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Conferences Need Lots of Lounge Space

Lazy Shot of the SDN Clubhouse

I want to also take a second to thank the folks from Blogtropolus for putting on such a great blogger lounge, which rocked in comparison to the conference media center. They were great hosts and offered a robust wireless network as well as a lively lounge for the couple of days I was at the event. I actually met more people I wanted to see in that lounge than anywhere else at the conference. Jeff Nolan on Web 2.0 Expo 2008

I was talking with a client last week about one of their upcoming conferences, giving them tips, do’s and don’ts. As I go to a lot of conferences, they said, they wanted to get some input on what works and doesn’t.

The point Jeff raises, which I passed along to this client and I try to tell other people on the topic, is right on: conferences suffer from a severe lack of places to simply hang out. Trying to find a good place to sit that has power outlets is always tough. (Wifi is a given, or should be.)

I’m not sure why, but convention centers are usually not geared towards hanging out: they’re geared towards broadcasting and, worse, people using pen and paper. There’s rarely enough outlets and never enough chairs.

Events like SXSW have done marginally well with hang out space. SAP TechEd events have done very well with setting up “club houses” – they even have espresso machines! At IBM’s Impact Event a few weeks ago, I was shocked to see that the MGM Grand conference center had built-in hanging out space – there were several areas that were just stocked with chairs and couches. EclipseCon has a nice, tabled out lounge area this year. barcamps, of course, do this exceedingly well as hanging out is the whole point of barcamp.

MaxUp Lounge

People at conferences want to – or should want to – hang out with other people and chat with them. Traveling to a conference can seem sort of silly if you’re just taking in a presentation, but it seems very helpful – and worth all the green hand-wringing about business travel – if you can actually hang out and chat with people face-to-face.

So there’s your #1 advice for making a better conference: setup lots of lounges in the hallway, dot the halls with them. Try to get vendors to sponsor them instead of paying for booths: “this moment of peace and enjoyment brought to you by Citrix.”

Disclaimer: SAP, Eclipse, Adobe, and IBM are clients.

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2 Responses

  1. Not only more space but sometimes also more time in the schedule for random (or not so random) chats to happen.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. The informal chats and meetings that come about when there’s good space to hang out are one of my favorite parts of the conference experience. I thought that this year’s EclipseCon was amazing as usual, but lacked a bit in the lounge department, so I just forwarded this great summary to the organizers.