It's now Sunday after the 2nd leg of the Australian Oracle User Group (AUSOUG) 2007 conference in Melbourne. The following is a bit of a "yarn" about the overall conference series format, and doesn't bother to mention speakers or personalities. If that's your gig, hit the back button now, otherwise if you're interested in Oracle User Group events in general, read on.
All in all the volunteers of the AUSOUG committee and staff need to be congratulated on a conference well done this year, building upon last year's successes.
This year saw both cities, Perth and Melbourne break the attendee records of the previous year, with over 400 and 500 attendees respectively in each (sorry, I can't remember the exact numbers). In 2006 AUSOUG decided to change the tired "all cities" conference series, run in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth to focus on a smaller (in terms of number of cities) but larger (in terms of the size of the event) program in Perth and Melbourne. This has paid off with falling delegate numbers arrested, instead the 2 city conference seeing a growth of 100 each for 2006 and 2007 respectively. It's no Oracle OpenWorld, but in my opinion not bad for a country that only has a population of around 20 million.
As a side note: Why the 2 city model rather than 1? Or more specifically why Perth at all given it's so far from the Australian action on the West Coast? It's a question of member numbers and geography. Perth has always enjoyed a strong support for AUSOUG with (at times) the largest state based membership base. In turn Perth is such a considerable distance away from the Australian East Coast, there is a fair risk that West Aussies just wont commit the time or effort to head to an East Coast only "1 city" conference model. As such AUSOUG is mindful of ensuring it still supports one of its largest membership bases, to ensure the overall success of the conference series, and to protect the future of the group. However on the East Coast, the Melbourne conference sees attendees from Darwin through Tassie, even Indonesia and New Zealand, so it shows the people on the "other-side-of-the-big-brown-bit" are much more willing to head anywhere on the East coast than the "sand-gropers."
Why Melbourne? Well it was a considered choice between East Coast cities, and Sydney is known as the "nightmare" city in conference organiser circles in Australia (success is far from guaranteed in Sydney and can be very financially risky or so I'm told), Melbourne was a natural choice in 06 and 07 as it has (at last count) the largest state based membership.
The other key benefit of the 2 city conference model and was recognized by the AUSOUG committee as a priority when it changed the program, is the new conference model is seeing more international speakers willing to make the trip across. To some Aussies it might seem strange that international guests wouldn't want to see all Australia has to offer once flying the kzillion hour leg to our fair shores. However in speaking to a number of such speakers, most can't commit the huge amount of time (and dollars) required to visit every city. Now with the advantage of only a couple of cities to visit, they are willing to make the trip.
The decision of which cities to hold the conference at is an incredibly difficult one, and one that I'm happy I'm no longer a part of having stepped down from the National committee. It's the usual "you can only satisfy 20% of the people 80% of the time" decisions, and will draw complaints no matter what (especially from the Sydney crowd).
However the fact of the matter is from the user group's point of view, the conference series has seen good growth showing membership satisfaction, continued commitment from Oracle and other exhibitors from local and abroad showing the worth of the conference to sponsors and vendors, and of course the generous commitment from international and local speakers, who are what the punters come to see after all (either that or those free Toad tshirts this year - hard to tell really).
As announced at the Perth leg of the conference this year, next year's 2008 conference location is not yet 100% decided, but the going bet is the Gold Coast (south of Brisbane in Queensland for the international readers), approximately 2 weeks after San Fran's OOW in September 2008. The format and timing of the Perth conference leg is still a work in progress. Please remember I don't sit on the AUSOUG National committee anymore, so I have no "special" window into what the National committee decides. If you wish to influence the decision you should contact your local AUSOUG state representatives and voice your opinion.... and from personal experience, they do listen.
Anyway, after a year of watching the 2007 conference series form, while I sat on the sideline of the organisational effort, I think the end result has been a good one, and I wish the user group all the luck for the 2008 events.