Saturday, 17 January 2015

UKOUG 2014 - What I like least about the UKOUG

I said in the summary blog, the problem with being passionate is you get defensive when challenged, well here is another of my rants:

Venues - yes we simply don't have the ones we need in the UK. Every venue we select for our annual conference is a carefully walked tightrope of compromise and never, ever perfect.

This week we had the review of 2014 and looked at feedback. Please never stop giving feedback it is the lifeblood of a user group how do we know what we get wrong if you don't tell us? But I also wish you would tell us what we do well more often, I would quite like to be motivated.

I travel to conferences all over the world and in most cases here myself thinking 'I'd love this venue in the UK'. I never thought I would write about hating UKOUG but I do wish it wasn't in the UK.

We need a plenary hall for keynotes, we need so many breakout rooms from small to almost keynote in size, and we need an exhibition hall. We would like seating and networking areas but getting the first three are hard enough. Devoxx who hold events for Java audiences use cinema complexes and venues with large but less rooms, that keeps the costs down but doesn't have the other things our audience want.

I read an article on google the other day about selecting conference venues and their advice resonated so much. Read the article to see what they said but let me get defensive on the points myself:

1. Accessibility: The UK does not have a great transport system but this is one area we need to get right. London to Liverpool was fine, as was Manchester but if you had to go cross country like I did from Gloucester it was not fun, and no body realised there was a peak train fare time from Liverpool which caused some people to leave early.

2. Lodging Accommodations: Liverpool rocked for this, so many hotels so close by, but some venues in the UK don't, they are great for day trips but not for people staying overnight. London can be difficult it has the hotels but not enough low cost for people paying their own way.

3. Availability: This sounds easy but with the UK having so few suitable venues they are booked up over a year in advance, it is so difficult to look and select one in the time slot we want.

4. Suitability: I'm not fussy, if it meets my criteria it is considered, oh to be able to worry about other things.

5. Costs: Again keeping costs down is paramount, but when there is little choice they don't need to negotiate. Moving from Birmingham as a permanent home means better rates from there are now available.

6. Staffing: Not a problem we normally have our own staff are very good at working with on site teams.

7. Facilities: For many years delegates and speakers have asked for sessions that are not staggered, so this year we didn't and we got great feedback, apart that is from the lack of toilet facilities at peak times.

8. Branding: I think UKOUG do really well at branding and this year's pennants were really great even if you couldn't see them in the wind.

9. Technical: Perennial problem, when you go to do a site visit the wifi always looks brilliant, when you stick 2,000 technical people in the building and encourage twitter not so. This year we even had a technical test for each room, no problem but the AV kit provided in the rooms off the exhibition were assumed to be the same as upstairs. they were not, I think they were borrowed from the Museum.

10. Food and Beverage: The problem we have in the UK is seating, no venue allows us to sit delegates teherfore it has to be buffet food. I would love to be an ODTUG where we can have 'birds of a feather' community tables, or use restaurants staggered when the delegate wants like at the DOAG. We simply don't have the venues available to us.

So again welcome to ideas but ones that would work, The Convention Centre in Dublin would work, but could we hold UKOUG there? I'd love to have the event in Belfast but it isn't really very accessible.

We can and will get better on the little details but unless there is someone reading this that wants to build the perfect venue we will always be limited in choice and have to make compromises.

1 comment:

JAYT said...

I suppose UKOUG will have considered this as a venue? Probably works for variety of spaces, ticks the accommodation and transport boxes but is too far North?