TopConf Linz 2016
I'm just returning from TopConf Linz 2016 which was my first tech conference that I visited as a speaker. I do have quite some speaking experience but with shorter talks, usually around 15 minutes, and in front of an audience that does not pay to attend the event. With a ticket price of €220 this conference is no where near your usual €1,500+ that some of the bigger conferences call up but still, not a free event. I did visit some similar priced conferences in the past, like the mindblowing SoCraTes or the APIDays so I do also have made some experiences how awesome conference could be. TopConf unfortunately does not fully live up to its name.
They did manage to create a really interesting and to some extent diverse program with one workshop day and eight talk tracks during two days. The speakers that I saw were experienced, very well prepared and very enjoyable. What I especially liked: never marketing a specific product or solution. The location was technically top notch regarding audio and presentation equipment. Unfortunately the WiFi was non-existent. I wasn't even able to connect to it the whole day, so I had to buy a roaming data pass to be able to tweet-which I enjoy a lot. For me this is even more important in order to connect with other attendees after the event is over. Having no working WiFi resulted in a very low volume of tweets for the events hashtag #TopConfAT and basically no use of the mobile conference app which had dedicated functionality for interacting with other attendees during the conference. But given this is the first time for the TopConf to take place at this location it is something they are not to blame for.
Where I can't be that forgiving is the catering. I have never experienced something similar. What began with the absence of breakfast (the conference opened at 9am) and coffee only being available after the first talks were over ended in the evening with dinner in the form of hamburgers and cheeseburgers from McDonalds. This is probably the most braindead catering option to be found, yet they failed to take care of the attendees for whom meat is not a proper meal. This is simply rude and non-inclusive.
In the end I still enjoyed attending TopConf because I got to practice my speaking (and also got to make some stupid mistakes myself doing so) and had the chance to meet great and interesting people. The TopConf staff always was very friendly and caring. The problems I've pointed out are easy to fix so I'll probably apply to speak again next year …