In case you haven’t heard, I’m working on putting together a conference with Marc Thiele, from Beyond Tellerand. The new conference is called Better by Design.

When I sold my company, Tenon, I decided I’d like to try to do my part to make the world a better place. Turn on the news on your TV or log on to your favorite news website and you’ll see what I mean: war in Eastern Europe, climate crisis, and political partisanship everywhere. There’s a lot of work to be done! Unfortunately, I’m only one guy. But there are tons and tons of people who are already working hard on these problems and I want to introduce all of these people to one another.

So I reached out to my friend, Marc Thiele. Marc has organized Beyond Tellerand for about a decade now. Marc also co-organizes Smashing Conferences which has taken place in Germany, Spain, and the USA. Marc’s focus is on curating a cool environment for attendees and speakers to connect and share knowledge on web and software design and related topics. Beyond Tellerand has an approximate 60% repeat attendance rate.

Together, we’re putting together something similar but with a bit of a twist: sure, it’ll be a general tech conference discussing web and software design, but the overall theme will be to share how others are working on key environmental, sustainability, or humanitarian challenges.

Despite Marc’s experiential knowledge, putting on a conference in a different market (the USA, in this case) is scary. Not doing your market research is betting your success on random chance, and considering the money and effort involved in doing a conference, it would be silly not to spend the time needed to do the research. So, I did.

Sharing is caring

One of the guiding principles of Better by Design is to have the utmost ethics, transparency, and inclusiveness. From our choice of venue, venue location, and our use of local vendors from the BIPOC community to our curation of speakers, we want to lead by doing. As a result, I’m going to be sharing our market research data and outcomes as a series of blog posts. As this series of posts continues, you can always come back and look up the “Conference Market Research” category in this blog for the latest posting as well as for easy access to the full archive of posts.

Some caveats

Before you dive too much into these posts, I’d like to mention a number of important caveats to always be aware of:

  1. Almost all of this data is derived from public information on conference websites. It was extremely rare to get conference organizers to provide any information.
  2. As a result of the above, some of the data suffers from having a good sample size. For example, data on the actual number of attendees or actual number of sponsors is a bit spotty. I’ll declare these situations up front.
  3. Because almost all data is derived from conference websites, it only reflects what conference organizers think that attendees prefer. From my conversations with other organizers, I don’t believe the organizers do much in the way of surveying attendees.
  4. The variance in data in some places makes it difficult to compare events. For example, some conferences are 1-day conferences with 100 attendees, some are 4 or more days with thousands of attendees. This resulted in us attempting to "normalize" the data by counting things per-day. For example, ticket prices for a 4-day event are obviously going to be more expensive than a 1 day event. Averaging out the per-day cost revealed much less variance in the data and we’ll be sure to describe that.

I look forward to sharing this information so that any of my readers interested in organizing their own conference may learn from the insights available from our research.

For those of you who aren’t doing your own conference, please consider signing up for the mailing list on the Better by Design website for more about what we’re up to!