Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 17 2014

Big Conference Returns After Three-Year Hiatus

By David McMillin

After a three-year break from planning and hosting its primary face-to-face experience, Facebook recently announced plans to bring together 1,500 developers for learning, networking and exploring the future of creating apps for the social networking giant.

“This year, we’re going back to our roots and having a pure developer conference,” Ilya Sukhar, head of products for Facebook’s developer services and CEO of Parse, told attendees at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

In recent years, Facebook abandoned the large format conference in favor of smaller, regional gatherings. The revitalized big conference, called F8, will be held on April 30 in San Francisco. Unlike many other conferences, registration is not as easy as entering credit card information and clicking submit. Space is limited, and developers must apply to attend.

In an interview with Wired, Sukhar said part of the reason the company put the conference on hold was that Facebook was struggling to determine how to help developers earn money from their mobile apps. Sukhar added that F8 is “a signal that we think we’ve figured it out.”

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Even Developers Can’t Rely On An All-Digital Approach

Many might expect tech companies to embrace an all-virtual approach to education and engagement. However, the news highlights that even those who spend most of their time behind a screen recognize the importance of face-to-face for inspiring new ideas, new opportunities and of course, new revenue streams. The full-day program includes four learning tracks, along with a one-on-one tutorial destination called “The Garage.” Similar to the Genius Bar at an Apple Store, conference attendees are encouraged to sign up for a time and bring their laptops to The Garage for personalized coaching on problem solving and building better apps.

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How To Bring A Conference Back

Rather than simply issue a press release and work to engage the development community with marketing efforts, Sukhar and Facebook chose a very high-profile stage for the announcement, and it’s paying off. With thousands of bright developer minds at SXSW, F8 has already received plenty of buzz from CNET, PC Mag, The Next Web and other well-read tech blogs. All that chatter is certainly important to help build the buzz the company needs in order to attract the type of attendees they need.

Have you ever had to revive a conference? How did you spread the word that the event was back on the calendar? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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