It’s not about the Content, It’s about the People

I spent the week at Red Hat’s excellent Red Hat Summit in Boston and coincidentally, the OAI just announced a new direction for the APIStrat conference – check out the new ASC event here! Both made me reflect on why I go to events (and sometimes have a hand in organizing them).

Red Hat is my employer, so I’m likely biased in my view as to how the event went but I really did enjoy Red Hat Summit this year. Not everything was perfect but it gave me an opportunity to meet a large amount of customers and partners as well as see people engage in deep discussion. There was great content and an interesting show floor – hard to pull off for 8000 people! But the things which stuck out the most:

  • Great spaces to sit or stand and talk to people, as well as enough time to do that. The content might be inspiring, but the event did a great job of having a central show floor where people could congregate.
  • Lots of meeting rooms and a scheduling system: this works for corporate events when the corporation organizing meetings on the side of a large event. However, it works so feel I really wonder if smaller (non-vendor) events should not do the same thing: not only provide lounge spaces to talk but ways of people connecting ahead of time to schedule time. There are tools which do this but I’ve almost never seen them used successfully.
  • Play/hack zones: the busiest places on the show floor were places with interactive demos and tutorials. These were immersive and created some micro-achievements to walk away with. That’s not easy to do, but as a note to any vendor with a booth in an expo: try to make interactions rewarding beyond picking up a t-shirt.
  • It’s critical to have triggers for shared experiences: we’re not all extroverts so it can be hard to get started in a conversation. So the question is – how does the event stimulate interactions without creating awkward ice-breaking situations? Content (being in the same talk) is one driver, but great play/tutorial interactions, lounge zones, and birds-of-a-feather session are also very valuable.

Over the 7 years running the APIStrat events we built a great community and did get many of these elements right, but there is always more to learn. I’ll write more in the future on how APIStrat will transition to become ASC, but in the meantime, it was a great reminder that while the content is a good reason to go to an event … the most valuable thing about it is almost always the people interaction when you are there.

Image from Red Hat Summit 2019.

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