- My good friends Cal Evans and Jacques Woodcock organized the event which made me feel like an "insider."
- I got to see my friends speak, and they were all really good! Tim Moses, Ben Ramsey, Jason Myers, Eli Tapolcsanyi (say that name 10 times fast!), Jim Siegienski ("Jimski"), Jon Shearer... loved them all. I missed Kevin Powell and other friends, but I heard they did great as well.
- My business partner, Brett Florio, flew in from California so we got to enjoy the conference together.
- My company, FoxyCart, was a lab sponsor.
For a first year conference, I was amazed at the turnout, the quality, and the smoothness with which everything was done. The result was a testimony to Cal's many years of conference experience combined with Jacques, Kathy and the volunteer team's pursuit of excellence.
But that's not really what this blog post is about. I wanted to highlight #4 above. I've been to a few conferences now (JavaOne, AdobeMax, Shop.org, PHP Tek, BarCamp, PodCamp, etc), and I usually follow the unspoken rule when it comes to vendor tables: Get in, get your free swag, get out, and, no matter what, do not make eye contact!
No one likes to be poorly marketed to. It makes you feel like a roast pig on a spit.
For the first time ever, I was on the other side of the vendor booth. FoxyCart was a proud sponsor of CoderFaire. Look, we bought a banner and everything! We're a real company now! (after only 5 short years). The genius of the setup was we weren't allowed to "sell." We were lab partners, there to answer questions about our service and equip others to build awesome.
This is the way it should be done. Vendors should think of their conference presence as an opportunity to serve their community in person. To put a human face on the awesome support they already give, day in and day out.
I think we've all been trained by bad vendor booths. People hawking their products and services to anyone and everyone: bribing you with a t-shirt and shaming you for not signing up for the newsletter.
Cal and Jacques: Thank you.
Thank you for showing us all something different. It's hard being on the other side of the booth. It's hard to get past that unspoken rule and let coders know, "We're here to help. Really." But you made it possible.
We had some great conversations and hopefully sparked the beginnings of some new partnerships. The feedback I got at Tuesday night's NashCocktail and last night's CentreSource Interactive Mixer from CoderFaire attendees was incredible.
They loved that we, as a vendor, were there for them. We participated in the hackthon (more about that later... I'm going to turn that thing into a business). We attended sessions and asked questions. We, as developers, were part of the community, not a parasite feeding on it.
The next time you attend a conference, look for the vendors that genuinely want to serve you. Thank them for being there. Tell them you enjoy doing business with real people who care about their customers.
I know it will mean a lot to them because the feedback we've gotten has meant a lot to us.
(Note: All of these pictures were blatantly stolen from Cal and Jacques. They both know where I live, so they can come beat me up if they don't like me using them).
Did you attend CoderFaire? If so, what did you think?
Got an interesting conference story involving vendors? Please share it in the comments!