How we managed to create a conference on enterprise tech people often call ‘the best conference they’ve ever attended’ and have kept doing it for 14 years
There was nothing special that evening. It was 1984, and two best friends were a bit disappointed after watching their favorite TV show. One of them made a funny drawing to cheer the other up. They joked for a bit, drew a couple of similar characters and the next day they decided they wanted to write a story about four funny ninja turtles. They had some money from tax refunds left, borrowed some more from their relatives and started working on the story. So, a drawing by drawing, a caption by caption, and they printed out 3,000 copies. The comic is today known as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles No. 1, and its original copy, yes, the one they drew on their kitchen tables, will cost you only $20,000.
How is this story in any way related to QED, our own private teenage mutant conference (teenage because we are preparing the 14th edition, and mutant because we tend to blend technology and business)?
We strongly believe that great stuff happens when you enjoy an act of creation, when you play with ideas, and when you work as a team. Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird had a great time putting machetes into clumsy turtles’ hands. They laughed while giving them names of Renaissance artists. And the result was funny and amusing to the readers as well.
Do It (for) Yourself
It might sound selfish and vain but we are not afraid to admit that we select both topics and speakers for QED to humor our curiosity and interests. Each time we go and envision the next edition of QED, we try to organize the sessions to be so interesting and amazing that we would have a difficult time skipping them.
Of course, we do our best to get feedback from our participants and hear what they liked or would like to see. But the first question we always ask ourselves is Are WE going to like the agenda and are would WE be inspired after the sessions? Because, we are not any different than you – we as in us who prepare the conference, and you as in you who might want to attend? We all usually have similar business, personal or technology dilemmas. And we seek to find the answers to these dilemmas – from somebody else or from within ourselves.
Awaken the Turtle Within
How many times have you got the best idea ever while you were taking a shower or walking your dog? A lot of times, right? And have you ever solved a serious problem creatively while you were super stressed and stiff? Probably not.
We believe that it is equally important to establish a comfortable and relaxing environment and to provide uplifting and up to date content. And by relaxing we mean that people need to feel safe to say, ask and think whatever comes to their mind. Remember the story about the Turtle and the Rabbit? Well, that is exactly what it’s all about. We want to be the turtle among other conferences – because we believe that steady and quality progress brings out the brightest results (and conferences).
Take Your Time, Hurry Up
It sounds almost unbelievable that it has been 14 years since we started QED. And, looking back, our first conferences were like babies. Unbelievably cute, but a bit immature. As years passed by, we learned, we grew, we gathered valuable experience, we became bolder. In fact, we became so bold that we dared to ask people like Grady Booch, John Cohn, Sam Newman, and Niklas Modig to speak.
Some people might find it possible to create events like QED overnight but we enjoyed the journey – the journey in which our conference grew year by year and we became even more committed to keeping the quality on the highest level, while still nourishing a friendly, relaxed and familial atmosphere. When hosting the QED conference, we always feel like we are at home and, at the same time, on the best working vacation ever. And we’ve always worked hard to make sure our attendees feel like this, too.
If You Cannot Be a Ninja, Be Rock Lee
Rock Lee is a manga and anime character. Even if you have never seen the series, believe us when we say that Rock Lee is a very cool character because he presents human weaknesses. He once said: “A genius, huh? What does that mean? ‘Genius’? So I was not born with a whole lot of natural talent, not gifted like Neji… But I work hard and I never give up! That is my gift, that is my ninja way!” and that is the final major ingredient the QED team likes to add.
We work hard. We start preparing the next edition of the conference while we are still closing the current one. We travel, we talk to our friends, we talk to our friends’ friends, we meet new people. And, at the same time, we always think about the ways these new people and new encounters could fit into our conference.
So, no wonder we already have ideas for the 2021 conference, even though the 2020 edition hasn’t started yet. But who knows, maybe we will need to put our ideas on hold because you might have even better ideas for the next topic. Join us in Split and let us know. Or at least join us in Split. Either way, we would love to hang out with you.
See you soon!
Vedrana Miholić, Executive Producer at QED and Head of Sales at CROZ