What do you think about Alfresco’s multi-city event approach?

Alfresco is getting big enough to warrant a regular get-together. So far, the approach has been to have multiple, smaller events rather than one big one as is done by traditional vendors. Over the past few weeks I’ve been wondering if the multi-event model makes sense. I get the concept: Theoretically it boosts attendance and helps attendees contain costs because people don’t have to travel as far–the conference comes to you.

But there are a few problems with the approach:

  1. you can never pick enough cities in the right places to reduce the travel burden to zero for everyone,
  2. partners and sponsors have to attend multiple events to get full coverage, and
  3. it’s tough to ensure consistent delivery of information across multiple events.

Regarding the first two, I would think anyone contemplating an Alfresco rollout (or already a paying customer) would be able to find budget to travel to a conference, even in times such as these. Integrators also make up a significant portion of the audience, but I think they would also be able to justify the trip based on the valuable lessons learned, new ideas sparked, etc. I would also guess that partners and vendors might be more willing to sponsor the conference if there were a single event rather than multiple smaller events because they get more eyeballs for one spend.

If these were the only two issues, I’d say it doesn’t matter. You’re either going to travel to the conference or you’re going to get lucky and not have to because the event is in your city. And partners who can afford sponsorships can also afford to send people to multiple cities to get the coverage they want (thanks, Optaros).

The third problem needs fixing. As someone who saw the same agenda delivered three times, I was struck by how different the morning sessions were in each of the three cities:

  • If you missed Washington D.C., you missed John Newton’s unique spin on CMIS, his statement that in Alfresco 4.0 he would “finish off the Explorer client”, and his thoughts on the cloud.
  • If you missed Atlanta, you didn’t get to hear Michael Uzquiano talk about the future of the product he manages, Alfresco WCM, and Alfresco’s plan to converge on the DM repository going forward.
  • If you missed LA, you didn’t see Luis Sala’s Amazon EC2 demo and you didn’t hear Dr. Ian Howells’ take on where the ECM market is heading.

In all three cases the content was similar (Alfresco is growing, CMIS, Records Management, and the cloud are important, the roadmap is exciting), but the delivery and the talking points were very different because the speakers each have their own unique perspective, careabouts, and role within Alfresco. Is that a big deal? Maybe, maybe not. The point is that the three events were decidedly different, and in hindsight, were travel not an issue, you might have picked one over another based on who was speaking on which topic.

I definitely don’t want to take away from the events and the planning and coordination it must have taken to pull them all off. I’m just thinking out loud and wondering about your opinion:

  • Would Alfresco be better off having a single event or should they continue with the multi-city approach?
  • Would your opinion change if you had to pay a significant registration fee to defray the cost of a larger venue? (I have no idea how the costs compare between the two models, I just assume a big room in Vegas is more expensive than three small rooms in assorted Marriotts).
  • What if Alfresco dove-tailed the conference with a broader conference like JavaOne or SpringOne? Aside from the obvious cross-pollination possibilities, does it make it easier for you to justify the expense?