netmagInterview

Keir Whitaker on ConfShop

Keir Whitaker tells us about ConfShop, a new event he's created with Elliot Jay Stocks that enables participants to learn from each other's experiences via curated group discussions

.net: How does ConfShop work?
Keir Whitaker: Insites: ConfShop will focus around four groups, each containing a maximum of 25 people. We'll work hard to make sure that each group of 25 has a good mix of people with varied skill sets and experiences. During the day the group you are assigned to will discuss a number of themed topics with our four carefully chosen group curators, each session lasting around an hour. As well as the group sessions we are planning some fun "show and tell" sessions as well as a few other surprises.

Our themes and curators are:

  • Client work and products (how can we move from client focussed businesses to product focussed companies?). Curated by Rachel Andrew and Drew McLellan.
  • Business issues (VAT, tax, accounting, pitching, contracts, finding work and beyond). Curated by Alex Hunter.
  • Side projects (how to find the time and create income streams). Curated by us - Keir Whitaker and Elliot Jay Stocks.
  • Working in the industry (work/life balance, keeping up, learning and more). Curated by Sarah Parmenter.

As for the name, it was a working title as the idea is half conference and half workshop. When it came to launch the event we couldn't think of anything better, so it stuck!

.net: What inspired you to create it?
KW: Both Elliot and I have been fortunate to attend a lot of web conferences over the years and whilst both of us get a tremendous amount from the stage talks we have always found the informal conversations at the bar, during breaks and at the after party some of the best parts of the day.

Sharing experiences with people working in the industry, whether they're the speakers or fellow attendees, has been so beneficial we wanted to bring that experience to a slightly more formal but intimate setting. I truly believe you can learn from someone who has been working in the web industry for a week or a decade.  

This, coupled with experiences of curated small group discussions at Brooklyn Beta and our own Xmas Special, inspired us to try something slightly bigger than our normal get togethers.

Coincidentally there's been a lot of talk recently about "web celebrities" and the divide that some see emerging. ConfShop is a very level playing field. We want everyone to participate - there are no "speakers" as such. In fact it will only really work if each and every attendee takes part. If we can play our part in redressing the balance then that's a bonus.

.net: Who should attend?
KW: It's our hope that it appeals to anyone working in the web industry, whether they've been running an agency for many years or have recently graduated and are looking for their first freelance gig. By sharing our experiences, both good and bad, and learning from each other we'll get better at what we do. Let’s tackle the difficult issues affecting our businesses, discuss the problems we all share, and celebrate the industry we all love in a positive way.

.net: What do you hope people will get out of it?
KW: Whilst many of us use things like Twitter as the metaphorical water cooler, nothing beats getting together face-to-face. We believe ConfShop is a great opportunity for freelancers or those who work as the lone designer/developer in an agency to come together with like-minded people in an informal, but structured, friendly setting to discuss a range of issues relating to our industry. That said, we'd love to get people from all aspects of the industry to come along and share their experiences.

Overall we hope people go away feeling positive about working in the industry with new ideas that they can start implementing straight away.

Throw in plenty of time to chat, great food and coffee and amazing views across London. We are confident it will be a great day.

.net: What kind of influence do you hope to have on the web community?
KW: A positive one. Everyone who came along to our Xmas Special last year really enjoyed it and ConfShop is built along a similar theme. Hopefully those who come along will enjoy it just as much as us.

.net: What kind of response have you had since you announced it?
KW: It's been great. It's not the easiest concept to explain but we have had a lot of positive feedback already and tickets are selling well. We've got people travelling from Europe and the US so it must be resonating, which is great.

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