Many people, including me, were disappointed with the special event at SolidWorks World this year. It just seemed ‘less’ than years past. So, to satisfy my curiosity about the ‘why’, I reached out to Kerri Dunne. For those of you who don’t know who Kerri is, she’s the brains behind SolidWorks World. If you want to know more about her, you can read the interview I did with her last year.
I sent her some questions, and she kindly responded. Below is the email that will hopefully answer some of the why:
1. I already know that you pick the venues years ahead, due to the amount of planning involved, but how far ahead do you plan the where and what of the events?
We are booked until 2014, so at least 3-4 years in advance. We look at venues to see if they can accommodate the amount of people we expect, the amount of technical sessions we need, with room to grow. This year we added another Hands-on room, which allowed us to add 11 more hands-on sessions, which we know people want, We also scope out places for events like CSWP and the Special Event during the selection phase for venues.
2. Why was the special event so “scaled down” this year?
If you were in General Session on Day 1, you heard Jeff Ray say that we are still in a recession and at SolidWorks we had to make difficult decisions in order to not have any layoffs. With that being said, some areas of SolidWorks World were affected. Some not so apparent, but others, like the Special Event were a little more clear. To set the story straight, I’ve read some of the comments on the blogs about what we were going to do ect… we were not going to hire Santana for one. We were considering Disney or Knott’s Berry Farm, but due to having to scale back, we chose to do something onsite. This did save money in terms of not having to transport thousands of people.
Now, I know there were comments on the layout of the event and when planning something from scratch you have to visual how people will move about the event. You are also limited to what the event hall can do as well, like the lighting for instance. Lights are set up in sections, not each individual light, so you have to pick and choose areas. Since we didn’t want to do full lights up as that would be like walking though any hall, we did our best to do low lighting. What we could have done better was the lighting on the buffets, which I agree and mentioned during the event to add light. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do at this point and the convention center would not allow candles on the buffets due to fire hazard. In regards to the layout, we choose to place the cars in the back so we could do full lighting for people to see and also to move people through the venue. If we placed them cars in the front nobody would have walked through the hall and we would have had bottlenecking issues. For the band we wanted them in the middle for the sound to travel throughout the venue.
3. With regard to this year’s special event, how was the decision reached to have a live rock band play versus some other form of entertainment (comedian for instance)?
From previous communications with the community, we know the group likes music and Aerosmith was a band that was repeatedly named. Now, I did look into getting Aerosmith for real, but at a cost of $1MIL++ – obviously way beyond my budget AND with the band broken up it wasn’t a possibility. As for other forms of entrainment, a band is a good choice to go with, with a group this size as it provides background music or if you want to be entertained you can watch the band. There were people crowding the stage at the end of the night. They even made the band come out to do one more song. As for having other types of entertainment, to have something like a comedian would be difficult for a group our size.
4. In years past, there has been a much wider variety of food to choose from, why not this year?
The range of food wasn’t too different than previous years. It just may have seemed more obvious due to the fact that everything was closer together.
5. Without stating hard numbers, can you estimate what percentage of the overall cost of hosting SolidWorks World is offset by attendee and vendor fees, as well as corporate sponsorships? This relates to how some feel “ripped off”.
I know I feel bad that some said they felt like they were “ripped off”. Without getting into specifics, I can say attendee fees and sponsorships cover less than half the cost of the event. Therefore, SolidWorks does take on a lot of the cost in order for this event to be held. This year we also wanted to be sensitive to the fact that we did have the special event onsite this year, so we reduce the guest fee for the special event to $50. It was difficult trying to find the areas to cut some items that were up for discussion were the giveaways like t-shirts and backpacks, or eliminated beer and wine, but knew that would be a huge issue. Therefore we had to cut elsewhere.
6. How big of an effect did the recession have on this year’s SolidWorks World?
Although our total numbers were great, we did have a lot more people opting for the “Expo Only” pass (cost $199), which allows an individual to get into General Session and the Partner Pavilion only, versus the full conference pass which allows attendees access to everything- technical training sessions, meals, partner pavilion, general sessions, special event.
7. While I don’t expect specifics, can we expect similar changes for SWW’11 in San Antonio?
We will see. It all depends on the economy. We appreciate everyone’s feedback and will do our best in 2011 to make up for the areas that people felt were scaled back this year. Please let everyone know to fill out the post conference survey, which will go out this week to attendees, to provide us with more feedback. We want the feedback—good or bad! This is the SolidWorks community’s event and we want to make it the best event for everyone as possible. Everyone at SolidWorks, including the Executive team, read this information and want to have the best event possible for the community.
On a side note, there are a lot of people who work on this event and as crazy as the event is everyone loves the event and pours their heart and soul into it to make it the best for the community. SolidWorks World is very special to all of us who work on it as we want to make it the best possible for the community. I can’t stress that enough. It makes me sad when it is over as it seems to go so fast. We all love meeting up with the customers, resellers, members of the press, our partners and other colleagues. You put it best, it is like Christmas being over when it is done—all that planning for what feels like 1 hour of unwrapping and eating- then done!!
