Feedback from PGDay.EU the final part - the venue and registration

The big change for PGDay.EU this year really was the switch from a university venue (first Monash University in Prato, then ParisTech in Paris) to a hotel venue (The Millennium Hotel in Stuttgart). We believe that much of the rest of the conference was an improvement over previous years - but it was an incremental improvement, whereas the change of venue was rather drastic. Looking at the feedback on this, I think we can conclude that this change was in general a positive one:

We're seeing a total of 75%25 who rate the venue as a 4 or a 5. Looking at the freetext comments, a large majority of them are very positive, but there are a few ones that stand out:

  • Several people mentioned it was bad that the two sets of rooms (Berlin vs non-Berlin rooms) were very far apart. This is definitely something that we noted, and will attempt to avoid next year.
  • A few people mentioned that it would be nice if the hotel was closer to the city center. This is definitely true - unfortunately, closer to the city center means higher prices. We hope to find something closer to a city center at a reasonable price next year - by making sure we start to look and book early enough.
  • A few people commented that we shouldn't hold this in northern/central Europe in December due to weather (snow anyone?). Our goal is to move the conference back to an earlier date during the autumn - again, the main reason we ended up in December this year was that we started looking for a venue too late.
  • A couple of people commented that the hotel room rates were too high at the Millennium. There were cheaper hotels around to use - but of course, those aren't as convenient. This wasn't helped by the fact that the hotel group rate dropped off the hotel website twice, causing some people to get their reservations at a higher rate.
  • Isolated people commented that they did not like the hotel - "too big, unpersonal" and "feels like a prison".

Amongst the positive ones we find a large number of comments saying that the "integrated venue" or "all inclusive" venue was a great step up.

Closely related to the venue, is the food. Unlike the big north American conferences PGCon and PG-East/West, we have for the past two years tried to provide proper lunches and not just sandwiches/boxed lunches. This obviously costs more money, but we believe it's worth it, and we think our visitors do. Last year we had a catering firm bring us assorted food, mainly cold cuts, at the conference venue, and this year we got proper lunch buffets (including multiple choices for dessert, of course..) at one of the hotel restaurants. I think the ratings speak for themselves - I would encourage those other conferences to look into improving their lunches as well!

A full 82%25 rated the food as 4 or 5. In the end, the cost for paying for a lunch "on ones own bill" would probably have cost more than half the conference fee - so we think we managed to provide some very good value. In fact, several people rated the food as being the best part of the conference(!)

There was, however, one person who said the food was one of the worst things about the conference - if you recognize that was you, we would very much like to know exactly why (no details were included) - please send me an email or write a comment here!

A few people commented on the large amount of food left over from lunch on at least one of the days - it is up to the hotel to decide what to do about that, but it is our belief that they do something "reasonable" with it - and not just throw it away. We know that the caterers last year delivered all leftovers to a nearby homeless shelter, for example. For next year, we will attempt to again get a specification from the catering/restaurant as to what happens to leftovers.

We feel that the overwhelming majority of our visitors found the changes an improvement, and we will therefor pursue something similar as our primary option for next year. We are always interested in improving further, of course, so if you have any other ideas - let us know! The final question we asked about the venue was where to hold the conference next year. Many were quite ambiguous in their suggestions ("big city in Europe" is in, "Hawaii" is out because we want to stick to Europe). Summarizing what we could gave us the following:

  • Obviously, we see a bias towards Germany - since we were in Germany this time. However, we are only going back to Germany next year as a last resort - we want to move around. We will eventually come back to Germany of course - but not next year.
  • Some people commented that they will not be able to attend in a country other than Germany because they wouldn't understand the language of the talks. To deal with this, we are considering adding non-local-or-english talks as well for next year independent of where it is - where German talks (along with French and maybe Spanish) would be included even if the conference isn't in Germany.
  • Our Germany community is also looking into creating a specific PGDay Germany next year, which will be a smaller event focused on the local market - something we as PostgreSQL Europe will help and encourage.
  • I'm surprised to find Stockholm so high up on the list - I promise I didn't put any of those votes in there myself!
  • It's good to note that all the cities having 2 or more suggestions were already on our list of places to look at for next year.
  • We will consider this input and start looking for venues. This time we will not attempt to decide and announce a city first and find a venue later, we'll do it in the other order.

