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The Best IT Events 2014: What Attendees Want and Exhibitors Expect, Plus ROI Considerations

What makes an IT Event awesome?

An IT event is a complicated thing…if given a magic wand (or, like below, an enormous foam cowboy hat), would you know how to throw an awesome conference?

Visiting and sponsoring IT events (aka technology exhibitions, conferences, JUG meetups, gatherings, dojos, code camps and various symposia) is an important part of the “human” side to your technology company. It’s pretty crucial to be able to interact in the real world, demonstrating your company’s products & capabilities to a live audience of selective engineers. Right?

It’s at these events that you learn a lot by discussing the pains and issues faced by event attendees, who often pay good money to be there. A technology company may end up spending as much as ⅓ of their marketing budget on events and related expenses, and the ROI is often uncertain–calculating word of mouth is one of marketing’s greatest challenges. Nonetheless, unless your company is open-sourcing the code to 3D-print your own live unicorn, you’ll eventually need to visit your main customer base at an industry event.

This is why it’s good to know what people want at events, and which events you should consider or disregard (for now) in the IT space. With the bulk of the 2013 IT event season closed off, it’s time to look towards next year and what can be expected in 2014.

Obviously good speakers and sessions, workshops, BoF (Birds of a Feather) sessions and the general IT-ness of it makes a difference. But could you actually quantify the value of a conference, your ROI (Return on Investment) from the point of view of a budget-conscious startup or small-to-medium-sized business?

This is an important topic for us, and close to the heart. Since the days when ZeroTurnaround was very much a startup, literally only a handful of employees in a shared office in Estonia, we have visited over 50 conferences, experimenting with new shows and returning to many as exhibitors, sponsors, speakers or attendees–and we’ve learned a lot along our journey. Often in very expensive ways. Nowadays, we push it to the next level by throwing our very own annual Java technology conference in Estonia called GeekOut.

To get to the bottom of it all, we launched a survey called “What Makes an IT Conference Awesome?”, and we gave respondents a drag-n-drop menu of different aspects of events, from speaker line up and sessions to venue, location and WiFi quality. About 250 people around the world told us what they thought, and here’s what we found:

10 IT Event qualities infographic Rebel Labs


  • jstrachan

    BTW the Red Hat Summit / JUDCon also included CamelOne too

    which is the main conference for Apache Camel and open source integration technologies. Might be nice to mention it on the Red Hat Summit / JUDCon section.

    Plus CamelOne has quite a lot of non Red Hat talks from various vendors & customers etc

  • Oliver White

    Good to know, will keep that in mind :-)