Rick, Doug and I spent last week visiting Microsoft to attend the MVP Summit (a more-or-less annual opportunity for Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals to interact with Microsoft staff). We spent some time with the organizers of the other two main VFP conferences in the world (the German DevCon , and the Prague DevCon), and a few other MVPs chatting about what we can do to increase conference attendance.
We identified three main problems. The first is convincing people that conferences are worth the money and time. Sometimes, it’s the individual we need to convince. Sometimes, it’s the boss. We’re working on a conference brochure that, among other things, addresses these issues; we’ll put it on our site for download and we’ll ask VFP user groups to distribute it. The brochure includes testimonials from people explaining why they can’t afford not to go to conferences. We’re adding them to our Testimonials page, as well, and will be taking a new look at the Why Southwest Fox? page, too.
The second problem is getting people to come back. While lots of people love conferences from the first one they attend, others come once and never come back. At every Fox conference I’ve ever been to, about one-third of the attendees were new, either to that particular conference or to FoxPro conferences in general.
What determines whether people who come to a first conference come back? Rainer Becker, the organizer of the German conference, contends that it’s not about the sessions; it’s about what happens between the sessions and after the sessions. Do people get to meet others and form bonds that bring them back? We’re working on some ideas to increase the interaction that new attendees have with others.
The final problem is the hardest. We publicize Southwest Fox in all the online VFP venues we know of and we reach out to local VFP user groups. But we also know there are many developers out there working in VFP who’ve never visited an online forum and don’t go to a user group. How can we find these people?
Years ago, Microsoft would have helped by doing a mailing (or an email blast) to registered VFP users. But due to increased privacy concerns, they no longer do that kind of thing; all their mailing lists are opt-in. We’re going to look into opportunities to get listed on some of those opt-ins, but again, we’re not convinced that people who don’t visit the Universal Thread or Foxite or any of the other VFP sites have opted in to any of Microsoft’s lists.
We’d love to hear your suggestions on this subject. Send any ideas or testimonials to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep watching our site. Registration begins May 1 and we’re very excited out this year’s list of speakers and topics.