Brian Sewell

Steel City Ruby has set the standard

August 4, 2012

Steel City Ruby Conference 2012 Stickers

I’ve only been to two conferences. I attended EECI last October in Brooklyn, NY and just finished up the inaugural Steel City Ruby conference in Pittsburgh. I haven’t had any opportunities to attend events like these. My last job paid for me to attend EECI, however my current position at Automated Insights is a startup and I feel bad about asking them to pay big bucks to send me to a professional development event when their top priority is cutting paychecks and providing health care.

I’m new to Ruby. I’ve had to learn it for my new job and I’ve been a PHP guy for 5 years, but have mostly focused on front-end work. After attending this conference, I’ve been introduced to a large portion of the Ruby community… and boy are they awesome. They’re very passionate about their work, their field, and their colleagues. The talks have been absolutely amazing, and the structure of the event has been spot-on. The first day got kicked off with a talk from Corey Haines on Getting the most out of a conference. Setting the vibe immediately for a kick-ass two days in the Steel City.

Aside from the amazing content of the conference, here are the things Steel City Ruby has done that I think should be the standard at these events:

Appeal to beginners

Going to a conference with a lot of people you think are smarter than you is daunting. Getting there and realizing they don’t care what your experience level is helps start conversations and allows those newcomers to feel welcome.

Be affordable

I’m reluctant to attend conferences on my own dime, because they’re too damn expensive, and I wouldn’t be able to convince enough of my colleagues to do so as well. That being said… Steel City Ruby was $50! Oh, and after saving money to help start next year’s conference as well as a chunk for tax purposes, they decided to give all 200 attendees a $5 bill when they walked in the door. So it was actually a $45 ticket.

Host it in an awesome city

I am not a big city type of guy, but Pittsburgh has been a breath of fresh air (maybe not literally). If you want people to make the trip, make sure you give them things to do in the evening. Make sure the host city is going to be able to give your attendees those things.

Have the conference hotel 20 yards from the conference venue

The conference hotel is literally across the street. You walk out the door, across the pedestrian crossing and you’re there! Makes getting to and from the events easy. Of course, not every venue is going to offer that much convenience, but make sure attendee convenience is at the top of the list.

Overall, it was a great experience fostered by a great city, great people and great talks. I’m certainly looking forward to attending next year.

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