About 45 participants attended the session. We did some polling of the room at the start to see who was there. I started by asking how many folks were familiar with the concept of open source software and I was happy to see most folks raising their hands. There was a mix of consultants and NP staff / managers, and only a few were already using CiviCRM. Most folks were already using some kind of CRM and came to explore if Civi might serve their needs better. Interestingly, a large percentage of folks were familiar with or using one of our supported CMS's (Drupal, Joomla, WordPress).
We walked through an introductory presentation - but most of the time was spent on Q & A. Questions ranged from "does it scale", to "how much does it cost to implement", to "is it hard to upgrade if you've customized it"?
In the afternoon Kurund and I set up our booth at the Science Fair (vendors and sponsors exhibit hall). This is the first time CiviCRM.org as a project has done a booth at a conference - so we were pretty uncertain as to how it would go and whether it would be worth the time and effort (and cost). We hung up our spanking new banner, and got the new CiviCRM.org website up on our laptops. Joe Murray from JMA Consulting printed off some nice 3-fold "brochures" about Civi as handouts. Of course there were lots of pretty elaborate booths at the fair, but I think we held our own appearance wise :-) with minimal expense.
Even before the exhibit hall had officially opened, we had groups of folks coming by to chat and ask questions. Frank, Michael, Kurund and I were all super busy talking to people non-stop from 3pm until around 6pm. It was quite exciting to see the level of interest AND to find out that lots of folks at NTC "had heard about" CiviCRM and were interested in learning more.
This experience really reinforce for me the importance of having a presence at conferences like NTC. This can and should happen in lots of different ways:
- More folks from organizations using Civi giving talks - as Micah Lee from EFF did at DrupalCon in March
- Consultants doing sessions which showcase their client's successes with CiviCRM, and educating folks on open source in general - like Andrew Hunt did in the Ignite session at NTC
- … CiviCRM.org "booths" co-sponsored by the project and consultancies (like we did this time at NTC) as well as consultant/integrator booths which co-brand the CiviCRM platform.
All of these activities can really help raise awareness about the project, and help sustain and grow the community. I encourage everyone to look at the conferences and gatherings coming up in their area and "make it happen".