The Optimum YAPC Attendance
In my recent post about promoting YAPCs, Gabor picked on something regarding the optimum number of attendees. I think he makes a good point that for a conference like a YAPC, 300-400 attendees is a good number to aim for. Anything more and it can become a logistical nightmare for organisers. It also means that the conferences themselves can become a little more impersonal, when a major aim of YAPCs is to bring people together.
With bigger numbers attending, it creates problems for organisers, not only to accommodate the large numbers, but also the cost. Universities have been ideal in the past, as they are usually quiet out of term time, and can usually accommodate several hundred people for little outlay. However, looking for venues that can accommodate thousands, which typically means professional conference venues, needs special effort to cover the costs. Events like FOSDEM are now so well established that large corporate sponsors are willing to donate without much persuasion, but a dedicated language conference would struggle to get the same kind of support.
YAPC::Asia can cope with 500 attendees, but now regularly sells out because they just cannot accommodate any more in the venue they use. In North America and Europe most of the venues can usually cope with around 400 attendees. In Europe we generally see lower attendances due to travel and accommodation costs for personal attendance being too high for some, as we see a larger number of attendees paying for themselves. As a consequence it is unlikely we are going to see a dramatic increase in numbers, unless Perl suddenly finds itself being the language of choice for many business, especially corporates.
I have attended large conferences in the past, and while there is a wide choice of talks and more people to meet, it can be a bit overwhelming. You don't always get the chance to talk to all the people you wanted to, and many that you might have common interests with remain unknown to you. At the YAPCs it's a lot easier to talk to everyone, and you also have a better chance of someone pointing out someone else who you really should talk to. Although there are usually a few people I forget to find and say hello to, on the whole I do get to chat to some new attendees, and occasionally they'll come an introduce themselves to me, which is always a bonus. The smaller conferences just seem more sociable, which gives more of a fun element about them, which in turn makes them feel a bit more inclusive.
I think we still have plenty of room to manoeuvre, as I doubt we'll see many 400+ attended YAPCs for NA or Europe, so there is still lots of promoting worth doing. It all has a side effect of promoting YAPCs, Workshops, Hackathons, Perl and the community in general, not just in NA and Europe, but around the world. If people can't attend a YAPC, then we should be trying to encourage them to find a more local Perl Workshop. Both YAPCs and Perl Workshops are a great way to introduce yourself to the community and for the community to bring the best out in you. Another 100 or so attending YAPCs would be fantastic, and I'm sure the Perl Workshops around the world would love to see another 30-50 people attending too.
But as stated previously, promotion is the key. If you don't tell people how great you thought a YAPC or Perl Workshop was, how will others know that they should be attending the next one?
Cross-posted from People Get Ready