Help us do the "right" thing with BriForum vendors & sponsors

As you know, BriForum is an independent conference where we focus on technical content instead of marketing BS.

As you know, BriForum is an independent conference where we focus on technical content instead of marketing BS. To that end, we’ve tried to strike a balance between vendors (i.e. “advertisements”) and technical presentations (i.e. “content”). But this can be hard to do at times. In this blog entry I'm going to talk about how we think about vendors at BriForum, what they want from us, and what we're comfortable offering them. We have some new ideas (and the vendors have made some suggestions), but I want to share these with you before we make any decisions.

Taking a step back, we have an interesting relationship with vendors / advertisers at our company. Contrary to what some might say, we don’t “hate” the vendors. None of us would be here if it weren’t for the vendors’ software and hardware products, and we all use products from multiple vendors every day. What we hate is the vendors’ marketing spin. (Not all marketing is bad.. just the crazy spin that can sometimes happen when someone tries to sell you something.)

The whole point of our company is to be independent analysts whose writings, speeches, thoughts, and opinions are formed based on sound logic--not on which vendor will buy an ad or pay for a review.

On the website, this balance is very easy to maintain. Banner ad revenue, while important, only makes up about 10% of our overall annual revenue. Therefore if a vendor says “I’ll buy an ad only if you write about our product,” we can say, “No. This is not how we work.” (This is rare, but it does happen from time-to-time.)

The BriForum conference is a bit different. Vendor / advertiser revenue makes up a MUCH larger percentage of the overall conference revenue. For example, let’s look at the costs associated with the upcoming BriForum conference in Amsterdam in October. The overall cost of BriForum is going to be over USD $300,000--probably more like $325,000. (These are our hard costs. Venue rental for three days. Paying travel and hotel for all the speakers. Food. Party. WiFi. Signage. Video Recording. Staff to help run the event. Insurance. Credit card processing fees. AV rental. Invoicing. Etc.)

The attendee ticket price for BriForum 2007 Amsterdam is about USD $1000. We’re hoping to get about 200 paying attendees this year. (By the time you add in the speakers and sponsor staff, that brings the total to over 250 people.) $1000 multiplied by 200 attendees gives us $200,000 of revenue from ticket sales.

Since the total event cost is over $300,000, that means that even after ticket sales, we are still over $100,000 short. This is where the vendors / advertisers come in. We have to address the $100,000 shortfall. This is where we’d like to share some ideas with you, and how we can accept vendor / sponsor / advertising money without “selling out.”

Fundamentally there are two things we can do: increase revenue or lower costs.

Increasing Revenue

  • Sell more tickets
  • Increase the price
  • Sell more vendor slots.
We can break the “increase revenue” idea into a few areas.

Sell more tickets

We’d love to! Tell your friends.  It’s true that many of our costs at the conference are fixed. Presenters, travel, venue rental, signage.. the costs of these things are the same regardless of whether we have one attendee or one thousand. So when that first attendee signs up, our “cost per attendee” is probably $300k. But after ten attendees sign up, our “cost per attendee” is only $30k. You get the idea.

Increase the price

If we plan to sell 200 tickets to BriForum, and we have a make up $100,000, that means we’d need to raise the ticket price by 50% to $1,500 per person for this conference. Of course if we did that, we would lose some attendees, which means we’d have to raise it even more to make up for them, which would cause us to lose more attendees. You get the idea. We try really hard to keep the price reasonable, and I don’t think we can raise it enough to make this a sponsor / vendor / advertiser-free event. (Even if we raised the price only $100 or $200 dollars, we’d still need to make up the extra $60-$80k from sponsors.)

More vendors / sponsors / advertisers

gain this is a tough call. What is the right number of sponsors? What is the right balance of sponsor-to-attendee ratio? We would love to fill all of the sponsor slots at BriForum. (We have done this in the US all three years. We did not do this in Europe last year.)

To sell more sponsor slots, we have to create packages that the sponsors are interested in. We have to give them what they want. The problem is that what the sponsors want is not always the same thing as what the attendees want!

If we give the sponsors too much, then we will sell lots of sponsor slots, but attendees will be mad and will not come next year. That’s bad because (1) we lose that attendee revenue, and (2) the conference is less attractive for sponsors for future years.

