One thing is for sure, arranging an event at scale is not for faint hearted individuals or even companies. We started this project as a fun little thing 3 years ago and now it turned out into one of the premium event for anyone working in Integration area in the Microsoft stack. We even expanded it to other countries like US and Australia last year. We are less than a month away to 2015 event (April 13th and 14th), we thought we should give you an update on behind the scene work what we have in the past few months to put this event together.
We originally planned for 2015 event in second week of March (9th and 10th) at our regular venue Microsoft Central London office (Cardinal place). This is one of the key event venues used by most of the Microsoft partners across UK and it get’s booked up well in advance. We made the booking some 8 months ago and we were all fully set. In the mean time we organised the US event INTEGRATE 2014 along with Microsoft and some sponsors at Microsoft campus in Redmond, where Microsoft introduced bunch of new things that’s coming in 2015, like Azure App Platform, Micro Services, etc and promised the bits will be available for public preview by first quarter of 2015. This changed the whole equation, the product group wanted to use London event as a platform to bring some of the stuff to public and they won’t be ready by 1st week of March. We tried few options to find alternate dates in April or even up to mid May, but nothing was available at Microsoft campus until July.
At this stage we decided to look out for some external event venues in London, since we didn’t have a choice. After seeing few places, spending couple of days hoping on London underground and car, we finalized on couple of venues, one is Hilton at Tower bridge and other is ExCel exhibition centre. They both came with it’s own pro’s and con’s. Hilton had a maximum capacity of 200 people, but the cost was reasonable. ExCel gave us the opportunity to expand the event and space for bringing some sponsors but at a high price point, after doing all the brainstorming and number crunching, we finally decided to go ahead with ExCel, London.
Running the event at prestigious ExCel exhibition centre came with a price tag of £21,000 for the venue + £4000 to cover AV and Security. This is just the charges for the venue hire and top of it, we had to cover for food and drinks for attendees, roughly at £140/attendee (unfortunately food at event venues are expensive and you do not have control!!) and finally speaker logistics (accommodation + travel + attendee expenses). At this point we roughly needed 400 attendees to break even with a ticket price of £200/attendee (£60 per attendee going towards covering venue hire), which is quite high risk and not practical. In addition to this there are few other additional expenses like video recording, attendee party, pre-conference dinner, marketing materials etc., which we know are kind of optional and take it off if required.
Now we need to make some decisions on how we are going to progress further. We really don’t want to increase the attendee price, we are interested in having maximum attendees. The only other option is finding some sponsors to compensate the cost. As a first step, we contacted Microsoft, after few conference calls with key people they agreed to become a platinum sponsor for the event, which covered portion of the venue hire charges, we were still short by big margin. As a next step we started contacting some of the potential sponsors who will be interested in event and we luckily managed to get few sponsors. It was not straight forward to convince people to sponsor for the event, even couple of them first agreed and then dropped the ball later. Some of them were not ready to sponsor if the speaking slot was not given, we politely said no to them in the interest of keeping the event content concrete and focused.
At this stage we are good enough, we mitigated the risk substantially, but still required close to 200 attendees to avoid any loses. Just to keep in mind we haven’t discussed anything about amount of work put together by our event management team in the whole co-ordination, it roughly equates to 2 people full time work for nearly 2 months.
Pictures from our site visit, ExCel Platinum suite
In parallel we were co-coordinating in organising the speakers line up, keynote speaker, Microsoft product group speakers, session details, event agenda, Visa invitations, etc. There are tons of logistical work behind the scene, normally companies hire event management companies to help in this, but with our tight budget we had to do everything in house. In fact now we have our own event management team, with the experience we gained over years.
Finally we rushed and announced the event registration with just a simple page on EventBrite on end of January, on the day of opening the registration we received 27 registrations. This is a great start and just showed the amount of trust people kept on us in running the show. Over the last 8 weeks period the registrations were constantly progressing as shown in the below picture reaching 245 registrations.
PS: The above numbers are just from regular registrations, in addition we have about 30 people (speakers, sponsors and organisers).
Now we comfortably crossed the threshold point and now started thinking about enhancing the event experience. We organised for the full video recording of the event, and an evening attendee party on the first day (April 13th). When we looked at the stats before writing this article, this is how it looks
|Companies||91 (count may be higher, since it’s an optional field)|
|Speakers||20 (9 from Microsoft PG + 11 Integration MVP’s)|
PS: We announced 66 companies in twitter couple of days ago, which was not correct, since we missed some data.
Following are the list of countries we have attendees registered from
The idea for us behind running this event(s) is not to make money (in fact we lost some in couple of occasions), it’s purely to pull together a massive community event and also to make ourselves visible within the market we are working on. We were bit frustrated attending general industry tech events like TechEd (now Ignite), Build etc and hardly finding any sessions related to Integration. There were numerous occasions, where out of the 5 day conferences you see 1 or 2 session on BizTalk, that too covering very high level topics. We wanted to change it, and we wanted to run an event that’s of interest to people in Integration space. We are really excited about the event now, and it’s going to be one of the biggest ever Integration focused event conducted (in Microsoft Stack). You can find more about the event here BizTalk Summit 2015, London