I’ve attended a dozen or so conferences over the past year. They’ve been large, small, industry-specific, mission-driven, and everything in between. Many have been great, and a few could certainly use improvements. Business of Software (BoS) in Raleigh is one of the best conferences I’ve attended in years. Here are three takeaways from my first BoS experience.
1. BoS favors quality over quantity.
The quality of a conference is its biggest asset and also its biggest weakness. When a conference runs well, word gets out. More people flock to it year after year. It gets watered down and bloated.
Business of Software is intentionally small. They cap attendance to avoid the hordes of sales reps selling services and products. A smaller group of curious, engaged attendees creates a richer and more vulnerable conversation. People share their struggles, and others give advice and support to lift them up.
The conference schedule also favors quality. It’s single-track, and any of the talks would be keynotes at a traditional conference. There’s also plenty of time between talks, at lunch, and after the day to build relationships.
2. Conferences have a culture too — organizers create it.
Organizations think of culture as an environment that’s cultivated over years, but BoS has shown me that even a two-and-a-half-day conference can have an authentic, energizing culture.
It starts with Mark Littlewood, Kirk Baillie, and the rest of the organizing team. It’s obvious they pour their hearts into organizing this event.
Leading up to the event, with all of the whirlwind that surrounds pulling something like this off, they were still checking in with my colleague Taylor and me. They made sure we were getting value and offering support in any way they could.
Mark’s demeanor while emceeing creates a space of safety and vulnerability. His off-script approach sets a relaxed tone for both speakers and the audience. His outrageous NC State overalls project a sense of “let’s not take ourselves too seriously, please.” And, his sincere gratitude for speakers, supporters, organizers, and long time attendees is reflective of the warm, welcoming environment.
All of this carries into the content of the conference, the engagement of the audience and speakers, and the lasting relationships that are built.
3. The software scene in Raleigh is real.
This was the first year Business of Software came to Raleigh, based on support from Bill Spruill, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED), and others. Before Raleigh, it was hosted in banner tech cities like Boston and San Francisco.
That is more validation of the trajectory Raleigh is on as a tech hub. I talked to several local executives leading successful software businesses. I was lucky enough to spend time with NC State students who promise to be the future generation of leaders.
I’m really proud of how well The Triangle showed up for Business of Software. I hope that others who got a glimpse of Raleigh see the promise Atomic saw when we decided to open our fourth office here. I’m already looking forward to continuing some of the discussions I had this year at Business of Software 2024 in Raleigh, NC.