Thinking about future London IA Mini event formats

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 20 May 2009

If you tried to get a ticket, you'll have noticed that the second event in our 'London IA Mini' series, like the first, sold out in a matter of minutes. There were only twenty-five places available, and they were snapped up. That left a lot of unhappy people without tickets. There will be plenty of live tweeting and blog reportage of the event I'm sure, but that isn't the same as being there.

London Mini IA 09 logo

Credit to the community though, there was an immediate groundswell to put on a second 'beta' event, so that at least some of the disappointed IAs and UXers could still have somewhere to go that night, which is in the middle of the UX London conference. I think that is a real testament to how energised our London IA group is at the moment, and an example of how our rather decentralised structure is working well.

I'm hoping that we can get a range of different types of events together for the London community. As well as the London IA Mini 'Alpha' and 'Beta' events, we also, through grass-roots effort, have drop-ins at The Wellcome Centre, show and tell evenings, and IA in the pub. There is also a thriving UX Book Club in London, and that is without thinking about the other excellent evening events in London of interest to our field put on by the UKUPA, AUKML and CILIP amongst others.

Of course, the unfulfilled ticket demand also begs the question - why not organise a bigger London IA Mini event?

The overwhelming feedback from the first evening - apart from that I should have learned how to operate the A/V system in my own offices properly - was that people wanted smaller, more intimate events, with more hands-on opportunities and more chance to network, ask questions and discuss. That is what we were trying to achieve with the second London IA Mini Conference night.

Before announcing the event we had considered some other ticketing options. One was to make the ticket price higher to dampen demand. Another idea was to have a 'ticket ballot' where we give everybody a random chance of getting a ticket for 'London IA Mini 2', and make sure that a different bunch of people from the group got to go to 'London IA Mini 3'. In the end I thought that both of those options would probably prove just as unpopular with people who didn't get tickets as the 'first come first served' scramble for tickets proved to be.

With over 500 members in the 'London IA' Ning group now, it is hard to do 'small & intimate' and also give everybody a chance to attend.

So we've been thinking hard about how to crack this problem. A couple of the ideas we've had are to do an event in a large public space where we can easily and flexibly break into smaller groups. That way we'd have no capacity restriction. Another idea has been to have several smaller events scattered throughout London during the course of a single day.

Since I advocate user-centred web design, I firmly believe in user-centred event design - it would be great to get feedback from the London group and the wider IA & UX community on formats, frequency and that elusive ideal ticketing mechanism.

Still, maybe Leisa Reichelt had the best advice for the only way to guarantee that you get to participate in an event.

"A great way to not miss out on conference tix is to put yr hand up to speak ;)"

London IA: Notes from the talks
Martin Belam, foreword by Ann McMeekin Carrier
London IA is a network of designers, information architects and thinkers. Since 2009 the group has been holding regular meetings featuring talks about UX, or of interest to UXers. This ebook is a compilation of my notes from those evenings, featuring talks by Andy Budd, Giles Colborne, Cennydd Bowles, Claire Rowland, Jason Mesut, Ben Bashford, Chris Heathcote, Dan Lockton, Relly Annett-Baker, Michael Blastland, Margaret Hanley and Richard Rutter amongst others. Topics covered range from ubicomp to psychology, from learning how to sketchnote to how to write a UX book, and how to improve digital design through diverse routes like copy-writing, designing for doubt, learning from music technology or taking care of typography.
London IA: Notes from the talks is available for Kindle for £2.47.


To me, the Wikipedia solution seems apt: if it's broken, fix it yourself!

It's fantastic that we're seeing such high demand, to the extent that it swamps supply. I'd never have expected such growth, even a year ago. But, as I'm sure you find too, it takes surprising effort to put these events on. We all have limited spare time and therefore unless more people volunteer to put things on there's little we can to increase supply.

So I wouldn't worry too much about doing more to accommodate demand – just keep putting on quality events. Hopefully we can encourage others to do the same.

BarCamps usually suffer from a similar ticket scramble problem, and the only solution I see is to put on more BarCamps. I look forward to the day when I can sigh and say "Not *another* great UX event to go to? I need a break…"

I think you did the right thing. You gave plenty of advance notice as to when the tickets would go on sale. I love the fact that this second IA Mini will be smaller too. Maybe I can say this because I am a smug ticket holder.

Please don't charge more for future events. I was a little surprised (but not at all put off) to see that the upcoming meeting is £5. If you charge more than that, who's profiting? I assume the £5 is going towards refreshments?

Good point Michelle, we should be more clear about where the money is going. Yes, it is to cover the cost of refreshments, and we have some sponsorship money as well to help. If you were planning a 'get rich quick' scheme, I don't think this one is a viable model!

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