Ben Callahan, the President of Sparkbox, for which I work, wrote down some great observations on what makes an event, or conference, great. The three key ingredients he sees are Thematic Content, Inviting Space, and Challenging Conversation. Having just returned from a great conference, I couldn’t agree more with this list.
I had a wonderful opportunity last week to participate at the CSS Dev Conference on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. I gave a talk on the concept of element queries and how to use them. While I had an absolutely wonderful time, I can’t help but now examin the conference through the lens Ben setup in his article.
First off the conference is called CSS Dev Conf, while not every talk is about CSS specifically, it is a broad theme of design in development. The shining theme this year was SVGs and a deep dive into its possiblities. The winning1 talk, by Sarah Drasner, was on animating SVGs. Sarah did a terrific job with her presentation, it was a well-deserved. Other’s presented on SVGs in all kinds of niche uses. It was quite exciting.
The next part of Ben’s list is to provide an Inviting Space. Here I must say is where I see the conference organizers shine. CSS Dev Conf is run by Environments for Humans (E4H). Throughout most of the year E4H runs a number of online conferences, such as the RWD Summit. CSS Dev Conf is their live event, and they know how to put on a show. For starters the conference was held on the RMS Queen Mary–a retired 1930’s British cruise ship permanatly docked in Long Beach, CA, and it’s haunted. Hard to beat that conference venue. What’s better is E4H foster’s a great environment to relax and mingle with other web folk. Every night there was some kind of event, even the day before the conference officially kicked off.
The last part of Ben’s list is Challenging Conversation. That part always depends on who you are around and perhaps who you are. For me I’m not always the most out going, the challenging part of a conversation for me can just starting. But once conversations do start, there is so much that can be said, and when there are great speakers talking about great content, the conversation is abundant. I got to meet some fantastic folks at CSS Dev Conf, and many I hope to keep up with.
I think the last thing I would add to this list is for me, Speak Up. Its great to go to a conference and soak in all kinds of great and useful knowledge, but being silent doesn’t help you or the industry. You have a voice. You have thoughts and opinions about what you see at the conferences you attend. Say “hello” to other attendees and ask about their thoughts on a topic that was convered. Help develop your thoughts and other’s thoughts through dialogue. Better yet though, Speak Up just to meet people who do what you do, who struggle with the same stuff. Make friends and have fun. This industry is built on far more than knowledge of topcis, but it’s built on relationships and encouraging people far beyond the work we do.
CSS Dev Conf runs as a multi-track conference with attendee voting of each talk. The winners of each track then present again, the idea being that those that missed the best would have another opportunity to see those talks. The next level of voting applies to those that presented again, which declares a popular vote winner of the speakers. ↩