CMS Expo: One Big Web Content Management Jamboree

by + on April 26, 2012

CMS Expo 2012

In just a few short weeks, I’ll be jumping on the Mythbuster bandwagon with John Eckman and Jake DiMare to head to the Windy City for the CMS Expo. As a relative newbie to the content strategy and CMS circuit, I had a couple questions for the Expo’s main man, John Coonen. When he wasn’t busy crashing the Expo website, John had a lot to share about the event. :)

Let’s start with the easy stuff – this will be my first ever CMS Expo. What makes the Expo different from other CMS or content strategy conferences?

We’re ridiculously different, honestly. You’ll have to come to find out first-hand, but suffice it to say, it’s like going to a football game where you’re on the field with players, in the game! There’s no stadium seating here. It’s an intimate gathering of about 350-400 of many of the world’s sharpest minds in business, technology and creativity, all under one roof.

It’s a conference I’d pay for, if I were a conference-goer today. I love people, love entrepreneurial spirit, I’m intrigued by technology but despise the advertorial style of today’s conferences. They’ve become a waste of time for attendees. So, following one of my own self-imposed business rules, I decided a few years back that rather than complain, I’d shut up and create something better.

Sounds like you’ve got a lot to say about the “other conferences”! So how exactly is CMS Expo making the situation better?

Well, CMS is inherently collaborative, right? So why aren’t we *learning* about content – how we manage it, strategize, market and sell with content – as a collaborative team?  There are developer conferences, and six months later, there’s a business conference. Well, by then, a lot of the information learned is stale and useless, and there’s a huge opportunity lost for the Content Team to build a more cohesive, energizing bond – that only a “retreat” atmosphere like CMS Expo can foster.

Content teams work together, so why not learn together? It’s great to see different members huddle up before and after sessions to share what they found out. It sure brings clarity to the decision-making process when everyone’s singing from the same sheet of music. That’s why we have something for all members of the Content Team, at all skill levels.  Everything we offer at CMS Expo – including our business mixers – is focused on empowering all participants with relevant, timely, useful, actionable information, that people can digest and apply immediately to their business.  It’s not only unique, it’s awesome.

How have you seem the conference grow over the past 5 years? How will this year be different? 

Growth has been huge. We started with one CMS and Two Tracks (Business & Technical), doing 14 sessions. We now have steadily grown to 15 CMSs, 7 concurrent “tracks,” and over 100 learning sessions. We’ve added a full day of CMS Comparison Panels too, as people want to know which CMS is best for their business, be that small business or corporate, non-profit, education or government. We’ve got all that, and more. Pretty sweet.

Let’s talk numbers – how many are registered? What’s the breakdown of developers, designers, other? How many speakers and sessions?

We expect 350 to 400 attendees. We’re very close to that number right now, and depending on your Klout score at CMS Critic, we expect to sell out shortly after this article hits the web. ;)  The breakdown is about half are Businesspeople / marketers, owners and managers; 1/4 Designers, 1/4 Developers. Most of the Developers are actually Speakers. We have 80 speakers slotted for just over 100 sessions (learning sessions, comparison panels, moderated panels, etc).

So this year will feature the first-ever CMS Community Summit. What kind of things do you expect to hear from the attendees? (Based on the responses we got with the CMS Wisdom Report, people have got a lot to say!)

Wow, I hadn’t read the CMS Wisdom Report. Clever! I will read it after I answer your question, so I can compare notes…We will be polling attendees ahead of time, to get more details and make the CMS Summit more productive for everyone. Directionally, I suspect the CMS Summit will revolve around a few primary issues: 1) Usability for creatives and non-developers 2) Social Content Management, how / when / why to integrate social content with “conventional” content types;  and 3) Debunking and mythbusting “CXM, WXM” and other various acronyms and such, separating fact from fiction. What’s important, and what’s hype?

Do you anticipate any surprises to come from the Summit (from the attendees or the vendors)?

The Community Summit is by nature a surprise, and we welcome them. The format itself is unique. For an hour or so, after holding our Founder’s Panel in the Main Hall, in which attendees get to ask questions of the CMS Founders and Executives, we’ll turn the tables, shining the spotlight on attendees, and give the CMS leaders a chance to ask questions of the audience. That should keep it interesting!

One of the best ways to learn is to be engaged in the discussion (“in the game,” as I mentioned before). The Community Summit gives everyone a chance to interact with the CMS leaders, and cooperatively identify challenges and possible solutions. I suspect that many of the Founders and leaders will ask some very interesting questions, and we’ll witness some very intriguing and engaging answers as well from the attendees.

The great part of being in technology is that each and every minute is likely to bring another interesting and useful surprise.

Another major part of the show, the CMSA, is in its 5th year – tell us about that. How many, what categories? 

The CMSA Spotlight Awards recognize the best CMS Sites, and best CMS Apps (extensions, modules, etc), best Developers and best Designers in the industry.  Awards will be presented at CMS Expo live. It’s way better than the Oscars too, because while it’s good content, it’s over in an hour. :)

Awesome — I’m pumped! Thanks, John. I’m very much looking forward to the conference — let’s hope it’s all it’s cracked up to be!

You can follow the CMS Mythbusters, John and Jake, and me, as we live-blog and tweet our way through the week. OR, if that’s not enough, you can still register for the Expo yourself. John’s even got himself a discount code, if you’d like.

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