Tom Ortega II

Changes are afoot at 360Flex

In 360Conferences, 360Flex, Business, Community on October 19, 2007 at 7:04 am

First off, if you’ve gone to a 360Flex event or plan to someday, go answer this three question survey:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=yGMLUk_2f4IRYXqoobzijRuQ_3d_3d

The responses to that survey may fundamentally change the 360Flex Conference.

Business is so interesting. I didn’t graduate from Business School, so maybe they teach you a lot of this stuff there. However, I have read 200+ books on business in the 14+ years that I’ve been a part of the business community and very few books actually captured the essence of business life.

The beauty of business is it’s role. A business is there to serve it’s customers. Do a good job, you get to stick around. Do a bad job and you’re out. I think 360Conferences is doing a good job, but John and I are always looking for ways to improve. Over the past few days, some folks have made some remarks about the amount of money we spend on food at our conferences. They suggested that money would be better spent paying travel expenses for speakers rather than lining the hotel’s catering pocket.

John and I feel that food is a major part of the conference. We think it helps build the community. (You can find our full thoughts on our company blog.) Some of our customers have already stated they feel the same. If only there was a way to ask everyone else, to get a consensus. Well, guess what? There is. With the internet, a business can not only talk to all of its past and current customers, but also to all its future customers.

What John and I think is not important. We’re just facilitators for our customers: attendees, speakers and sponsors. If we’re wrong, then we must change. Just because we think something is cute or needed, doesn’t mean it is. Just because we think something is right, doesn’t mean it is. Our customers are the only ones that know what’s right. John and I are hear to make sure we do what’s right.

So far, we’ve had two conferences. With that, over $180,000 of our customers hard-earned cash has passed through our hands. 360 attendees came to eBay’s beautiful campus for 3 days. Another 360 spent 3 days with us in the Emerald City. Over 60 sessions have been given and countless knowledge has been shared. Many people have landed a “dream” Flex job or picked up some contracting work. Most importantly though, friendships have been made. Good times have been shared.

$180,000 may not seem like a lot of money to a big corporation. It’s a lot of money to me though. If it was $180, it would be a lot of money to me. Every dollar given in business is an honor that has to be earned. Each dollar comes with trust and deserves to be spent as wisely and efficiently as possible.

Now, if our customers decide to drop food for speaker fees, that’s fine. However, one person remarked after reading our cost breakdown post, “$80 per visitor per day for food? Wow, I must say I’m speechless. That must have been some orgy.” Now, I take great personal offense to that statement. To say that I would take our cutomers hard earned money and throw an “orgy” hurts. The reality is this: Each person was $59 dollars a day for breakfast, lunch and breaks. Plus, each water and or soda was an additional $5. Monday night BBQ was $25 per person. That is standard hotel pricing for food. “Why not use an outside caterer?” You can’t. “Why not order cheaper food?” That was darn near the cheapest. I wish hotels were cheaper, but they’re not. However, our customers said, “Move to one central location, like a hotel.” We did, and it was certainly not to have an “orgy”.

I stress over every dollar. John lets me handle the books. I let him handle me. I probably have the better deal. We are in debt from the last two shows. It’s only about $15K, but that’s $15K that we owe to the bank and we have to make good on it. This is why it’s important to us to get profitable. Unlike other conferences, we don’t have a corporate backing. No one writes off our losses as marketing for their training business, product business or consulting business. We’re just 2 developers looking to grow the community. Hopefully, we can continue to grow it for many years to come.

So once again, if you’ve gone to a 360Flex event or plan to someday, go answer this three question survey:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=yGMLUk_2f4IRYXqoobzijRuQ_3d_3d

It’s only 3 questions to you, but it’s worth quiet a bit more to me.

Thanks,

Tom

P.S. The live results of the survey can be found here:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=vYl0EBqFwQOrWCuur46_2bDfittExkiV1oYuHuVUgA6k8_3d

P.P.S

If you blog, please post the survey and/or the results link on your blog too.  We need as much feed back as necessary.

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  1. […] Tom and John, who run 360|Flex, are looking for some feedback on where they should be spending your attendance fees ($360), and this survey will help them answer their questions. […]

  2. Another possibility is to charge for unsponsored parties. It’s not uncommon, especially for seminars that don’t generate large profits.

  3. Ah, good point, Art. A sponsor fee doesn’t have to be money either. It could be a survey, feedback on a product, your resume, etc.

  4. Hey – thanks for making that food issue much clearer now! Since I was the person with the “orgy” statement I can say that now I definitely do see where this enormous number came from. Well, those venues are really ripping you off – but it looks like that this is simply the way it is. You probably would have to choose an entirely different location (like a university or public building) in order to avoid this. On the other hand then this will create different problems.

    Since I am a speaker myself of course I think that it is just fair if a conference covers the flight and the accomodation for its speakers. I am not talking about any honorary here – just the plain expenses. Sessions do not prepare themselves in a few hours in a hotel room (at least not for serious speakers) but rather take several days or even weeks to make – time that especially if you are a freelancer is time where you do not earn any money.

    I’m looking forward to the results of your survey and I’m still happy to speak at 360 flex Europe – in case you cover my flight and find me a hotel room or a place on somebody’s sofa to sleep on.

  5. Yeah, Mario. Unfortunately, conference catering is a friggin’ racket. I’m glad that you understand the numbers now. I’m sure though, that there was many more who were thinking the same as you, but just didn’t vocalize it. That’s why I felt the need to explain it.

    We’re looking forward to the results as well. The internet sure is great, ain’t it? 🙂

  6. Tom, will room prices change if you cut back on food? If so, this affects your options.

  7. Suprisingly, no. Room prices are not tied to food at all. Room blocks influence price.

  8. Don’t stress over the numbers…just raise the price a little. $15K / 360 attendees = $41 extra to break even. Make food “fend for yourself”, and there are your speakers fees, and a tidy profit…I’ll bring some tip jars for you guys at the next one.

    🙂

  9. Hello Tom,

    I attended the first 360 Flex Conference at Ebay and I’m extremely grateful for the event. Personally, I thought event was being heavily subsidized by Ebay; never that it would put you guys in the hole…

    Anyways, just wanted to say thanks. I’m putting Atlanta event request to company; hoping it gets approved… Maybe you guys can put a paypal tip jar? If only in the spirit of comm conference, I am certain many of us who’ve been to and can’t go to next one would help out.

  10. […] fine folks over at 360 Conferences are soliciting our input to help shape the future of the 360 Flex conferences. If you’ve ever been to a 360 Flex or if […]

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