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What's in Your Briefcase?
by Heather Myklegard on

Rubber Chicken Briefcase

Going to a conference? Be sure to have these necessary items in your briefcase, laptop bag, or purse. Most conferences are quick and fast-paced and leave little time to run to the drugstore or back to your room. Make sure you are prepared and ready to go!

Business Cards: This is one time when less is definitely not more. Make sure you have plenty of business cards with you. The worst scenario is when you meet a new contact, they are truly interested in your services, but you have nothing to give them. We recommend keeping business cards in all pockets of all bags. Just in case you change bags at the last minute.

Mints: Conferences start early, and most likely, you will be drinking coffee. Make sure you have mints with you so that you can talk to that person next to you with confidence. You never know what they will be serving for lunch too. Garlic shrimp?

More Than One Pen: We have all had that incident where we are trying to take notes or write down a number and our pen won’t work. Be prepared and have a couple of extra pens just incase. You never know when the person next to you will need a pen. Great conversation starter and you look prepared.

Notebook: Sometimes the good old fashioned note taking is the only way to go. Want to save your notes digitally? Try the new Evernote Smart Notebook. It allows you to take pictures of your notes and then stores it in Evernote. Genius.

Phone Charger: Work doesn’t stop because you are at a conference. Make sure your phone has plenty of juice so you can answer those incoming calls from the office or from your clients. You may also want to be tweeting or posting about the conference. Having your phone charger with you will make certain your phone is alive and well.

Do you have any other suggestions for what to bring to a conference? We would love to hear from you. Tweet us at @busyconf or visit our Facebook page.

Look forward to hearing from you!

BusyConf's First High School Intern: Daniel Ackerman
by Daniel Ackerman on

Opportunity Sign

Hello, my name is Daniel Ackerman.

I just graduated from Loudoun Valley High School and will attend Christopher Newport University next year to study computer science. Before I could even read, I showed a great interest in computers when I got a Nintendo 64 at age four. When I was nine, I decided to build my own desktop computer. Then, when I turned 13, I got a PSP and proceeded to hack it. The following year I became a well-known iTouch and iPhone jail breaker at my intermediate school. But it was not until I took a basic computer science course my junior year in high school that I had any programming experience. The first quarter was very hard for me; and, while normally I was not the academic student who persevered, I suddenly found myself spending every night at home hacking away on different pieces of code. Not only did this new found aspiration for computer science cause my grades in that class to improve, but it also helped to improve my grades in all of my other classes as well. I was definitely going to sign up for AP computer science the next year.

My senior year was very exciting for me. The preceding summer I spent hours each day programming, and I solved many mathematical problems with computer science on Project Euler. I also had a mentor in the computer science field that helped me when I needed it. As most of my fellow classmates lost interest in their classes and turned towards college, I finally focused on school. Realizing that calculus could help me further my computer science endeavors, I began teaching it to myself. For once, all of my math classes became a breeze. I began to make nearly straight A’s, something I had not achieved for years. I helped out the first year computer science students, serving as a teacher assistant for a teacher I will never forget. That Christmas, instead of asking for some gadget or game, I asked for computer science and math textbooks: scala, calculus, game physics, functional programming. In the last few months I wrote a derivative, integration, and graphing program for a physics project and learned dynamic programming. But as my year began to come to a close, I was told of an internship opportunity at a company called BusyConf.

While I had recently acquired a job to save some money for college, the interview and pre-interview email processes for BusyConf were very nerve-wracking for me. Even being a coached varsity debater, I was really nervous speaking in front of Ryan. I knew from the moment I googled his name that I had found someone who not only knew programming and business inside and out, but someone who could actually teach me and help me turn my passion and still beginner’s knowledge of computer science into a real craft. Over the course of a month, Ryan and I emailed each other back and forth as a sort of pre-interview. I remember quite a few days where I kept my phone close, waiting for some response, only to jump back into learning the new language Ruby I heard about from Ryan. At the interview I was extremely nervous–I was actually meeting Ryan in person!

Getting picked for the internship was simply amazing. The night I got the email I was ecstatic. However, my first day was very different from my expectations. Ryan introduced me to the challenging process of picking out the stickers for the cover of a MacBook. When he took me and his friend (Chris Mar) out to lunch, we had a funny conversation about the crazy interview questions software companies can ask applicants. Later that day I was shown how to run a live version of the BusyConf server on the MacBook and how to use git & hub to pull repositories from GitHub. Lastly, I was given a rundown of the Mac operating system. But it was the smaller personal gestures that made me feel truly welcome.