But if we give the sponsors too little, they will not want to sponsor. And that is the situation that we have in Europe right now for this upcoming BriForum.

To be blunt, we need more sponsors / vendors / advertisers for our European BriForum. We’ve spoken to many many companies (all the “standard” ones you’d expect) and their answer is that they do not feel that we are giving them enough for their money. It is not a good value for them, and they would rather stay home or attend another event in the industry.

So here’s the deal. Gabe, Emily, and I have come up with a list of all the different things that we could offer sponsors. I’d like to go through that list here, explain what each thing is, maybe explain our feelings about it, and get your thoughts and opinions.

Sharing attendee contact information

This has been the hardest thing to overcome, so I’ll explain it first. It’s quite simple really. Sponsors want us to give them all of the contact information for every attendee. We do not want to do that.

As a compromise, we now encode the attendees’ contact information on the back off their badge, so if they visit a sponsor and are interested in their products, the sponsor can “scan” their badge to collect the contact information. (We just bought a new badge printer this year that will address some of the scanning difficulties we’ve had in the past.) We think this is a good solution. Sponsors don’t. So now what?

Of course for the upcoming BriForum next month, we’ve already promised attendees that we will not share their information with sponsors, so rest assured that we will not do that. But for future BriForums, should we start doing this? Would you stop coming if we did?

Another compromise that Gabe suggested is that we could offer to let each sponsor send a limited (maybe two?) number of emails to the attendees of BriForum. We would own the attendee list (so that the sponsors wouldn’t have access to the names), but then we would use an emailing service to send out a few mails from each vendor after the show. What do you think?

Banner ads

We can combine BriForum sponsorship packages with banner ad packages on (and maybe to give the sponsors more exposure. Since we already have ads on, this shouldn’t really upset anyone too much, right? (And for those who it does upset, why? Why shouldn’t we have ads to make money to pay for all the time we spend writing articles and maintaining the site? Should we switch to a subscription model where you pay for the content instead?)

Sponsor Sessions

Fundamentally, the sponsors of BriForum want a chance to pitch their products to as many attendees as possible. In the past we offered “sponsor lunch sessions,” where sponsors could give 30-minute presentations in the breakout rooms during lunch.

Attendees hated these because they made lunch too long and cut out valuable “real” session time. Sponsors hated these because they said that everyone was eating their lunch instead of attending their sessions. So Emily and I decided to cancel these sponsor lunch sessions. (Starting with this next BriForum, they are no longer an option.)

But of course sponsors still want to be able to present their products and solutions. So what if we create an option where a sponsor can pay maybe $5,000 to buy a “real” session slot? We’d of course limit this to only two or three per conference, and we would label it to make sure that everyone knew it was a sponsored paid-for session. Would that be okay, or is that selling out?

Five-minute Live Sponsor Commercials

Another cool idea that was suggested was that we could sell very short (5 min) slots to sponsors before some sessions. Think of this like previews before movies in the cinema or like commercials before a tv show. I’m thinking the way this would work is that we’d let a sponsor make a 5-min presentation before the “main” presentation during some breakout sessions. (We could have a big clock and cut them off at exactly 5 minutes.)

We’d have to work with the schedule and the presenters to make sure that the sponsors didn’t take away any time from the real session.

Why not just lower the event expenses?

All of these ideas are about ways to sell more sponsor slots by increasing the value that the sponsors get out of their sponsorship money. Of course we could also make up the $100,000 shortfall by lowering our expenses. However, we really try to keep the event as low-cost as possible. (Did you know that I personally print the name badges in my house myself before the event? And then I get all my friends to come over to help me stuff them into those plastic inserts?)

All that said, we can certainly lower expenses, but to do so means that we would have to eliminate something. So if you were going to cut something from BriForum, what would it be?

  • Fewer sessions?
  • Fewer speakers?
  • No party?
  • No food?
  • No WiFi?
  • No video recording?
  • Move the event to somewhere like Omaha, Nebraska instead of Chicago?
  • Fire Emily and make Brian and Gabe each work 20 more hours a week?

