Last week I was presenting at RTS in Paris. I spend quite a lot of time at such events, as I have reported before. My boss will be pleased to hear this, as a significant part of my job is to ensure that Mentor is well represented at technical conferences where embedded software is featured.
I think about these activities from a number of perspectives. I consider whether they are a good use of my time. They can be seen as “free” marketing [very few charge to participate], but there are real costs - travel, hotel, my time etc. And direct “sales pitches” are not acceptable, so the benefits to the company of our participation in terms of visibility etc. are in my mind. I am also interested in my own comfort and enjoyment. Going to Paris sounds glamorous. It is a beautiful city. I have been there countless times, but never as a tourist. I tend to think of busy airports, horrible traffic, maniac taxi drivers and boring, expensive hotels.
I would like to share some of my experiences of the conference …
The event had its upsides and downsides. I was only attending the conference, so my comments do not really apply to the exhibition. It is not an enormous show - nothing on the scale of Embedded World in Germany or the Embedded Systems Conference in California. But it is probably the foremost event for embedded software in France.
The key positive thing about the conference is that they are addressing the right kind of topics. For example, my first presentation was about Android and I had a full house - a good sized room with every seat taken and a few brave souls standing at the back. My second session was about C++, which again attracted a very good audience, particularly as it was at the end of a show on the afternoon before a holiday weekend. So, if the main function of a conference organizer is to get the right subjects/speakers on the agenda and a high level of attendance, then these guys scored.
However, I think that there is more to it than that and I did have some negative experiences:
I was asked some time ago to submit some titles and abstracts for sessions. It was only the week before the event that I received confirmation of what I would be presenting and when. Apart from the impact on the general planning of my time, making the arrangements to travel at the last minute can be tough. I was lucky enough to get suitable flights without having to spend too much. A hotel was more difficult, as those near the venue were all full for the nights I needed. Traveling from outside the city results in more time wasted and extra costs.
The location of the conference in relation to the show floor is important. In this case, they are very close, which is ideal for all concerned. Visitors can easily find the conference rooms and the exhibitors benefit from the conference attendance traffic. However, as is commonly the case in such events, the presentation rooms are simply constructed like large booths, with no acoustic insulation at all. So there is background “buzz” from the show floor. To overcome that, a PA system is provided. However, as all the sessions [there were 3 concurrent streams] had a similar set up, each speaker was competing with 2 others to be heard. This is not an optimal situation for either the presenters or the attendees.