When I first helped start the Kalamazoo X Conference way back in 2008, we wanted to do something different. We didn't want a typical Day of .NET or Code Camp. We didn't want to copy from others. We wanted to be unique. At some point in those early conversations, we settled on "soft skills" - all the things developers are bad at - interpersonal communication, design, and architecture.
In that first year, that's exactly what we had, but instead of a multi-track conference, we decided on a one-day, single-track event. Because of the number of speakers we had that first year, the sessions were 20 minutes long. Twenty minutes to get on stage and get their message across.
It worked. People got the concept immediately. The format gave everyone who attended a shared experience they weren't finding at other events. The non-tech nature of the talks gave developers things to think about that were outside the realm of their day-to-day work of writing code.
Through the years, the conference has morphed into something new, exciting, and different. The focus has turned to being a better human. The talks have become more personal, more intimate. Speakers open up about personal demons and how they conquered them. There are tears. Lots of tears, from the speakers, attendees, and from me.
The impact of the conference does not go unnoticed. I hear more and more about the positive influence it has had on people's lives. People have changed jobs, sought help for hidden illnesses, made new friends, and improved their lives in untold ways because of what they've experienced at the conference.
When this whole thing started all those years ago, I never imagined I'd be invited on podcasts to talk about the conference, to talk about the vision and the impact it's had on people....
In my recent post on the upcoming Kalamazoo X Conference, I made a couple vague statements about the future of the event:
I have some thoughts around what happens next, but I still have some thinking to do.
I have also hinted about it on twitter:
Since the early years, I've had many requests to bring the conference to other cities, or help others do something similar. Because I've been so focused on Kalamazoo, I've always rejected those because I wanted to keep it local. I never stopped others from copying, I just didn't offer to help.
I have thought about this a LOT, and I believe what's next for the conference is to move it from its roots in Kalamazoo. Why? To see how it plays in a different location. In all the years I've been running the conference, we've NEVER had the attendance numbers I think we could have. But here's the thing...
People tell me all the time it's the best conference they've ever attended.
People tell me they'd pay more to attend.
People tell me this is a unique conference.
People tell me it's a conference they will never miss.
People write articles like this.
Friends and speakers travel the world and tell people about the conference.
I believe we can reach a wider audience, we're just missing something.
- Is it the location?
- Is it the time of year?
- Is it the cost?
- Is it the speakers?
- Is it what the speakers talk about?
- Is it the cursing?
- Is it the crying?
- Is it me?
Of those things, I'm going to tweak one variable (possibly two) - location and time. The rest is non-negotiable.
Starting after Kalamazoo X's 10th and final event in Kalamazoo, I will be actively looking at several cities throughout the United States to do test runs in. My plan is to select 3-4 and try them over the period of a couple years (so, probably twice a year, but not geographically close).
I'm not sure of the cities yet, although some close friends have given me some ideas.
So, Kalamazoo X 10 won't be the last. It'll just be the last in Kalamazoo.
Kalamazoo X Conference tickets have gone on sale! The conference is scheduled for April 21, 2018 in beautiful Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow the conference on Twitter and Facebook to keep up on announcements!