One final thought about BriForum and profit

While were having this whole conversation about BriForum, and while we’re talking about money, I want to make one thing clear: we do not make any profit on BriForum. This is not our goal. Our company makes money by selling ads on our website, by selling books, by teaching classes and selling training DVDs, by consulting, and by me speaking at events around the world. Our goal with BriForum is to break-even so that we can continue to do it for a long time.

(Of course we understand that there is a HUGE marketing and “brand” value for us to do BriForum. But if you look at the expenses and the income for a specific BriForum event, our goal is to break even.)

There have been some who have told us that was stupid, or who think it’s crazy that that we must be making money. I’ll tell you this though. Before 2005, I had never ever put on a conference. (Thankfully Emily knows what she’s doing!) I’m coming into the conference business with fresh eyes. And let me tell you.. You will not believe how freaking expensive EVERYTHING is in the conference business. If you think that we can do it cheaper, then please, send me your ideas. I’d LOVE to lower the expenses of BriForum. (But before you email me, call some venues and find out how much they cost. Find out how much catering is. Do some math and figure out just how much the 2.84% credit card processing fee will be. (Hint: Over five-freaking-thousand dollars per conference!!) Figure out how much airfare and hotels for 30+ speakers and staff will be. And if you can do it for less than $300k, let’s talk!

The bottom line is that I love BriForum. I think it’s an amazing event. It’s going great in the US and we’ll continue to do it for a long time. The BriForum Amsterdam 2007 planning is coming along nicely. We were overwhelmed with session proposals and will announce the sessions soon. Even if we don’t get one single additional sponsor, we will have an AWESOME event in Amsterdam. (It’s just that we don’t want to spend $100,000 of our own money to make it happen.) So please, share your thoughts and ideas below!

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Why don't you come up with an original name, say, one that is not a blatant ripoff of one of the vendors you profess are ruining everything with their marketing spin? That way, your pissant little event would more acurately reflect the egomaniacal way you just steal from what real companies do.

Struth mate, that's a bit harsh, no wonder you want to stay anonymous?

Anyway, on a constructive note Brian, although I haven't had the opportunity to attend a BriForum, I'd plump for the Live 5 minute Commercial and possibly even offer a prise for the one that is most entertaining/passionate at the end?

Who knows, they might really take off?


WOW, come on guy. Brian does NOT run a "pissant"event but a really nice technical conference.  Without it there would be little to NO technical content available to see.  I for one think BriForum is a huge asset to the Citrix technical world.   Yah the name is not great but I really don't care what he calls it, it is not the name people care about but the content and BriForum content is second to none.  It is also a hell of a lot better than anything Citrix is putting out there today (in the old days there was GREAT technical content at Summit and even iForum but not now)  Also, I really don't think anything is going to make you happy but that is your problem so take a deep look at your life and learn to relax my friend.  The hate is going to kill you and nobody wants that... ;)  - DB 


Hi Brian !

Remember coming to Norway, way up in the mountains, to Citrix User Group conference ?

I just want to remind you of how we deal with demands from our sponsors. We do exactly what you suggest about 5 minute "commercial" slots before some of the ordinary sessions. During this time the sponsors can do whatever they want and say whatever they want. This has turned into a creative competition among the sponsors, and has turned even to the wild side a couple of times.

But the point being that, when the ordinary programme is over, and before the dinner and party, the sposors get their own room to entertain guests. They then have one hour each in their private room to do their marketing, and even entertain with some beers or stuff. They are responsible for inviting their guests themselves, and their 5 minute slots are the main window they get to invite to and advertise their private event.

So as the sponsors are not happy with sponsored lunches, maybe they can get a bit more attention if they have a room after the last session of the day, hand out beers to whoever wan to atend, and have a relaxed atmosphere to present their marketing stuff.

It works for us in CUG Norway, our sponsors are very happy with this arrangement.


Here's my answer as a four-time BriForum speaker: Why don't you just stop bashing Brian for the name of the conference? I don't think that "MadForum" would have been any better -- but what do I know. Perhaps you should make a good suggestion for a better name (no, not "the app delivery expo") or find some real arguments if you want to discuss why people should not attend an independent conference.

