In the more than three months that have passed since our smashingly successful, first-ever RJS User Group Conference, we’ve had a chance to sit back and absorb attendee feedback, reflect on what we could have done better and begin planning for next year.

RJS UserGroup2All in all, the event was a triumph that exceeded our wildest imaginations. We had more than 50 attendees from 14 different states and two countries (U.S. and Canada). We held more than 20 sessions over a day and a half and still had time for two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and a night of bowling. We rented a shuttle that transported attendees back and forth between their hotels and the conference, and did I mention all of this was free?!

When we decided to hold the User Group Conference, many here at RJS were skeptical we could pull it off. After all, we’d never done anything like this before and we didn’t know if anyone would come.

Planning, of course, was critical. There were debates over whether to charge a fee, what classes to hold and whether we would have the space to do it at our headquarters. Fortunately, reason won out and we did host it here and made it free. That helped minimize costs for both us and our attendees, and it also allowed us to show off our building and get customers better acquainted with RJS staff.

What worked:
RJS UserGroup1
The fact that the event was free and included free food, shuttle service and entertainment. The sessions worked because they were varied in subject matter and gave attendees multiple options at any given time. The venue worked, too.

Our space was perfect for the number of people we had. It was compact enough for attendees to get around easily but not too cramped to make them feel like sardines in a can. Let’s let one anonymous customer sum up his experience: “Actually, an astonishing event, being as it was your first one! I did have a lot of fun. It was great to meet your staff, nice to meet other users and will help my company.” Another attendee shared a similar sentiment: “This was probably the most beneficial user conference I have ever attended.”

What didn’t work:
Even though we provided shuttle service to and from the conference, many local customers attended and parking was tight. Bathrooms were also crowded and some felt like the user group was at capacity with no room for additional attendee growth.

When it came to educational content, some attendees would have liked to see more advanced technical sessions or hands-on labs, and quite a few people would have liked to see the conference extended for another day. Feedback also suggested we should give more break time between sessions, which was an obvious oversight on our part.

Changes for next year:
The good news is we’re having a 2013 RJS User Group Conference. While planning is only in the early stages, we will probably hold the event at an area hotel or conference center to minimize logistical issues and give us more space to grow. We hope to double attendance and extend the conference to three days.

We will also broaden our educational offerings to include customer testimonials, deeper technical classes and labs, and expert speakers to discuss industry and technology trends. Lastly, while our bowling outing was a blast, we may up the ante a bit and do something a little more exciting.

 

Stay tuned for a special announcement on our blog in the coming days regarding the 2013 User Group Conference!