One of the realities when choosing which tech conferences to attend is that many times the bandwagon approach really is the best way to go. Regardless of how good or bad the event itself is as long as you meet the right people at the event it can still be a success. With this in mind before you buy tickets for an event you ant to decide how many other attendees you think should be there. For myself if I’m going to a low budget niche event like Vloggerfair I’d like to see around 1000 attendees. This isn’t a huge number of people, but for a one day, highly focused event, 1000 fellow attendees seems right to me. If I’m going to something in Las Vegas that is broader based such as InterOp I’d like to see around 10,000. And if I’m going to CES I’m just resigned to the fact I’ll be in a herd of cattle for a week. These are numbers I like to see based on experience, but you’ll have to figure out where you feel comfortable. Basically I want to know that there are enough people that I’ll actually make connections that are valuable vs. simply swapping business cards.
The folks that run tech events know that they will be judged based on attendance and so sadly will use small techniques to try to give an illusion of size when it doesn’t actually exist. Many people make judgements based on the pictures they see from these events and it’s amazing how camera angle can skew your perception of attendance.
If you have more than enough attendees and want to show it off you take pictures from a high angle. This angle will show the entire room, and that the whole room is stuffed with people. The following is a picture from CES 2015 and as you can see there’s little doubt as to whether or not there were a lot of people:
On the other hand of attendance is not impressive you can take pictures from a lower angle and it makes it seem as if a lot of people are in the picture when in reality there is not. From a high angle you would see empty seats, but from a low angle those empty seats magically disappear. Here’s a low angle picture from Pandoland 2015 :
What makes a “good” conference experience depends on what you are looking for. A conference of a 100 people where you meet a your technical cofounder will be worth more than attending CES and just seeing a bunch of cool stuff you have no use for. Just keep in mind that event marketers are playing tricks to get you attend their event. Their goal is to make the event seem impressive so people attend and sponsors pay large fees. The problem for you is that events such as Pandoland charge $699 a ticket which doesn’t include your airfare, hotel, and such. You’ll end up spending $2000 to attend an event like this which may be better invested in a new server.
As with all things in business the goal of going to events is not to simply say that you were there. The goal is to have a valuable takeaway that ends up being worth exponentially more than you paid to attend.
I’m beating up a bit on Pandoland 2015 because even after giving away tickets to any woman that wanted to attend I still cannot find any mention of number of attendees or tickets distributed. Even Vloggerfair has a sponsor packet that shows 2000 tickets sold.