BTW, I just searched the Internet for the term "iForum". Among others, I found an iForum in China (, an iForum in Arizona (, an iForum in Canada (,com_magazine/Itemid,221//) and even an iForum on IBM's web site ( And guess what, none of those are related to Citrix, even if some of the different iForum contents are clearly related to IT industry.

And finally, to end this discussion, I searched the US Patent and Trademark database TESS for "iForum". The result was that the word mark "IFORUM" belongs to Professional Education International, Inc. CORPORATION ILLINOIS 300 West Adams, Suite 1210 Chicago ILLINOIS 60606. But the word mark "BRIFORUM" belongs to Brian Madden Company, LLC, The Brian Madden, a citizen of the United States of America LTD LIAB CO DELAWARE 2019 Osborn Drive Silver Springs MARYLAND 20910. From a legal standpoint things should be very clear now!



Wow, well written and honest.  Maybe it is just not feasible to have a European version since it appears that the N.A. version is able to break even.

Maybe you can alter the way you do the forum's DVD's. Add more sales stuff on it and lower the price for resale to non attendees and waive their right to confidentiality upon purchase of the DVD's.  I have wanted to go to a forum but could not and I think the DVD's are $700.  Add marketing material to it and drop the price to $99 or $199.

 just a thought



Not sure what your costs are in Norway and how much you charge the sponsors for these 5-minute breaks or for the one hour session in the rooms. As a sponsor on the last BriForum in Chicago, in our particular case it worked very well in terms of bang for the buck (as we sponsored the Geek Quiz). The main thing with BriForum is given the very high costs and the gap between costs and attendees revenue, Brian has a huge gap to fill with sponsors what drives the sponsorship costs very high (as he does not want more sponsors as this could drive attendence down - as people would start to see BriForum as a less technical conference and more marketing/sales). In that respect I understand why most sponsors think they are not getting enough return on what they are paying for. And for the ones with booths and lunch-sessions, I have to agree with them. With 300 attendees, if Brian charges $6000 for a sponsorship (I think it was more but I may be wrong), $20 per attendee is high. And considering a huge % will not see you and your product, will not attend your lunch session, etc, the cost per capita goes even higher (I would say, WAY higher). So honestly, from a money/business perspective, for certain sponsorship opportunities, BriForum is not a good thing moneywise. It was great for us but again, we got the Geek Quiz Show and that was indeed an awesome deal for the exposure. Other companies may not agree based on what they got in return for what they paid for at BriForum.

I do it (and hopefully will continue to do it) because as everyone else here, I am a techie and a true believer of community efforts. So for that reason alone, my company, TSFactory, will try as much as we can to help Brian offset the costs. But note that most companies do not think like that. All that matters is if they make money with BriForum or not. If they do not, they will not sponsor. Simple as that.

For suggestions, not sure what to say. May be reducing the size of the conference to a max of 100-150 people what would reduce the number of sessions (and presenters) and the size of the venue required (and its cost). And if required, cut down even on more things like parties, etc. I know that is tough but if that is required to keep a great conference with great content alive, it may be needed... 

Comments/ideas are always welcome for sure and if you guys think I am completely wrong, let me know! I am just writing as someone on both sides of the fence (techie/presenter AND sponsor). 

Cláudio Rodrigues


For goodness sakes man!  Fire Brian before you fire Emily.  Gabe wrote a great article last week.

I do believe a couple of things.  One is that the vendors have been getting too little for their money.  Sponsored sessions at other times that are clearly marked are OK.  Maybe 1 per half day.  Controlled email access as described is OK also.  Maybe even 1 email before and 1 after.  Two.  These is so much friggin' content at these shows that nobody can get it all.  If you can get more attendies, and can still get a cheap place to house them all, by all means do so. 

BriForum is an awesome event.  Just make sure it continues.


Well, we have a sponsorship package that gives our sponsors both spring and autumn conferences for 60 000 Norwegian Kroner, Something like 7500 dollar these days.

They also get banners on our web pages and some exposure in mails to our members.

They get their 5 minute slots and a room reserved for one hour. They are responsible for filling the room themselves.  Our sponsors are satisfied with this package !

We have 6 sponsor packages available per year, but do not have the expenses of BriForum, as we only hire 5 speakers, and only 2 or 3 of them are non-Norwegian. We do not record the sessions either.

