I expected that the Kalamazoo X conference would be a success but I was surprised by how successful it was.
Everything started with Michael Eaton. He turned the concept - a conference consisting primarily of talks on soft skills - into reality. Assisted by a staff of volunteers, Michael secured the venue, promoted the event, signed up the sponsors and recruited the speakers. The speaker list was impressive - most traveled from Ohio and most have a solid reputation in the development community.
I was grateful that Mike asked me to speak at this conference and I was excited to do it.
A couple weeks ago, Mike suggested that we switch from a multi-track to a single-track event. This meant that all sessions would be held in the same room and that no two speakers would talk at the same time. In order to accommodate this format, all sessions had to be cut from one hour to 25 minutes. This was difficult for those who had already prepared an hour-long talk. However, nearly all were able to make the adjustment. (At least one speaker decided to back out after the format change was announced). For me, this was less of an issue because I had never given my talk before and had barely begun preparing it.
The format worked really well. Speakers were forced to cut the fat from their slides and each talk was concise and to the point. This also gave me the opportunity to watch every session, since I never had to choose between two excellent speakers.
One thing that added to the event was Mike's skills as a Master of Ceremonies. He introduced each speaker by telling a personal story about him or her. It was clear he was familiar with all the speakers and had put some preparation into these introductions.
My talk - Effective Communication with your Customer or Manager - was very well received. Several people approached me afterward and told me how much they enjoyed it. I'm working on a series of articles on this topic and hope to have them out in the next few weeks.
The most telling thing about the success of the conference was that there were attendance was higher at the end of the day than at the beginning. Whatever small attrition occurred during the day was more than offset by others showing up.
I'm looking forward to next year.
See more photos here