Thanks again for letting me share my thoughts.
Ok, first and foremost, contrary to what Josh may have said via Twitter, I was not taking shots every time ‘Cloud’ was mentioned. I just want to get that out of the way.
Now for the good stuff…
5000+ attendees at SolidWorks world this year. That is an awesome number! A surprising one, too. Given the economy, one wouldn’t have thought that SWW attendance would exceed last year’s. Very impressive.
Jeff Ray started things off, as usual. He then introduced Bernard Charlčs, Dassault Systemes’ CEO, who talked about Dassault, how the acquired SolidWorks and where the company is going. If his vision comes true, life for designers will be very different come 2021.
Jeff then brought up Jeremy Luchini and the guy from Prototype this (my note taking abilities suck). They built an electric 1933 roadster! It is, in a word, awesome! I’m going to try to lay out some bribes to take it for a spin around the convention center. How many electric cars do you know of that can bust out tire burning donuts? Awesome!
It was time for a sneak peek into the future and what did we see? Well, what I saw was my presentation being obsoleted right before my eyes. Here I am, nervous as hell to do this presentation on how to maintain your hardware and drivers, and SolidWorks is looking at moving to the cloud. That’s right, the cloud. That means any computer, any OS. It’s years away, but it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. Right now, I see bandwidth being a huge issue.
The session ended with James McLurkin, roboticist extraordinaire. This guy, like me, makes being a geek cool. He’s one of the top robot guys in the world and is doing some amazing stuff with them. He did allay the fears of robots ever taking over the world. Not sure if that’s good or bad.
It’s actually Tuesday right now. I had nothing but problems getting this post done yesterday. Today I have two presentations. Frankly, I’m nervous as hell. Depending on how they go, I may be quite hungover tomorrow.
After an uneventful flight on my current favorite airline, Virgin America, I arrived in Anaheim to the welcoming committee that was Alex Ruiz. He’d run into Mr. Christy Jordan (nee Ricky Jordan) and Rich Hall, so the twosome became a foursome and off we went to the hotel. (Tangent here – more swag just came my way courtesy of Al Dean and Develop3D. I love swag) After a quick shower, it was time for an informal tweet-up in the lobby of the Hilton. After a bit of discussion, a group of us were off to Chubby’s for dinner. You can see said group over at Deelip’s blog.
As seems to be the norm, a large contingent of SolidWorks World attendees, employees, bloggers, VARs were congregated around the bar. With this being my fifth SWW, it was a time to reacquaint myself with friends from years past. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when I was approached by three gentlemen. They wanted to know if I was Jeff Mirisola. Though the temptation to say ‘no’ was there, I admitted that I was. Turns out, they were from AMV and wanted to thank me for my review of SteelWorks. Phew! You’re welcome, guys, it’s a great product!
The night ended quietly, unlike last year. I’m quite happy that I don’t feel compelled to apologize to anyone I may have spoken to. Today is a mellow day. Tonight, well, that may be a different story.
In just over 24 hours I’ll be boarding a Virgin American plane (my current favorite airline) for Anaheim, and I can’t wait. Ever since my first SolidWorks World, way back in 2005, I’ve been hooked. Each and every one I’ve been to has been remarkable in one way or another. Aside from the fact that I’ll be presenting for the first time, this year won’t be any different I’m sure.
While I’m planning on going to some sessions while there, inevitably I’ll end up altering my schedule. There’s always something, or someone, to see. It truly is one of the most hectic weeks during the year, but worth every single energy sucking moment. The rush of seeing thousands of users pouring into the general assembly, the wide-eyed stares of first timers, the camaraderie of friends who see each other only at SolidWorks World. I don’t think I can do it justice with my feeble writing.
There is going to be a ton of info coming out of SolidWorks World next week. Blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts…it’s going to be insane. I wonder who will put out the most info? Personally, my money is on Mr. Mings. If you go to the SolidWorks Blog, there’s a list of places for you to be able to keep up with all the goings on. If you are going, and you see me, please introduce yourself. It’s always nice to meet the people who take the time to read my drivel.
Well, will it be? You know you want to go; you can almost taste how badly you want to rub elbows with thousands of other SolidWorks users can’t you? Have you seen the lineup of speakers for SolidWorks World 2010 yet? There’s the usual suspects from SolidWorks: Marlon Banta, Joy Garon, Mark Biasotti as well as a slew of others. Then you have the usual, non-employee, power users: Matt Lombard, Devon Sowell, Gerald Davis. Then you have me. Seriously, how can you even think of not going now? Instead of reading the drivel I write, you’ll be able to hear it first-hand!
I could easily see this post starting to sound like a broken record spouting off all the reasons you should go to SolidWorks World. What I want to know is why you don’t want to go. Not why you can’t (money, time off), but why you won’t. I’m interested to hear.