Macstock Conference & Expo is held in Woodstock, Illinois, US at the Luecht Conference Centre, a perfect venue for this sort of event, and located about 50 minutes drive out of Chicago.
This was the second Macstock event, following the inaugural event last year in which ScreenCastsOnline was the premium sponsor. Being a sponsor last year meant I couldn’t speak at the previous event, so this year I decided not to sponsor, but offer my services as a speaker.
Mike Potter and Barry Fulk have built on the success of last year’s event, but made some significant changes to make it even better.
Some of these changes included:
- Extending the event over two days.
This was an excellent idea and removed some of the stress of trying to get everything done on a single day. It also increased the justification for traveling to the event and enabled more people to attend the BBQ on the first evening.
- Adding more speakers and shortening the sessions to just 20 minutes.
This allowed for more speakers and a much increased range of topics. The limitation of the 20 minute sessions focused the speakers into delivering as much information as possible in a relatively short space of time and there was definitely no flanneling or padding added to any of the sessions. The schedule allowed for a 10 minute gap between sessions to allow for any smaller overruns and to allow people to stretch their legs. I was really impressed (as usual) on how well Mike and the team kept things flowing throughout the days – special thanks should go out to Brian Henson who was in charge of preparing the speakers to go on stage – he did a fantastic job. Turns out Brian is a ScreenCastsOnline member too!
- Including some concurrent break out sessions at the end of the first day for some deep dives into some of the topics covered.
There was a suggestion that this year’s conference would have a multitrack to allow for concurrent sessions. I am glad to say that this didn’t happen and the main sessions were held as a separate stream — no need to worry about missing any of the sessions. However, they did introduce special concurrent deep dive sessions at the end of the first day. This allowed speakers to expand on the original topic they had presented earlier in the day, or gave attendees an opportunity to get hands on with some of the discussed gadgets. This worked really, really well.
- Improving the logistics of the included BBQ event by moving it on campus.
One of the highlights from last year was the Midwest BBQ organised by Barry Fulk. He was gracious to allow us to come into his home and back garden to attend the BBQ but there were logistical problems getting everyone there.
This year, the BBQ was held in the grounds of the campus itself so no logistical problems whatsoever, and everyone could attend. The food was top notch (they even went out of their way to provide non-meat alternatives for those that needed it) and we even had some drone flying and a real DeLorean to take photos in.
Oh, and a surprise appearance from OS Ken himself, Ken Ray.
The attendance numbers had increased significantly from last year, but not enough to make it feel crowded or any less personal than the previous year, and certainly not enough to put any strain on the conference facility. Plenty of room to grow too.
Some great new speakers this year included Victor Cajiao, Adam Christianson, Wally Cherwinski, Mike Schmitz, Kirschen Seah, Matt Hillyer, Melissa Davis & Jodi Spangler. But a special shout out to Dr. Robert Carter and Allison Hartley who gave two excellent presentations on accessibility on the Mac and iOS. Allison also killed it at the BBQ Karaoke. What a voice!
It was encouraging to see some extra familiar faces from the Apple community, not there as speakers but to participate in the conference as attendees – such luminaries as Jeff Gamet, Michael Rose, Bryan Chaffin and David Chartier were in attendance and all seemed to have got a lot out of the conference. It certainly does have a bit of a Macworld vibe.
One thing that is not part of Macstock is a show floor. The main sponsor OWC do have a booth, but don’t expect to see a lot of other product booths at the show. Kudos to OWC for the sponsorship of the show and the great giveaways sprinkled liberally throughout the sessions, as well as giveaways from other sponsors including Prosoft, Smile and Macally. The lack of a show floor may change in the future, but personally, it’s not an issue for me. I go to see the sessions and meet the people.
So all in all, a great way to spend a couple of days, learn something new, meet up with old friends and make new ones.
We’re still waiting on the official dates for next year, but it will be in July 2017 at the same venue. If you can make it, it’s really well worth the effort!
As I mentioned, Chuck Joiner has done a great wrap up video and you can see it in its entirety below. Be warned though, I couldn’t pay him enough money to leave it out so he’s included a snippet of yours truly on the Karaoke – apparently I’d volunteered to go first many moons ago and Mike remembered.
Ah well, it was good fun and you have been warned.
See you there next year?