organisers helping people to connect in an informal setting or do you have to organise it yourself?
At JBoye the majority of conference delegates are web professionals at mid and senior management level. They are usually people who can handle both strategic and tactical initiatives, and who do just that, day in, day out. Web designers and web developers who are interested in how their work fits into broader business goals, and are looking to transition into managerial roles, also attend JBoye for its strategic content. There are usually a few digital agencies attending JBoye conference (such as MMT Digital, eXa Online, and NMQ Digital), as well as software vendors (for example Oracle, Sitecore, Magnolia and Crownpeak) but their presence isn’t overbearing and their presentations are monitored by JBoye team to ensure that they are useful to the audience and are not just another sales pitch.
With regards to social events, in addition to lunches and coffee breaks throughout the day, JBoye organises, and pays for, two after-conference dinners on Tuesday and Wednesday. This means that everyone is in the same place in the evening, and you can build lasting relationships that will extend the value of the conference far beyond the three days in Aarhus. Food, tea and coffee is totally awesome – you are in Denmark, after all!
Conference consideration #5. Value for money.
When it comes to convincing your boss to send you to a conference, the price tag plays a big part. JBoye conference is not expensive per se, particularly if you consider that food and social is included. Still, what makes JBoye a bit of a luxury trip for many, is the location. Most people deserve a medal for just getting there, and when you factor in travel, the three-day conference becomes a full week away from your desk.
That said, Aarhus is a great place to visit. You can read about Aarhus in Guardian, Independent, The New York Times, and if you are really serious about exploring Denmark – read a book How to be Danish by Patrick Kingsley.