“You queue to register, queue to get into the keynotes, queue to get out of the keynotes, queue to talk to speakers, queue for food…” This was a friend of mine describing their experience of taking their team to AWS Summit in London. The fact is these hyper-scale events are great for the hosting organizations to get packed rooms but not necessarily great for the individuals.
So what is the optimal size of tech conference? And what is the criteria by which we should compare conferences? Please don’t tell me it is the talks because you can always catch those after the fact or get the gist of them from Twitter.
Serverless Days London was one so called smaller conference. It was held in a church. It was a beautiful church and the juxtaposition of vendor logos with stained glass windows was something else. Talk about serverless being the new tech religion.
There was still a queue for food. It’s hard to scale dishing out of good food. I don’t normally go for the vegetarian option but I made an exception and had no regrets. Yum.
The talks, the venue and the food are all about getting into the right mindset for the one-to-one conversations, the exchange of ideas and stories. I’ve worked out that I can make maximum of 5 cold introductions: introducing myself and starting a conversation with a random stranger at the conference. And half the time I have to summon up energy and do endless power poses before taking the plunge. At Serverless Days the first person I pick happened to be a speaker, who worked doing serverless at the BBC and the conversation flowed easily. In fact all my 5 cold-calls for the day were insightful. The odds were with me.
The biggest conference I have braved is 5000 people. Even though there were people I knew there, meeting up spontaneously almost never happened. But this time, helped by the outdoor hallway track, it was different – lots of easy opportunities to chat with people I knew and get introduced to their friends and colleagues.
When you’ve got a choice on which conference to waste your precious time on, always take quality over quantity. 200 attendees is probably my ideal. Maybe we need to start using the Dunbar number as a limit to conference sizes. We have the ‘two-pizza rule‘ for optimal size of teams, it is time to have an equivalent ‘one-wedding-cake rule’ for optimal size of conferences.