So the solution can't be directly transferred to BriForum, but the maint point is to move the dedicated sponsor slots to the end of the day, and make i a bit more relaxed and laid-back with a beer or two to those who will listen to the marketing stuff ...


I'm hoping to attend BriForum Amsterdam this year (for the first time) so here's my input to help make the event a sucess:

Offer vendors the ability to hire a private room and host their own presentations. Maybe have an hour slot where vendors can give their own presentations in break-out sessions. It'll be upto the vendors to attract attendees to their session (e.g. free beer, food, etc). Give visitors the opportunity of choosing their vendor session when they sign-up, and that vendor then gets their contact details. Leads are a valuable commodity to vendors.

I like the 5 min advertorial idea, although there should be some rules about making it relevant to the presentation its preceeding, and I agree with other suggestions that they should definetely be fun and now just powerpoint hell.

Make the party a chargeable optional extra, so that it self-funds and keeps your main costs down. Those that just want the technical content without the fun and beer can then go home and sleep (or write code, blog, or whatever else these people do!)

Vendors/sponsors are generally given the opportunity to do a couple of mailshots to attendees; one prior and one after the conference (via an authorised mailing house so they don't get their hands on the raw data) Give attendees a tick-box which allows them to opt-out of this mailing if they wish when signing up.

Look at your main demographic for attendees to Amsterdam, and setup a bank account in that country. Then encourage attendees to pay by bank transfer (no fees) instead of credit cards (large fees). This will cut down your transaction costs, although will be vulnerable to exchange rate fluctiations (although as most of your expenses already are, this won't have a huge impact). I'm sure the same thing is possible in the US (I'm from UK) with most tech-savvy people able to use internet banking etc.

A drastic one - look at where most of your speakers are coming from - and move the event to that country. This will reduce your expenses on flights, accomodation etc. If it's the same country as most of the visitors, you could also increase ticket prices, as the majority of people's travel expenses will be less too.

If speakers are from commercial companies, offer them the opportunity to promote their products, in exchange for NOT paying their expenses.

I don't agree that limiting numbers will help - generally things get cheaper as they grow with economies of scale, and vendors are more likely pay more for sponsorship etc if they reach more people. 

But whatever happens....don't cancel the European event!





Neil Spelling wrote:

A drastic one - look at where most of your speakers are coming from - and move the event to that country. This will reduce your expenses on flights, accomodation etc. If it's the same country as most of the visitors, you could also increase ticket prices, as the majority of people's travel expenses will be less too.

It will probably be the other way around, most of the attendees will probably come from the country where the event is held, or a country close to ... ?


Dear: "Guest",

If Brian and BriForum are so bad, why are you wasting time reading the forums here?  There must be some redeeming value to you.  I'd also like to point out that you catch more flies with honey...


Jack Cain


And I agree with you Tim. As I mentioned our case was different and I was happy that we could sponsor (even though a small contribution) BriForum in Chicago last April. I think for us we got a very good deal for what we paid for. But as you mentioned, overall, vendors really do not get much out of BriForum and the costs are indeed expensive (for what you get).

In a way the target audience is really not that great for certain vendors. Depending on what you are trying to sell, the techies are the worst market to promote anything. I learned my lesson over these years with my companies and most products, especially with high prices ($$$) must be sold in a top to bottom approach, meaning market them to C-Level people (CIOs, CTOs, CEOs) in a way they understand and see benefit and they will simply mandate IT guys to purchase/install. :-)

I do see BriForum as a great place to meet great people, have great discussions and learn a lot. And that is why we try to contribute, as much as we can, to keep it alive. But definitely more needs to be done to attract sponsors. As you said it is just too little for the money.

I have never watched any of the DVDs but one idea (if it is already there, my apologies) is to add infomercials/advertisement on the videos, like on a regular TV show. So people watching the videos may see the Ads as well. Is Brian doing that already?

