As a journalist I spend a lot of time in conferences. There’s often a sense of déjà vu.
The same faces, topics and speakers show up time after time. Even the same food.
It’s not unusual to recognise recycled PowerPoint slides or even an entire presentation from a previous event.
Powerpoint slides are never old friends. Nor are blatant, self-serving vendor pitches disguised as ‘insights’.
Apart from a few friendly faces, none of the above applied at Open Source Open Society 2015.
If there was recycled material, well, I’d never seen it before.
Almost every word and a huge slice of the themes were either new ideas or solid ones repackaged in original ways to offer fresh insight and inspiration.
We heard new voices. In many cases these were voices that don’t get heard as often or as widely as they should.
My notebook has a good swag of names to contact for future stories.
That is one way I benchmark a conference. It’s one thing to file a handful of stories from the event, coming away with a treasure chest of gold for future stories is like money in the bank.
Above all else OSOS2015 had the highest signal-to-noise ratio I’ve experienced in a while. That’s another way I benchmark a conference.
To use the fashionable term, OSOS2015 was brilliantly curated.
It was expertly staged and well organised. Things rolled along nicely. The metaphoric trains all ran on time.
And the vibe was just great. That’s the hardest thing to get right at an event.
An organiser told me there were behind the scenes panics, but none of that was visible from where I sat on the media benches.
Personal high points:
- It was refreshing to see so many women speak, chair and MC at a technology-focus event.
- Organisers set aside time for one-on-one discussion.
- Not letting people to stand and pontificate at the end of each session. Every organiser should follow the OSOS2015 practice of encouraging discussion on social media and in Loomia forums.
- The catering was great with plenty of choice for people with special dietary needs.
- The organising team were friendly, approachable and competent. It was as if they had been running these things all their lives.
- There was a good mix of local voices and overseas speakers.
- I noticed many of the guest speakers participated in the event. They didn’t just turn up, phone in a presentation, then race off in an attempt to emphasis just how important and special they are. They were also willing to chat to others. That open source open society tag wasn’t just paying lip service to an idea.
- The end of conference party was fabulous. I don’t ever remember seeing people with event lanyards dancing like that.
- The sponsors, mainly companies orbiting the Enspiral mothership, got the promotional balance right.
- I love the Mark Tantrum photographs, the [#overhead tweets](https://storify.com/ososoverheard/overheard-at-osos2015-by-cocamassey), the artistic graffiti around the building and the instant postcards given away at the end of the event.
- The Enspiral promotional event was an optional add-on at the end of the first day. About 80 percent of the audience stayed for all of it.
- Letting people sign-up for dinners at local restaurants was a terrific idea, especially for out-of-towners.
While OSOS2015 is one of the best events I’ve attended in recent times, it wasn’t perfect. Conferences never are. But this was the first run.
There are a couple of minor things that need tweaking for a follow-up event:
- The Michael Fowler Centre is a great venue, however the huge main auditorium often looked empty even though most of the time there were well over 250 people in the room. That’s a shame. I guess the only way to fix that is to sell 5–600 tickets in 2016 and fill the place out.
- At some points there were too many breakout sessions to choose from. That wasn’t always a bad thing, but at least twice I found I wanted to be in two places at once. This worked out fine for me, but another time I’d like less choice. On the other hand, the atomised breakouts on day two were a great idea.
There are few conferences I’d want to attend if I wasn’t covering them as a journalist. This was one of the them. On the other hand, I plan to work at Open Source Open Society 2016 and come away with another swag of interesting stories and leads.