At BusyConf this summer, I expect to be greatly challenged. I have already been challenged: I had this quirk where I press the caps lock key instead of the shift key to capitalize, and Ryan has “helped me” by taking it away on the Mac…but I know this is for good. I expect that if I put in 100%, I can achieve a level of computer science that I am only now beginning to see as possible. Last summer I grew tremendously, simply by pushing myself. But I lacked a dedicated teacher, formal instruction, and clear goals. This summer, I have all of those, in addition to a mindset on becoming an amazing programmer.

Going Green for Your Next Event
by Heather Myklegard on

Recycling Bins

We all want to do our part and help to protect the environment. One way you can do that is by eliminating waste at your next big event. Here are 8 tips on how you can host a “green” conference. This will not only help the planet, but it will also help your wallet!

Digital Goody Bag: Instead of handing your attendees a bag full of paper that they may or may not read, think about sending everything to them prior to the conference in an e-mail. This will give attendees the opportunity to print what they are interested in–saving you time and money. It might also save a tree or two.

China Over Styrofoam: Instead of styrofoam coffee cups, bring out the old china. Using china cups and saucers may seem a bit old-school, but it will save you money on purchasing hundreds of cups. It will also reduce waste.

Skip the Bottled Water: Offer large water jugs everywhere, and consider sponsored reusable water bottles that attendees can take with them. Water pitchers and glasses at each table also helps.

Thumb Drives with Presentations: Much like the digital goody bag, offer to put all of the presentations they are going to see today on a thumbdrive. This can be purchased at the end of the event or given out as a souvenir. This eliminates unwanted paper that usualy gets thrown away.

Recycling Bins Next to Garbage Cans: Make recycling easy for your attendees. Ask your venue to help by supplying recycling bins next to every garbage can.

Publish a Digital Agenda: Most attendees carry smartphones or tablets, and they love using them. By publishing a mobile-enabled online schedule of your event, your attendees not only get a richer experience but you also save a ton of paper. BusyConf can help you publish a modern online schedule easily.

Ask Your Attendees to Do Their Part: Let attendees know this is an energy concious event, and ask them to pitch in. Recycle that soda can. If printing out slides, ask them to print front and back and multiple slides per page.

Reuse the Name Badge Sleeves: Much like runners returning their time chip at the end of a race, attendees can return their plastic name badge sleeves and lanyards at the end of your event. With a conference of 1300 or more people, saving a name badge can save over $1,000!

These are just a few ideas on how to have less waste at your next big event. Not everyone will be on board, and you are sure to get some push-back. There will be complaints about not having bottled water or a printed slides. Simply smile, and thank them for their suggestions. There is no way to make everyone happy, but you know that you took a few simple steps to not only save some money but also help protect our environment.

Finding The Right Speakers For Your Conference
by Heather Myklegard on

Conference Speaker

Finding the right speakers for your conference can be a big challenge. Speakers can make or break a conference. Big names will attract people to your conference but so will titles, resumes and publications. When looking for speakers make sure you stay on topic and find people who are well-versed in the industry. It is important to find speakers that have experience presenting to large groups. You want someone who is dynamic, entertaining and educational. Here are a few tips on how to find the right speaker for your next conference:

Attend Conferences in Your Area: Look at events in your industry both past and present. Who were the speakers? What was the attendance like? What was the feedback on the speaker? Did any of the speakers strike a chord with you?

Ask Your Audience: If you already have a following ask them who they would like to hear speak. You can tweet them, poll them on Facebook or ask them via Google+. You may be surprised at the responses. Try giving them a few options and let them vote.

Ask Your Sponsors: Asking your sponsors also shows that you respect their opinion and want their input. However, do not put them in charge of finding the speaker. Simply ask them for a few names they would recommend. This way you are still in control. You can do your homework from afar and see if these names would be a good fit for the conference with little commitment.

Create an Advisory Board: This board can consist of employees, friends with a deep interest of your particular topic or industry, and perhaps past speakers of your event. If this is your first time holding an event ask people who are knowledgeable on the topic. Several heads are always better than one. Discuss trending topics related to the industry at hand and what each person would like to learn more about.

Request for Proposal: Set up a Request for Proposal (aka Call for Proposal, aka CFP) form on your website. BusyConf has a very intuitive and easy to use form that is available to use when integrated with our seamless conference platform. CFP’s allow the speakers to come to you. You will get a good sense of their commitment and level of enthusiasm.