Cláudio Rodrigues


Well I guess if you add it all, then it is worth for the price you are asking. Banners may cost a lot in certain cases ( is a good example). If you add all, banners, room, 5-minute slots, emails, etc, depending for how long the banners run, the price is fair I am sure. But here, something else, a better formula must be found to make BriForum more attractive to sponsors. As Tim Mangan mentioned, costs are too high for what you get. Not attractive. And if no sponsors, hard to get BriForum going. :-(

By the way, I would go and speak in Norway for free! hehehe :-)

Cláudio Rodrigues

This is very tricky indeed, where to draw the line, how to maintain the identity of BriForum.  For profit and not for profit have one common thread, revenue.  No revenue, no whatever you are.I will start by saying this year was my first BriForum and I enjoyed it.  I gained a lot of valuable knowledge and will return to next years, vendors be damned.Coming from someone who has worked both sides of a booth I can feel the vendor’s pain.  When a vendor goes to a show and does not get quality leads from said show they are not motivated to return to that show.From a techie view I can feel the pain as well, all that hype, who knows what to believe?   Spam, phone calls, etc... These things bother allot of people.Personally I do not care if the vendors get my contact information and contact me all year long.  I am going to flush out the wannabes and have meaningful dialog with the ones that prove to be worth it.  Any one working in technology should be getting as much information as they can whether it is from vendors, or independent sources.  I love be shown a product, technology or process that has substance, something I have not seen before this gets my melon working and thinking of new ways to do things.  I would not mind vendor sessions, contact distribution, etc…  If they bring in the needed revenue to keep a show like this going so be it, we all have to make compromises from time to time.  Better to have the vendors then no/limited BriForum.  What is nice about BriForum is that you could sit in a vendor session, take it all in and then in the very next session have a presenter that disputes the “facts” given by the vendor.  At Brain Share, Tech Ed, Iforum, etc.. you will not see this, THEY CONTROL THE CONTENT.  Who are we to say who can speak and give their take on a given process, product, or technology.  It is important to have a balance and if a vendor is blowing smoke up your fourth point of contact (That is your butt for all you legs out there) then all the more reason to have that independent take on that scenario, flush out the wannabes.   Keep the vendors honest by having a balance, give them their sessions and contacts and if they have something meaningful great, if they don’t we know who they are and how they do business.By the way BriForum has already had vendor sessions that where not held at lunch, these came under the guise of  independent sessions but when I was sitting there I was being pitched a vendor’s product by people that worked for that vendor.  If you want to keep the vendors from having normal sessions that should apply to your speakers that work for vendors as well and pitch their product during a session.  It is not honest and if we all are so into being independent and trashing vendors because the compromise the content of a show then be honest and eliminate those speakers and sessions.  I see no harm in someone pitching a product during a session.  There are lots are great products that will help us out, but to say vendors do not have normal sessions and then sit through a session given by employees of the company and they are showing their product is just not being honest.  If those sessions were given by anyone else other then employees then you have a case but seeing a product presented by employees of that vendor is a vendor session.  Enough of beating this dead horse.  Brian, I hope you can find a happy medium.  As BriForum grows so will the venue sizes, so with the catering, so will everything else.  Plan for this, keep a balance and keep this show going.  Trust me you will not have vendors that are FOS returning, you will have meaningful ones that at some level believe in what BriForum is and their contributions will be just as meaningful as all the other speakers in keeping BriForum around for many years to come. 



Hehe, careful now, Claudio, we might just invite you next year :-) I am Chairman of the Board og CUG Norway ... By the way, this november Rick Dehlinger and Douglas Brown are coming, and we pay them as BriForum does, travel, accomodation and food ... and a bunch of drinks :-)

I think that Brian and his posse have every opportunity to make BriForum more attractive to sponsors. They have to stick their heads out a bit more and give the potential sponsors more ways of exposing themselves before and during the events. But that said, this is exactly what Brian have started doing by opening this blog entry.

So to you Brian: Take the chance of giving sponsors more than they get today. My opinion is that your name and the company name is so well regarded in our community that nobody will consider you a sell-out, just for giving more room for sponsorship. In CUG Norway we had this discussion a couple of years ago. Our sponsors were not happy then, but they are more content now. Because we took the chance of loosening the tight grip, and give more space to them.

That said, it will probably not be possible to adapt the exact same solutions as we have done, but the advise is still to dare giving a bit, to gain the security you ned to keep BriForum running for many, many years !

