It’s a question that I hear probably 6-8 times per “conference cycle” (ie, 6 to 8 times per year for every conference I run): “Why don’t you move Defrag to California?”
Now admittedly, my personality bristles a bit at the suggestion. Over the years, I’ve tried to find ways to stay calm — but I’ll admit that “calm” is a relative term (I remember yelling obscenities at my computer when I heard Mike Arrington say “if you’re serious, you move to the valley”; incidentally, this was shortly before he moved *from* the valley to WA. I guess he’s not “serious.”). So, yea, I probably still snap a bit when someone implies that Defrag would be “better” somehow if we moved it to California. And, in the interest of having something to point to in the future, and explaining publicly why I will NOT move it to California (hint: it’s better in Colorado), I thought I’d explain things a bit.
Sidenote: Before I do — my favorite corollary to “why don’t you move it to California?” is “we only sponsor conferences in the Bay Area.” To which I always reply: “Really? Do you only sign up customers in the Bay Area, too?”
So – why…
1. I do not think that all innovation comes from the Valley: Boulder is the perfect (and currently “hot”) example of that. But it’s certainly not the only one — Austin, Raleigh-Durham, Minneapolis-St. Paul — so many places in this country produce so many great examples of innovation. Valley-centricity is just silly.
2. Our attendees aren’t all from the Valley: The common mistake of conference organizers is to place their conferences where the majority of their *sponsors* are located (traditionally, the valley). But that assumes that you think your sponsors are your customers. And everyone who knows what they’re doing in conferences knows that your primary customer is actually your *attendee* NOT your *sponsor*. When you mix up the equation, you get bad content, bad interactions and a conference that doesn’t last. So, while a lot of our sponsors may be valley-based, our attendees (the REALLY important people) aren’t. In fact, they’re spread pretty evenly across the country (about 50% east and 50% west of the ole miss, the old man, the old river…). Ergo, locating the show in the valley doesn’t make sense for at least HALF of our customers.
3. It’s a better experience when it’s not in the Valley: Have you ever been to a conference at a convention center in or around the valley? You get what I refer to as the “drive-by conference attendee/speaker.” The person that “stops-by” for their talk, or one or two sessions and then “heads back to the office” or “goes to a few meetings.” The conference is almost a distraction in their calendar. THAT is not conducive to a truly good networking experience at a conference. Truly good networking at a conference occurs when the attendees arrive at a location and stay there for two (maybe even three) days. Conversations aren’t 3 minute snippets in the middle of an expo hall. They’re 90 minute threads that have the chance to develop, ferment and be revisited.
4. Travel is good for the soul: Let’s say you’re not from Colorado. Have you ever noticed how just going to a different place/setting can seem to open up your mind to things you’d never thought before? Voila. Defrag. (Oh, by the way, the resort we’re at rocks. Come stare at some mountains.)
Good for innovation. Good for attendees. Good for the overall experience. Good for your soul. That about sums it up.
Could I “grow” Defrag if I moved to the Valley? Probably. But honestly, we’re about quality of networking, not quantity of people.
And I’m happy staying that way.
I hope you’ll join us.