Listen to you Audience: We spend so much time looking at the podium we may overlook the very talented and dynamic speaker and leader who is sitting right next to you. Talk to your fellow attendees. Find out what they do. You may just find the next presenter for your event.

Read: Immerse yourself in books, articles, and blogs on the topic. You may be surprised at what you learn and who you “meet.”

Find New Blood: We tend to ask the same industry leaders to speak. The trouble with that is their speech is often the same. Instead of asking these leaders to speak at yet another conference ask them who they would recommend. Perhaps they have been to a conference and heard someone who is less known but still has great content to share.

Finding good public speakers is no easy task–especially ones that are knowledgeable, interesting and well versed. Do your homework and ask others to help you. Have you hosted a conference? If so, how did you find your speakers?

The BusyConf Elevator Pitch
by Ryan McGeary on

Elevator Pitch Cartoon

When you’re starting a new company, it’s critical to be able to convey the business’s message and value proposition quickly. It’s important to practice, memorize, and test this message frequently, because the next person you meet might be the perfect customer, investor, or partner.

Here’s the BusyConf Elevator Pitch that I’ve been practicing recently.

Whether you’re a novice or an experienced event planning professional, conference and convention planning is an utter nightmare. BusyConf is the only platform with its unique set of conference workflows that makes conference planning easy.

Let’s imagine that you need to organize a speaker conference. You have a lot on your plate. You need to manage the speakers. You need to coordinate and cooperate amongst your review committee. You need to publish a schedule that your attendees can view while they’re at the event. And you need to handle all the finances. You need to handle the ticket purchases with credit card payments, and discount codes, and refunds. All of this makes up just part of a typical conference event.

Normally, this is handled with disjunct emails and offline spreadsheets. Almost none of it is in one location. To top it off, the responsible parties are usually made up of volunteers with little expertise, but more importantly little time.

BusyConf gives you the tools to publish a call for proposals. We automatically publish your accepted activities to an online mobile schedule. We also handle all the ticket registration, sponsor payments, and finances for you. It’s all under the BusyConf roof, AND at the end of the day, we cut you a check.

BusyConf makes your event a success. It makes conference planning easy.

Leesburg Tech Startup Co-Sponsors Hackathon at Thomas Jefferson High School
by Ryan McGeary on

BusyConf is proud to sponsor and mentor the largest high school hackathon in history. The Leesburg Today and Ashburn Patch picked up the story.

“I am looking for someone who has already shown a talent for programming, but wants to learn more,” McGeary said. “I am testing a new hypothesis. I believe that someone who starts with a strong passion for programming at a young age and on their own initiative will be a better job candidate in the long run than someone who chose a college major because there is a potential job market for that skill.”

Read the Article

Screenshot

Original Press Release

Loudoun Meet-ups Help High-Tech Entrepreneurs Share Ideas
by Ryan McGeary on

Jim Barnes from The Washington Post interviewed me during a local gathering of entrepreneurs. I got to talk about BusyConf and how important networking can be for entrepreneurs.

“A lot of the best connections you have, or the best business generators, are sometimes the weak connections, not necessarily your best friend,” McGeary said. “It’s more along the lines of the person you met at the one particular gathering knows somebody who knows somebody.”

“Basically, we talk about our ideas; we talk about our business plans; we talk about challenges we’re having, and just bounce ideas around,” McGeary said.

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The LMGTFY Guys are Back...with an Online Conference Startup
by Ryan McGeary on

Connie Loizos from peHUB interviewed us about our new startup.

As attendees of conferences, we’ve been pained like everyone else by how most handle their schedules, in terms of handling multiday, multitrack conferences. Most are poorly organized, lack relevant information, and aren’t published in a way that conference attendees can easily access. So we’re trying to alleviate those problems through a dynamic, HRML5 schedule that’s easy to use, with different versions optimized for the desktop, iPhone, Android, iPad and printer.

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Conference Organizing Made Easier with BusyConf
by Ryan McGeary on

We were pleased to have Monika Jansen write up a great article about us on Tech Cocktail.

We have all been to conferences that are poorly organized – signage sucks, trying to choose a session to attend is nearly impossible due to lack of details, and so on. While some of those issues can be attributed to inexperience, a lot of it boils down to the simple fact that organizing a conference is not easy – there are a million details to account for, never mind problems that pop up at the last minute.

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