Since 2012, I’ve had the pleasure of attending all sorts of conferences, from small BarCamp-style un-conferences run by local volunteers, to large, professional events with thousands of attendees in the heart of London. I can say categorically that Business of Software Europe was the best by far.
This year the conference was held at Churchill College, Cambridge, and it would be hard to think of a more perfect setting. Cambridge has been a university town since the 13th century, and weaves a mesmerising tapestry of history & tradition on the one hand, with cutting-edge technology on the other. The college itself was an excellent venue, with great conference facilities surrounded by beautiful green lawns, where guests who didn’t mind the chill wind enjoyed a few games of croquet Thursday evening.
The conference programme was incredibly well thought out, with plenty of time to mingle, and a dazzling array of speakers. I’ve written about my favourite talks elsewhere, so I won’t repeat myself here. The ‘hallway track’ was the best I’ve ever experienced. It kicked off with welcome drinks & light snacks the evening before the conference proper. I wasn’t expecting much, but this turned out to be great. Not only did I get a chance to network with other attendees, I also spoke to a few of the speakers, who were all incredibly friendly and approachable. From a logistics point of view, getting people signed in & badged up the night before made for an extremely smooth start on Thursday morning.
Finally, not only did BoS lay on catered meals for everyone, they also designated tables for specific topics of conversation so ‘birds of a feather’ could flock together. This was a stroke of genius, as everyone stayed together and continued to build connections, rather than peeling off in small groups to go foraging.
Although smaller than many others (~200), the conference was very well attended by a great mix of people spanning the whole tech ecosystem, from venture capital to app developers and from freelancers to product managers to CEOs. The companies represented ranged from biotech to fashion.
I’ve saved the best for last: the atmosphere at BoS was truly unique. Some conferences I’ve attended in the past have been aggressively sales-driven, and downright competitive, with people elbowing each other out of the way so they can get to speakers etc. BoS was the polar opposite. Beyond mere friendliness, BoS managed to foster a truly collaborative atmosphere where we all worked together to make the conference as great as possible for each other. Sure, business happened, but that was not the point. There seemed to be an implicit understanding that people do business with people, and that by helping others we all win.
For example, I had just met Simon from Metail, and we were talking shop when, having learnt that I take pride in my WordPress work, he practically frog-marched me to meet Chris from Mind the Product, who had been looking for a good WP developer. There was nothing in it for Simon, he just saw an opportunity to help, and took it. This is not unusual. I hear many others recount similar experiences.
So, overall, Business of Software Europe 2019 was the best conference I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending, and I can’t wait to go again next year. Whether you’re new to conferences or an old hand, do yourself a favour and check out Business of Software. You’ll be blown away!