[Conferences] TCC = Total Cost of Conference

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Sat Aug 21 18:58:16 CEST 2010

On Saturday 21 August 2010 17:33:19 Carl Karsten wrote:
> How do you measure the value of a weekend?  Is it worth more or less
> than 2 work days?

In the context of planning a conference, the weekend versus weekdays argument 
is also worth considering, at least in places where people get enough 
vacation to consider going to a conference in the week.

> yeah, the devil is in the details, YMMV, bla bla bla.  but I think
> this is worth talking about so that it is acknowledged as something to
> be aware of when considering asking people to show up for an event.
> Ignore the value someone gets from attending a bunch of talks and
> hanging out with others who share the passion of Python.   That would
> be for the Total Value thread which someone else can start.  I think
> getting an appreciation for the magnitude of the cost will help put
> things in perspective like $10 parking charge.

I think this is an important point. Although community conferences can keep 
the cost of the event down, if you're travelling to the event, the travel and 
accommodation costs can easily overwhelm the registration costs. That's not 
an argument for expensive conferences, of course, since many people will be 
locals or not have to travel very far, but it does exert some pressure on the 
choice of venue.

> I am sure we all agree that for the most part a Python event has a
> positive net value.   We also agree that the registration cost is a
> real cost (duh.)  What we don't talk about much is other costs the
> attendee incurs.

Agreed. Another potentially long thread could also consider things that are 
usually provided at a conference. For example, people expect flawless 
wireless network coverage and are likely to be disappointed if they have to 
switch to mobile networks (3G services and the like), but is the cost of 
getting on the Internet at the venue unreasonable if they have to buy 3G 
service, or are they expecting too much of the organisers to give several 
hundred people a fast Internet connection for hardly any money?

> Lets look at groups of people:
> Anyone from out of town:
> Hotel - on my way to NY I found a hotel for about $50.  But that was
> in the middle of nowhere.  for conferences, I assume $100/night, so
> $200 for a Sat/Sun event given you need to arrive the night before.
> This is about the only firm number.

This is where deals with hotels could be done, I suppose. It seems that recent 
PyCons have been held at hotels, whereas other conferences are often held at 
other kinds of venue that don't provide accommodation. The EuroPython local 
organisers have been rather good at offering a range of differently priced 
accommodation. The point here is that there is often an opportunity to 
optimise the attendee's budget around accommodation that isn't necessarily 
present around travel and other things.

> Travel - I think $200 is a minimum cost as soon as an airplane is
> involved (including taxi/getting someone to give you a ride to the
> airport, parking)  will eat up more time.  Anytime I fly I assume I
> will get no work done that day.  I do try to make up for it by
> catching up on reading, but even that only gets me about 1/2 day of
> reading in, and it is typically in a noisy distracting etc
> environment.  So $200+value of a day which can be anywhere from 0 to
> $1000.

In my experience, travel is something that is always going to swallow a large 
percentage of one's personal conference budget, in terms of time, hassle and 
money. It seemed quite difficult to get decent early rates when I went to 
EuroPython recently, and travelling with low-cost carriers isn't always 
cheaper once all the extra costs have been incurred. Putting a figure on time 
is quite difficult, and I guess this depends a lot on your perspective: if 
it's time away from paid work and not vacation, then you'd want to arrive at 
a figure; otherwise, it's all about whether travelling to a conference in 
your vacation is using up time that you could be spending doing something 

[List of "users"]

> I know there are more, but have run out of steam for now.  anyone up
> for adding to my list?

I think the initial question of how much value you place in a weekend is the 
most interesting. Some people would rather spare the weekend for family 
activities and try and get out of work during the week. For others, getting 
out of work (or studies) is just not possible, and they'd rather sacrifice a 
weekend. And do people want more "fun" if an event is a weekend event, or are 
they happy to sit in tutorials at a weekend, or are tutorials just as much 
fun as "normal" conference things?


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