Evaluation time: What did participants think of ThingsCon?

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We always want to learn what works for you at ThingsCon and what could be improved. We hear so through many channels, from more formal emails to quick off-the-cuff remarks during the event. After the conference, we emailed the participants asking to fill out an evaluation form.

By now, the results are in, and they are overwhelmingly positive.

Now, there’s a few things to consider before moving on to the results:

  • The number of responses is quite low with just about 15. That’s pretty normal, but it’s important to remember that these are by no means representative results in the statistical sense.
  • Evaluations generally tend towards the extreme. If you’ve ever had the chance to dig through evaluation data, you’ll know that primarily those with a strong opinion on a topic tend to take the time to fill out a form if there’s no external incentive (there wasn’t one). So mostly those who love or hated something take the time.
  • We asked bosth for quantitative and qualitative input. In other words, rankings (1 to 5 points, with 1 = terrible and 5 = fantastic) and free form text input (questions along the line of “what did you most/least enjoy” and “what could be improved”).
  • The evaluation was absolutely anonymous. It was possible (but not required) to self-identify as participant, speaker or sponsor.
  • What we share here today is what came in through the evaluation form, not through other channels.

Keeping all that in mind, a big thank you to those who filled out the form, and also to that who gave us feedback through other channels.

Again, the scale is “1=terrible, 5=fantastic”. So let’s dive right in.

How was your overall experience of ThingsCon? Average rating: 4.33

Some noteworthy quotes: – “Thingscon felt like coming home.” – “I got to meet such interesting wonderful people. ” – “Great talks, great people, great atmosphere” – “came home pretty enthusiastic and full of ideas”

Overall, the sense of community, atmosphere and collaborative spirit was most liked. Some things to improve on: Get more engineers on board and make more time/space to hack.

Did the workshops meet your expectations? Average rating: 3.58

Some noteworthy quotes:

  • “it was a bit tricky to follow up”
  • “preparations could have been better”
  • “took away lots of interesting ideas to use in my own work”

We know how much work workshop hosts have put into these, so clearly if anyone didn’t have an excellent workshop experience the fault lies with us. Clearly, here we have to improve both in terms of expectation management and in some aspects of logistics and communications so both participants and workshop hosts get as much out of a workshop as possible. Also, we made notes for what worked in terms of location & rooms and what didn’t.

Did the talks meet your expectations? Average rating: 4.08

Some noteworthy quotes:

  • “great variety of speakers with different backgrounds”
  • “I do wish you would also have tracks on software side of IoT”
  • “More critical talks than I expected, which is good thing”

The talks worked out well overall. We particularly focused on diversity in the speaker line-up this year. For the future, an even wider variety also in disciplines & backgrounds might be good.

How did you like the conference venue? Average rating: 4.16

Some noteworthy quotes:

  • “The shifting between the location was a bit annoying. The air inside the Soda Club was a bit thick.”
  • “The place was excellent. It was easy to reach and the space was ample.”

Location is always a tricky one. In this case, some folks got lost wandering the vast location, and we heard about thick air inside the workshop rooms (which double as a dance club at night). The movie theater got mixed reviews.

How did you like the conference catering? Average rating: 4.25

Some noteworthy quotes:

  • “It was delicious and the staff was very kind”
  • “A-mazing.”
  • “would’ve loved to have had breakfast”

The catering staff’s friendliness came up over and over again. A big thank you from us to Iss Kind, Iss. They’re great. As for breakfast, we hear ya.

What was your best & worst experience?

Some noteworthy quotes:

  • worst: “the lunch break in day two was a bit to brief”
  • best: “Meeting and talking with people in the breaks.” We’re assuming this counts as “best” ;)
  • best: “keynotes were eye-opening, hilarious and inspiring but non-traditional”
  • worst: “there were few female participants. Would love to see more women next time!”
  • worst: “having to decide between workshops and conference talks. I’m afraid that I missed out!”

Overall the “best” category was filled much more than the “worst”, which is a good thing. Obviously we take the input for “worst” much more seriously in that we can work on addressing those.

What would you like to see done differently?

Some noteworthy quotes:

  • “Smaller workgroups to enhance intimacy”
  • “Open-air venue. Fresh air is good for creativity ;)”
  • “More advanced technical tracks.”

Other ideas and feedback touched on a stronger representation of the global South (which we’d love), on splitting workshops and talks into separate days (like we did in the first year), on longer coffee breaks to allow for more conversations.

Interestingly someone mentioned the event felt like a conference by designers for designers. In contrast to last year, where some folks mentioned it felt too much like a pure hardware conference for any designer to attend. I guess either way, we can improve our communications to emphasize that we explicitly want to make ThingsCon as interdisciplinary as possible!

Miscallenous

We had a few more quick ranking and feedback questions. Among other about having had bad experiences (no replies), would you come back (some Maybes, lots of Yes, no No), would you recommend it to a friend (couple Maybe, almost all Yes, no No).

To wrap up, we asked two more questions about overall perceived value to find out if it was worth everyone’s time, energy and money:

  • “How did you find the value for money for the conference?” Average rating 4.27
  • “How much did you learn & gain from the conference?” Average rating 3.92

Some of our takeaways

We’ve been digging into this, and a large amount of other feedback (informal, conversations, anecdotal, emails, tweets…) a lot.

Overall, we’ve come to the conclusion that the conference format works, with some evolutionary steps that can improve. We’ve been working hard to foster diversity and inclusion, and it’s been working, but we can (and will) continue to do more.

Takeaways that stood out for us:

  • ThingsCon is made by the people, a truly great community. For that we are grateful.
  • The talks worked out very nicely. Range and quality both worked.
  • Workshops can be run better, especially expectation management and matching participants and workshops.
  • The theme that emerged around ethical considerations and the question of “why” (captured and focused in the #iotmanifesto) resonated well with many of you. And it’s not clear where else these topics, and this framing, would find a home.

That’s a snapshot of our current participant evaluation. Thanks again for taking the time to give us feedback and talk soon!

Note: This is cross-posted from the ThingsCon website, which we’re in the process of tweaking & relaunching.