What started as a bit of complaining and wanted to scratch my own itch, ended up being an excellent day of talks and very, very well received first time conference.
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Leading up to the idea
True, back then, my imagination was limited compared to today, but it's something that has kept me excited over a good number of years.
So when I found out that the US were running JS Conf, I knew I had to see something here in the UK.
Once I had been convinced by Julie it was something we could do, I went about hand picking my speakers, and then announcing the conference. This also meant that there were no sponsored slots available, something I had been asked about after we launched, but I felt it was important to me to keep the content on topic and free of any sales pitches.
I was also adamant that the cost of the ticket should be cheap enough that I would be happy to go along. Sometimes you don't know how much you'll get out of a conference, so when faced with a £500 ticket price it's tough to justify, especially if you're a freelancer. I felt that around the £100 mark made it a much easier decision to make, freelancers and full timers alike.
Going from 90 to 250
Originally Julie and I had looked at, and were about to book, a venue in Brighton in a hotel convention room. It would hold about 80-90 people, was relatively posh, but still felt like it might come off as a meet up rather than a conference. This wasn't a big deal, but I wanted the day to feel special for the delegates along with delivering awesome talks.
However, a little over a week before the conference was set for 90 people, I had a conversation with Jeremy Keith changed all that. It went pretty much like this:
Jeremy: You should run Full Frontal at the Duke of Yorks cinema
He waves two fingers across my face whilst doing so, in an Obi Wan-esque way.
Me: you know what, I should run Full Frontal at the Dukes of Yorks
In my best "these aren't the droids we're looking for" face.
And that was that. We got on to the Duke of Yorks and suddenly our conference was increased by 150% - and the venue change was a superb suggestion, it added so much more character to the conference, and resulted in tweets such as:
At #fullfrontal09. Most comfy seats I've ever [known] at a conference — @jot
So thank you Jeremy :)
It was so good, that it actually started to really worry me that my own conference wouldn't live up to my own expectations, let alone the delegates (seriously, JS Conf was awesome).
The guys behind JS Conf.eu, Jan, Matle and hblank were all supportive of Full Frontal, and as I like to see in normal business, there was a collaboration of conferences rather than competition. My hat goes off to you chaps (and everyone who supported your conference).
The day was a HUGE success. A few issues I hit were:
- The wifi was pretty nuked - but to be fair, that's the case at most conferences and I told all the delegates at the start of the day to use their 3G. My intention was that since most people would have mobile devices, they could tweet from there - and they did! :) I don't see this as big deal and I'm happy with how it was handled.
- I forgot music for the intervals, which only really showed in the morning when delegates were arriving, but by 9:10am I had hooked up my iPhone's music to the PA system, and the silence was broken. As it turns out, we didn't need it during the breaks.
- Lunch was a bit of a mad rush for the speakers. In fact, since we (the speakers and supporting staff) didn't get over to the local pub until (what seemed like) everyone else had, we didn't manage to get served before the 2nd half of the day resumed, so it was sandwiches all round. Not a biggie either.
That was about it for problems. Pros included:
- Hugely comfy seats and venue with great character
- Frickin' awesome talks from Christian, Robert, PPK, Stuart, Todd, Jake and Simon
- Jake's talk was not only pure comedy throughout, but riddled with genuinely good content, a balance that's hard to strike
- A successful after party (which I bought the first round for everyone)
- Everyone's really positive feedback to Julie and I after the conference and at the after party
The conference was a success because of a number of factors, including:
- It's sponsors: Yahoo! developer network, Guardian's open platform, Opera, .net, Dharmafly, O'Reilly and AVT.
- All of our delegates
- Our volunteers: Claire, Danny, Natalie and Jon
- Julie - my wife, who ran the strategic parts of the conference organising and the actual day itself, and kicked me up the bum to get Full Frontal to you all.
Full Frontal 2010?