How to Run a Great Digital Conference

LessConf custom fortune cookie

I’ve been speaking at digital conferences since 2001, and I’ve spoken at everything from social media cons to usability cons to Linux cons to sociology cons, so I have a really good feel for what makes a Digital con good or bad.

I just attended the LessConf in Atlanta; one of my favorite cons to date. Limited to 225 participants, LessConf breaks rules. Leaders Allan and Steve really get it and get what their crowd is into. Every day was a surprise, from having speakers talk about how they failed with their startups to afternoon ice cream trucks to giving onstage wedgies to audience members (yes, you read that right).

Only at LessConf can you get an onstage wedgie

A few weeks prior, I attended a large digital conference in Manhattan—let’s call them “MoreConf”—that had Fortune 500 CMOs speaking—and clearly an enormous amount of money behind it. Yet had it not been for outstanding presenters, the bigger conference would have been an epic fail.

What made the smaller conference so awesome and the well-funded one so full of suck? Plenty, it turns out.

LessConf MoreConf
  • Ample WiFi
  • Lots of plugs for laptops
  • Comfortable, modern seating
  • Hashtags posted on site in advance of conference
  • Sensible finger foods (sushi, pizza) easily eaten with plasticware
  • Swag bag with stickers, PopRocks, local deals, custom fortune cookies, animal crackers, a toy and a notepad
  • Four free t-shirts
  • Hour-long lunch breaks and networking
  • Breaks with coffee, ice cream and local pastries
  • Ample bottled water, juices and sodas
  • Opportunity to meet all speakers and each other
  • No WiFi
  • No plugs anywhere
  • Cramped, inflexible seating
  • Hashtag mentioned 2 hours into conference
  • Foods that are hard to eat with plasticware (steak, asparagus, chicken breasts)
  • Swag bag with pen, notepad and a magazine
  • $25 for a t-shirt
  • Half hour lunch breaks
  • No morning or afternoon breaks
  • Water coolers provided by Google
  • Apart from Q&A, no interaction with speakers

I could cite several more examples, but I’d prefer to leave you with some words from LessConf promoter, Allan Branch. I asked Allan what he thought made LessConf different from other cons.

“We wanted to make the conference we’d want to attend. It’s more like a party than a conference in some ways. If you take away two or three things from the speakers, that’s great. But if you leave with 30 new friends, that’s what it’s all about.”






3 responses to “How to Run a Great Digital Conference”

  1. Jason Beaird Avatar

    Thanks for the comment on my blog, Dave. And I’m glad you and your wife enjoyed my talk. Great post too! I’m happy I finally finished mine, but it turned out far more rambly and less cohesive than yours. Seeya at the next LessEvent?

    1. Dave Linabury Avatar

      We will certainly be there!

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