I neglected to announce on this blog that Jason Garber and I launched the DC Design Talks last Friday. It’s a one-day conference for interactive designers that will feature nine talks from some of the most talented speakers and practitioners from the region, and it only costs $35, so it’s super-low-cost. If you’re interested, and haven’t registered yet, you should definitely do so as soon as possible.
So now, one week after launching, we are almost full, which is pretty fantastic, since this was a little bit of a daunting experiment for us. We’re actually charging money for an event, which is a change for us, which means we actually feel some need to live up to the expectations of people who pay real money. Not only that, but it’s also on a weekday, which breaks our normal tradition of having things after hours or on weekends. Would people like the speakers? Would people get the time off or take the day off? Would people be turned off by the lack of direct metro access? Would people even hear about it?
Keeping It Small and Simple
Just like a webapp, we decided that going for a 600-person conference was not something we wanted to take on and risk right away. Renting a huge venue, catering major meals, and just dealing with all the extra logistics in a massive event like that didn’t seem too friendly to our after-hours availability. We settled on keeping it to around 75 people, which was around Refresh’s size, so we would know what to expect.
Don’t Spend a Ton
We figured that space, food, and speaker expenses were among the biggest financial risks at a typical conference, so we were determined to limit these as much as possible. Viget’s new office has a great space that worked out well for Startup Weekend and a few other events, and could hold our target size, more or less, so it was great that Brian agreed to let us use it for the day. The biggest downside is that it’s about 15-20 minutes walking time from the Metro, but we may be able to wrangle someone into running a shuttle for us, so that could yet be solved. Overall, it’s a great space, and we’re lucky to have had this taken off our shoulders.
Likewise, speaker expenses tend to be the result of flying in dozens of people, putting them up in hotels, and feeding them, not to mention any speaking fees. By making this a truly regional conference, with speakers from the area (and maybe a friend or two from elsewhere along the east coast), we could drastically reduce all of these. And since we know that there is some great talent and speaking ability in the area, we didn’t have to worry about getting interesting talks and smart speakers lined up.
Diversify the Audience
The one risk we did take was scheduling the event on a weekday. We did this largely to try to draw a different kind of crowd from the usual faces we see at every weekend event in DC. Our fingers are crossed that we’ll see a decent number of people from larger agencies, and perhaps some of the AIGA crowd that hasn’t really flirted too much with the Refresh crowd. So far, things on this front are looking great.
And after all, salaried employees don’t really get paid for Leap Day, so why not do something really useful and fun with it?
Finding Great Sponsors
To cover other things, we need to rely on finding great sponsors. Viget already took care of the space, and AOL’s AIM Design Group has jumped in to sponsor a big chunk as well. We have a few others in the hopper who we’ll hopefully have signed on in short order, and that gives us a ton of breathing room.
Hopefully, we’ll run out of tickets sometime in the next week or two, we’ll have all of our sponsors lined up, and we’ll be able to have an amazing event three weeks from now. Hopefully, you’ll be there (you’ve registered already, right?), and either way, we hope you’ll let us know what you think of it.
If all goes well, come springtime, we’ll be kicking off the DC Developer Talks. Same idea. More Code.