BbWorld and DevCon registrations open this week. Recently we’ve heard from clients who’ve said, “BbWorld is a very valuable event for us, we want to go, travel is tough this year, so we need to make a strong case and Blackboard, you need to help us however you can to make it happen.”
We agree on all counts. BbWorld and DevCon are a big investment for us too. We don’t make money, just the opposite; we make a big investment in every attendee. Despite rising costs, we do it every year because of the huge training, networking and peer exchange value you tell us it delivers (94% of ’08 attendees said they’d recommend it to a peer). And we’re doing it again this year because we think these training and knowledge exchanges are more important than ever in difficult times.
I wanted to give you an inside look on some of the extra steps we’re taking this year to make it easier for you to attend and get great value. I’ll also provide a little context about the decisions behind the event so you can get a feel for the choices we make and why we make them.
Beefing up of Training, Professional Development in Program
Always a big part of the conference, this year there’ll be more training and professional development than ever. We’re investing in an expanded lineup of training options – including more no- and low-cost options both in pre-conference workshops and the conference tracks. And there’ll be plenty of focus on the Release 9 training that clients have told us is critical for them to complete this summer.
Discounted Attendee Registration
We’re very sensitive to registration cost and keep a close eye on it relative to other major events like Educause, SunGard Summit or NECC. Ours is very consistent, particularly when you look at all that’s included at BbWorld and DevCon (like full meals, etc). But we understand everything’s different this year, so when registration opens next week you’ll see significant registration discounts, particularly for those who register early which helps us better plan for the event.
Easy to get to, all-in-one location
To keep costs low and make the event super convenient, we’ve taken to going to hotels that can also hold the meeting. There are a limited number of hotel complexes that can support a group of our size and our needs and they tend to be in major cities. This year’s all-in-one location in D.C. sits in the middle of 3 major airport hubs making it convenient to get to from most places, including many by car. We’ve also negotiated lower room rates which are comparable to or below the price of the last 3 venues.
Free connectivity and getting greener
We know staying connected is critical but can be costly. So we’re investing in free wireless so you can keep your ancillary costs down. We’re also taking a series of steps you’ll notice to reduce the environmental footprint of the event.
Greater focus on your top value areas
Your feedback drives this event. For ‘09 we’re continuing to focus more event resources on areas you care most about (program content, training, in-person networking, convenient venue, etc.) with a more careful approach on areas like parties. We’re taking the steps listed above to hold your costs down, despite most of ours continuing to go up.
A word on timing and elements of a virtual conference
For many, the July timing works very well but we do get questions from folks who were used to the conference being in April. The answer on this one is simple. It’s cheaper to attend and deliver a big conference like this in July than it is in March-April. This is another reason which makes it easier for us to hold attendee costs down while most event delivery costs go up. And while we can’t translate all of the conference’s value to a virtual format, we are looking hard at some cost-effective and user-friendly approaches to making selected program content available online after the event.
Hopefully this background gives you a better sense of some of the extra steps we’re taking to create another high value training, professional development and networking event while going further to make it as cost-manageable for all as possible. Because based on your feedback, we all agree that BbWorld and DevCon create a lot of value. And the simple fact is we need you to partner with us to make this once again the best training and peer exchange opportunity on the calendar, tough times or no. You and your peers being there is what makes the investment we all make in the event so worth it.
More detail to come.