In September of 2023 I joined the Trace Labs team for our second trip to 44CON in London. Over the course of two days we gave OSINT workshops and hosted a Searchparty CTF. As expected, it was a great experience but it's worth calling out what made it so great.
After 22 hours of travel I walked in to a packed hotel conference room in Hammersmith, London just in time to participate in our first workshop of the Con. My exhaustion quickly vanished when I saw someone I recognized from the previous year. And another person. And another....and so on. The room was filled with people we'd given presentations to or interacted with the previous year!
Pro Tip 1: Great people coming back to your con will make great people want to come back to your con!
Big Enough to Do Lots of Things - Small Enough to Do Everything
As an attendee, there was a lot you could do besides talks. There were workshops, villages and vendor booths to interact with. The best part? No lines. No deciding what you were going to miss. There really was something for everyone here. Policy? Lockpicking? OSINT? CTFs? They've got you covered.
Pro Tip 2: You can appeal to a broad audience while still being engaging on a deep level.
The speakers were approachable....and they stayed around!
The talks were great but the best part was the speakers were also attendees. I've been to conferences in the past where a great presenter was just in and out. Or only hung around for part of one day. The opportunity to engage with speakers on their subject of interest is something I judge a Con by. If I can't easily/conveniently interact with the people I've traveled to see....then why come at all?
Pro Tip 3: Make the speakers a part of the Con. Like, all of it.
There was always something to eat! This might seem like added fluff but depending on where your Con is being held this can be a big deal. Maybe there aren't affordable dining options close by? So now your attendees have to choose between eating or missing part of the Con.
Pro Tip 4: Make food a part of your budget. Most people are fine paying more for a ticket if it guarantees food.
Speaking as someone that crossed an ocean to present at this conference, there is no substitute for feeling like the Con organizers have their stuff together. 44Con has demonstrated this both years I've attended. I imagine that the attendees felt the same way.
Pro Tip 5: Get it together. Keep it together.
If you have the chance to attend a 44CON in the future I recommend it. If you want to organize your own Con I recommend you learn from their example.