Pricing NCDevCon 2012
We released the NCDevCon call for speakers today. This is our public announcement for experts to submit which presentations they would like to perform at NCDevCon. We've been very grateful for all of our past speakers who took their time to produce and perform on the timeliest of topics in web, mobile and ColdFusion development. If you are an expert and want to share your preferred topics with us, please do so at NCDevCon 2012 Speaker Form
Anyhow, one of the first questions we got today was about our price. See, we raised the full ticket price from $60 in 2011 to $200 in 2012. Asking us the reasons why is fair and we'd like to take the time to answer.
If We Build It, Will They Come?
NCDevCon started off as a small, free conference. We just wanted to see if we could get people to come and talk about cool technical stuff to people who wanted to learn cool technical stuff. The first year we had good sponsors and good attendance and the conference was a big success for us. We basically funded this conference out of our own pockets and got reimbursed when sponsors agreed to sponsor the conference. The first year, while we donated lots of time and free labor, we didn't lose money and we didn't make any money.
Will It Work A Second Time?
The second year, we decided to have another free conference. We sold completely out of tickets (250+) and racked up quite a few expenses to prepare for this crowd. Snacks, drinks, lunches, T-shirts all add up to our per attendee expenses. So, on the day of the conference we were very dismayed to find only 50% of the registrants actually showed up. In hindsight, we totally understand. We had limited space, so people registered just to save their spot even though they may not have been 100% committed to go. We respect that, but it did leave us on the hook for a bunch of incurred expenses that had to be paid. If it weren't for the generosity of the caterer, we would have lost $3,000 that year. That may not seem like a lot, but $3,000 is a lot of money to pay out of ones pocket.
Heck, we didn't even get to attend any sessions since we were running the conference. Some of the sponsors grumbled that our attendance was not close to the numbers we told them we'd have, so we promised to fix it.
Ouch, That Hurt. What Shall We Do?
The third year, we knew we not only needed to reduce the no-show ratio, but we needed to find a way to get the conference profitable. Apart from the hard expenses, which we initially fund out of our own pocket, we invest 100s of hours of personal time organizing, scheduling, preparing, creating posters, schedules, contacting sponsors, wrangling speakers, negotiating with hotels and businesses and generally handling the business end of the conference. So to start to get NCDevCon to stand on it's own, we charged $60. We wanted to make a slow and reasonable adjustment to the price, considering our history and our past audiences.
Our 3rd year was a success and we sold out of tickets. We had a great conference and it was a blast to host all the attendees. Once the conference was over, we ran some numbers and found out our per-attendee expenses are over $60. This means each full price ticket sold, we lost money. For discounted tickets (Student, Hurricane IRENE) we lost even more. We make up that loss from certain sponsorships but still, it's not good business to take losses. We think we run a pretty lean conference as it is, so cutting expenses isn't going to fundamentally affect the outcome.
Now, it's no secret we were able to do the conference for 3 years with such low income because of one of our major sponsors, the NC State College of Textiles. Thanks to the them, we don't have to pay for conference wifi, AV, facilities, Union Charges, Drayage and other typical conference expenses. However, it also means that if NC State were not able to commit resources for NCDevCon, the conference would be dead in the water. Not to mention, Jim, I and the volunteer staff still contribute 100s of hours to make the conference happen. This is time that we take from our jobs, families and other responsibilities and these days, competition for time is getting complicated. In order to keep doing the conference, we needed to move away from a big community service project. We like the vibe we get from being a low cost, no-frills event so we struck a balance.
NCDevCon 2012 Ticket Price is $200
Each year, we go through a topic selection process, looking for the best speakers talking about the best topics. This year, we are going to have a more democratic process. When we finish the NCDevCon Public Call for Speakers, we are going to open a private voting session. All ticket purchasers as of the Call for Speakers close date will get to vote on which topics make it in the final conference. We figure you know best what you want to pay for, and we want you to be a part of the selection process.