This year’s Northern Voice conference–the fifth one–pretty much sold out in three days. Tickets for Friday’s unconference lasted longer than Saturday, but certainly not much longer. And the wait list for each day is, by my guess, nearing fifty people. That happened with no marketing at all, besides blog posts and tweets from the organizers.
I have mixed feelings about that result. It’s terrific that the conference is so popular–it’s an affirmation that people really dig the event. But by virtue of that popularity (and despite its $60 price tag), the event has become kind of exclusive. If you’re not on Twitter or jacked in to the local blogosphere, you probably missed the boat on registering.
In years past, we’ve tried, when possible, to encourage noobies to attend the event. Last year (and I gather something similar is happening this year) there was a kind of Social Media 101 series on the Friday specifically for those who are new to this world. However, when the conference sells out so quickly, a bunch of those folks (and a bunch of connected, bloggy people too) can’t come. And that kind of sucks.
What To Do?
I’ve said for the past couple of years that we could double the capacity–from about 350 to 700–and still sell out. That’s never appealed, though, because an event that size would be pretty unwieldy. There would have to be huge or many rooms, more sponsors and considerably more infrastructure.
Organizer James and I were chatting last night, and discussed the possibility of making the event biannual. It happens during the spring reading break out at UBC, and could also easily happen during the fall one. If we did that, the association (Northern Voice went non-profit last year) would probably have to hire an event manager, because the volunteer organizers are all busy people stretched too thin as it is.
But I’m not sure that would actually solve the problem. I think most of the attendees who came to ‘Northern Voice Spring’ would also register for a ‘Northern Voice Fall’.
Or maybe not. Maybe doubling the number of conferences would, say, bring 250 people to each and normalize, at least in the short to medium term, the supply-demand imbalance.
It’s a nice problem to have, but one that becomes more pressing each year. Then again, maybe this social media stuff will die off in the next year or two, and Northern Voice 2012 will only have 59 attendees.
What do you think? Should we worry about too much demand and not enough supply of the moose?
UPDATE: Frequent Northern Voice attendee Mack posted his thoughts on the same topic.