CMX Summit 2019 has come and gone. There’s a unique feeling I get after hosting a big conference. After spending months heads-down, focused, working long hours to get everything together in time. Before the conference, there’s a finish line, and the whole team is sprinting toward it.
Then the event happens, flies by in a blur, and just like that it’s done. The conversations, the talks, the parties, the peaks, the lulls… all in the past, reflecting like a dream in my mind. I’m left with a feeling of slowing down. Of calm. Of joy for what occurred, but also with the sadness one gets when they come down from a peak experience.
There’s a desire to hold on to the magic. To bottle up the feeling and take it around with me in my coat pocket. There’s a sense of freedom, to seek new projects to focus on, and the fear that comes with losing the clarity of focus you get from a huge project like this.
We collected feedback, we reflected together, and we started turning out attention to next year.
History was made!
This event was one for the CMX history books. 1,000 community professionals and builders, from over 15 countries, gathered for two full days of connection, learning and, inspiration. Our last event was 400 people. It’s still crazy to me that so many people came together for an event focused solely on community. When we started CMX, an event of this size was always the vision. Over the years, there were many times it didn’t seem like we’d get here. It was the result of having more people and resources, thanks to the acquisition, of setting an ambitious goal, and pushing each other to achieve it. And it was only possible because the community industry has itself grown considerably.
The overarching themes this year focused on how the world is shifting, loneliness is on the rise, community is no longer an afterthought, but how it’s up to community professionals to follow through on the value we promise, with data.
In the breakouts, we got in the weeds on everything from user-generated content, to designing community UX, to honoring the death of a community member, to running virtual events. The overall vibe was pure positivity and excitement. Our industry feels like it’s arrived. We feel like the world is finally paying attention and our work is becoming critical for businesses.
All the videos from CMX Summit will be made freely available in the next two weeks.
So, How Did We Do?
The rapid growth since last year’s event brought a lot of new magic, accelerated the energy of the space, and brought a sense of legitimacy we never had before. It also brought new challenges, and for our attendees who have been coming to our events for a long time, some missed the early days of intimacy. But overall, the event was extremely positively received. 95% of attendees said that they’d recommend CMX Summit to a friend or colleague. 90% said they’re likely to come to CMX Summit 2020.
There were a lot of things you loved:
- The content. 93% of you found more than 50% of the content to be valuable
- The people. This is the magic of CMX. Across the board you all shared how powerful it was to be surrounded by your people and all the positive energy that the CMX community brings.
- The CMX Summit mobile app. Some folks had issues getting into the app, but once you were in, you loved the agenda, networking, and notifications.
- The venue. It wasn’t a homerun for everyone, but the majority of feedback said that the venue was unique, fun, beautiful, and fit the CMX vibe.
- Badge decorating. Always a hit!
There are also a number of things we can do to improve and I want to transparently share that feedback here so you can hold us accountable to improving. Here are the key themes we heard from your feedback and what we’re doing about it for next year…
1. More travel time between sessions
This was our mistake on day one. We had breaks scheduled between each session to give you travel time but it just didn’t get communicated to the full stage team properly. We fixed this on day two, and hopefully attendees found it easier to get from session to session. Next year, we’ll work on getting this much tighter.
2. Better spaces for networking, parties, vendors, and lunch
The theatre lobby was not big enough for this many people to network and connect during breaks and parties. Next year, we’re going to be adding more spaces including the use of the public outdoor space with the possibility of a large tent where we can host breaks, networking, snacks, and vendors.
3. A hotel closer to the venue
The Pullman Hotel, where we had a room block, was a 10-minute drive from the venue which made it hard for you to take a break, take a nap, and get back and forth easily. This is, unfortunately, a limitation we don’t have a great deal of control over as there aren’t many quality hotels close to Fox Theatre. We will thoroughly research options here to help attendees for next year’s event, including potentially getting a shuttle to help with traveling back and forth.
