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Will there be a DMVC this year?

Devin Johnston

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I understand that it's expensive but every year I've gone the rooms were packed, it's hard to believe no profit could be made. Has there been any discussion about doing an online conference, it would be much cheaper but deliver the same information.


Well I don't have very good numbers, and I'm sorta spitballing, but if I remember correctly, the average price of admission is around $400 (averaging early birds and last minutes), and if you multiply that by 200, it's $80,000. Maybe another $30,000 can come by sponsorship if they're lucky, so I'm guessing around $110,000 in revenue. The expenses I'm guessing are:


Rooms and A/V $50,000

Food = $20,000

Travel expenses for crew = $15,000

Props and giveaways (and shipping them there) = $10,000

Marketing = $10,000

Insurance = $5,000


At these numbers, the revenue equals the expenses. Might not exact, but probably not too far off. And it doesn't include the many hundreds (possibly thousands of man hours) to pull the event off. And it certainly doesn't include the countless sleepless nights by the event hosts who hope all the while that they don't have to cancel at the last minute and eat tens of thousands in non-reimbursable expenses, or piss off sponsors who get upset that the attendance is so low it's not worth ever coming back for.


I remember Jeff saying at the last one that VisMasters had to pay a few thousand (if I remember correctly) to hire a sign language translator to follow around one person who was deaf...because it was against the law not to provide such service. And that was something that only came up in the last few days and because it was last minute it cost an incredible amount.


Yes, it's a shame, but until the industry can support ticket prices closer to $1000, or attendance closer to 1000, I don't see the event happening again.


As for online conferences, I just don't see that happening. No real networking, no interaction with any new technologies. It basically become an online workshop of classes, which you can find many places.


Maybe Jeff can provide more insight.

Edited by Brian Smith
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All three DMVC events lost money to the tune of 15-30K and that does not include ANY salaries for the time put into organizing the events, just hard costs. I generally worked for about 2 months full time when you add all of the hours and a few others worked about 2-3 weeks full time.


To put on a DMVC event like you guys have experienced costs $150-200K. Food costs alone make up over $50,000 of those costs and AV around $25,000. Travel for staff and speakers is another $30,000. Add another 100 line items of expenses (I'm serious) for everything from sign printing to speaker gifts and it all adds up.


Based on the maximum numbers that we seemed to be able to draw, 230-280 paid people, you either need to charge near the $1,000 per person mark or a lot of cut backs need to happen. The main problem is that in order to get a space large enough to accommodate a group this big, you have to use some of the largest and most expensive event spaces available in a city like Boston, LA etc. These spaces are generally only free IF you guarantee a set food and beverage budget and rooms sold. Rooms are a very tricky issue as you have to guarantee say for example 200 room nights, but if you don't sell them all you still have to pay for them. So if you guess wrong, your basically screwed.


There are a lot of moving parts to events and it's very difficult to do. Most professional event coordinators have a career life of 5-6 years as you just burn out. I think that's up there with air traffic control. I'm sure most of you can remember the stressed look on my face every year :)


I don't know when and if a DMVC type event will happen again, but if it does, I can guarantee it will either cost a lot more, or will be a very basic event. I personally would never invest my personal money into an event as it would be easier and safer to make money on high risk stocks in the market. They are great events for the industry, but not for the organizers. In my travels I've been able to speak to a lot of the organizers of the major events in our industry and it's a very common problem. For those that do play the markets, think about taking $50,000 of your money on some penny stocks. The risk is about the same.

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Oh and I forgot to mention that human nature dictates that everyone waits until the last possible minute to register. Around 80% of registrations happen in the last 30 days. Now think about spending $200K and not knowing if you will break even or bankrupt yourself until a few weeks before the event. Very HARD to budget when you don't know what your budget is until it's already been spent.

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Wow I had no idea the profit for such an event was non existent no wonder no one wants to do it again. That being said did you ever consider trying to merge the DMVC with something like SIGGRAPH, many of the same people go to both events. You'd also have a better chance of getting more sponsorships as many of the produces we use would be represented there.

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Jeff and Brian hit the nail on the head in terms of the ROI and the challenges involved.


As most of you know, VisMasters is an initiative of ArchVision. Jeff knows firsthand the amount of work involved in programming and making the event work. Last year’s economic turmoil took a hit on many in the industry making it impractical to host an event in 2009. At this point VisMasters DMVC 2010 is not scheduled to occur.


While there is tremendous need for such an event to occur, finding the magical mix of sponsor support and registration is challenging. Industry support for the event is critical – it’s the part of the equation that allows you to reduce the attendee cost, get killer speakers, etc. We agree leveraging this type of event with SIGGRAPH or similar event seems natural but executing is an entirely different story.


I’ve been keeping up with the 5D Conference. Some of the guys from Neoscape attended the 2008 inaugural conference and they may be able to shed some additional detail on their program takeaways. As I understand it, due to economics 5D canceled their 2009 main event and instead opted to host mini events. 2010 may include a larger scale 5D conference -- if so I would look to that event for some relevant industry tracks.


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