The final part of our evaluation was considering the conference website and registration:

In general these are very good rates. I'm happy to see that more than 50%25 rate the website overall experience as 4 or 5 - that's a much better rating than it's being given by the people who edit the content on it! Same for registration, with very few people rating it really low. There's clearly some room for improvement though:

  • A few people commented they wanted non-paypal registration options. While the paypal system we use actually allow you to do a credit card payment without the need to sign up for paypal (which some people did not realize and thus sent us an email before registering asking about it), not everybody has a credit card (this is not America - or Sweden). We'd be very happy to hear suggestions for what to do here though - we've looked at many different options, and paypal turned out to be by far the best one. We need something that supports automation and is reasonably fast. We did also support bank transfer in extraordinary cases - but that's not something that can be automated (unless you are a much bigger customer to the bank than we are), and it takes a long time for some payments, since they have to cross borders. So - any suggestions are welcome, and our core registration system is designed to support multiple payment methods.
  • Nobody actually wrote in the conference feedback that we lack a good interface for bulk registration, but we are aware of this - we had a few (less than 10 in total) entities wanting to register more than 2-3 persons at the same time for a single invoice, and our current system does not provide a reasonable way of dealing with this. This is definitely something we need to work on for next year.
  • It's been suggested we add a "skill level" entry to each talk, to make it easier for an attendee to know if it's a beginner or advanced talk. This is definitely something we'll look at doing for next year.
  • One suggestion is we include a full list of all attendees including their email address in the conference handouts, to make it easier to contact each other. This is not something we're going to do as a general thing, since we don't want to go distributing such lists. But we may consider adding it as an opt-in feature, where you can choose on registration if you want to be included in such a list.
  • Several people suggested adding videos of the talks - either as realtime streaming or as downloadables. We're not likely to add a real-time streaming, but we are considering doing talk recording. It does add a fairly large amount of work though, so we'll be needing more volunteers to cope with it...
  • We need to make it more clear that 5 is the best and 1 is the worst on the feedback forms. We know a few people filled them in wrong (we hope it meant they gave us bad rates when they meant good, but we don't know that), and it was also mentioned in the feedback.

In summary, here are some reasons in graphical and textual forms why you should already put attendance to next years PostgreSQL Conference Europe in your budget:

Freetext comments: * "The overall organization of that event was excellent." * "Very good organization, great people, interesting talks, vibrant community in general. Lots of core dev presents, high level of knowledge." * "Great organization from beginning (registration at the website, information prior to the event), arriving and registering (internet access already available, great t-shirt and backpack) to the conference itself (sessions, warning speakers about how much time is left), good food and drinks at the breaks and at lunch. Kudos to the organizers and everyone who helped make this happen." * "I think the organisation was perfect. There where many people and all know where they had to go to." * "The huge amount of information, inspiration and positive energy. Actually I hacked my first patch on the way back." * "The people especially the staff :) Both keynotes were stimulating good dsicussions with my peers" * "Very good conference. I felt really cosy there. As a noob to PG, I got a lot of information and I lost the fear of asking the experts (either on the mailing list or on IRC)." * "The organization was really great. Maybe the best PostgreSQL conference I've attended so far."

That concludes my summaries of the feedback from this years PGDay.EU conference. If your specific comments haven't been called out here, don't worry - we still read them all and will consider them all for next year!

Finally, thanks again to all who helped make this conference great!

See you again next year!


Posting videos (after the fact) of all the talks would be great. I've found a few on Youtube, but not nearly as many as I'd like. They are not only a great way to get a good look at the talk, but you also get to connect somewhat with the speaker.

Posted on Dec 28, 2010 at 16:14 by bma.

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I speak at and organize conferences around Open Source in general and PostgreSQL in particular.



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