4. Longer sessions that go deeper, and are more descriptive
Last year we got the feedback that attendees wanted more practical, tactical talks. So we worked with speakers this year to make sure their talks were highly actionable and specific. It had a big effect as the content got high reviews at this year’s event. But it’s clear that we can take this direction even further. We’ll be exploring using a variety of session lengths next year so speakers can go deeper on a subject. We may also offer more workshops (which were four hours), as the two we hosted this year were a big success.
Many of you also asked for a description in each session of who the content is for (online vs offline, 101 vs 201, etc.). We will be adding this information to each session next year to help you decide which talks to go to.
5. Food had mixed reviews, with many feeling the quality wasn’t high
Last year’s event in Portland, we invested a lot into food. It was very high quality, and there was a lot of it. The problem was that a lot of food went to waste and it ate considerably into the margins of the event. This year we made a conscious decision that we would feed everyone, but couldn’t spend the same amount we did in the past, especially with 1000 people.
We kept it simple, with sandwiches and wraps. A lot of you commented that based on the expectations we set last year, you were disappointed in this year’s food. Others were satisfied with the food, and even really enjoyed it. Next year, we’ll aim to bring more variety to the options so it doesn’t feel like the same thing each day.
We’ll also do a better job of communicating upfront what you can expect to eat at the event, and give you our recommendations for restaurants you can also check out within a 2-minute walk of the venue if the conference food isn’t what you’re looking for.
6. We can improve our sustainability
100%, we need to do better here. Our staff was not on top of the water station, which didn’t get refilled enough and caused us to use plastic bottles. The lunch was also served in plastic containers. While we recycled *everything* and worked with the caterer to make sure we collected all the plastic we could, we can and will do better to reduce the amount of plastic we use in the first place.
7. We can improve our accessibility
Food and drinks were hard to get to if you are unable to use stairs. Bag check was at the top of stairs without an elevator. And we didn’t have reserved seating for folks with disabilities to make sure you have a seat. All of this will be fixed next year, and we’ll be working with all of you to make sure everyone feels included, safe, and comfortable. The mother’s room also needed work. We had limited room options so ended up using a room that doubled as the staff room for security. Next year, there will be a dedicated mother’s room with no other purpose.
8. Communication of some details can be improved
A lot of folks found it hard to get the wifi password, and didn’t know where the introvert zone was. We’ll make sure this information is much more clear next year.
9. You wanted more spaces to charge your laptops and phones, and spaces to work and take calls
Makes sense. We’re going to work on getting charging stations for next year. Old theaters just aren’t equipped with the number of outlets a professional conference needs. We’ll also work on finding convenient spaces that you can use for taking calls or catching up on emails.
10. More networking and facilitated discussion groups
This year the Fox Forum stage doubled as our venue for birds of a feather discussion groups, which meant there was less time for discussion as we turned the room over. Next year we’ll be doing these in separate spaces.
And it’s clear, the CMX community cannot get enough networking! This year we did pre-conference online icebreakers (speed networking), a pre-event unconference at Google, birds of feather tables, and many networking breaks. We’ll continue to experiment and challenge ourselves to find more, unique ways for our attendees to connect and meet each other.
Also noted: At our evening events, you don’t want too much facilitated networking, you just want to relax, and have a drink. We’ll ease up on the programming after 5pm and keep it simple and fun.
Join us at CMX Summit 2020
This event was a huge step up for us at CMX and for the community industry. We learned a lot from running a larger event and can’t wait to get back to work on next year’s event, which will be even bigger and better.
I speak for everyone at CMX when I say we hope you’ll join us and hold us accountable to making these improvements. We will continue to work hard to make CMX Summit an event you always want to come back to.
We’re offering a 2-for-1 deal on tickets for CMX Summit 2020, which will be on Sept 9-10 in Redwood City. You can save over $1000 by grabbing your tickets now!
We hope to see you there!