Brian, There are a number of questions that will help to generate answers to the questions that you pose.1.  The people that attend your conference are generally the uber-geeks at a particular company.  They already know the vendors and their products and don't need to get a presentation from a salesperson who knows less than the attendee about a particular product.Answer:  Have the sales presentation be given by a technically qualified user of the product, and focus on what real world problem the product solves at their respective company.  If a company cannot find such a presenter, they probably shouldn't be attending your conference in the first place because of the mismatch between the company and the uber-technical audience. 2.  How many attendees from your conference actually review any sales material that they take home, including a sales-related DVD?I have never loaded a sales CD/DVD obtained at an industry event. The vendor website is usually more up-to-date.  I have used a vendor index from an event, however - again, to find a particular website.  Maybe you could offer a 1/2 page, full page, whatever, glossy ad in an event vendor index given to each attendee.3.  Why would a company want the names and contact info of people who are not interested in their product?  Quality of a contact list matters.I really like all of Neil Spelling's comments on email.  Give folks a chance to opt out, but offer a pre and post email to the vendors for anyone who did not opt out.  Go with a "least-restrictive" policy so that if someone opts out when registering, but then asks for vendor info at the conference, they would get the email.  That way you can stop spam you don't want, but if you find something interesting at the conference you can change your mind in a focused way.  Again, this increases the quality of the contact list.4.  Ain't no such thing as a free lunch, and quit pretending there is one.  How many attendees just come for the beer and party?I learned my lesson 15 years ago when I spent thousands of bucks of my own money to support OS/2 and host OS/2 events, support user groups, etc.  In the end, nobody cares what it costs you, they are only interested in what they can get.  Even uber-geeks need to understand that events cost money, and vendors are a necessary evil if they want a beer-and-circus event.5.  Vendors need us - and we need vendors.IMNSHO (In my not so humble opinion), uber-geeks don't hate vendors.  They hate mis-information and lack of detail.  The details of a product matter to us, because our reputation is on the line when we recommend a global solution to a problem.  In any sales scenario, you need to match the presenter and content with the audience.  If you are attending a different forum, where you are as likely to talk to a CIO as a front line geek, use your sales people.  If you are a vendor at this event, lead with your geeks!  When you are at an event that will never have a pure "C" class attendee, let your sales folks smile and serve beer.  An excited, committed, geek presenter is worth 5 sales folks.  (Side Note:  I understand that smaller companies have individuals who have to wear two or more hats.  At this conference, however, you usually wear your geek hat.)  As Neil Spelling and others suggested, have hosted vendor rooms where they can do presentations to the folks who are actually interested.  Quality leads make the price per lead more attractive.

This is a long post, so I’ll stop here for now.



Jack Cain

Whoops!  How did I end up with no line breaks??

I think I have suggested this before, but, why not just have one room dedicated to sponsor presentations. Sponsors can purchase a slot and then if the attendees want to hear about any specific topic/product they can just look at the show guide and go to the sponsor room during that vendors session. I know I have been working to get my company to sponsor BriForum US and they don't like the idea of having a booth because foot traffic is not great, especially at this years BriForum Chicago. The vendor booths were stuck way back in a corner and were easy to avoid. They did a better job in Washington in 2006 by spreading out the Booths throughout the venue. What they would be really happy with is having a Breakout session to either train current customers on our product(s) or a way to tell them about what we are doing roadmap wise. If we could get more exposure I am sure we would even be willing to consider a sponsorship of the EU event. Another option I have seen an interest from my company on is sponsoring booze or food at the after hour events.



Thank goodness there are no ads on the videos.  That would really stink.

Who in the heck would want to go there, let alone live there ;)

I would rather live in Cleveland!


Brian, I ran a consulting business for about two years and it was a rude awaking to say the least.

I quickly realized why so many firms charged the rate that they did.

You’re asking for suggestions, so here are a few: Talk to other companies about how they do it.  I know that sounds obvious, but you would be amazed at what others are willing to share. Have you looked into outsourcing the effort?  There are firms that do this for a living, but I haven’t personally looked into the costs.  I have a feeling that it would be more expensive, but you never know until you shop around. I would take a look at your profit margins and try to tie one of them to the event to help offset the costs.  Maybe offer training the week before/after in the same location. 

Just some thoughts, hope they help…


And don't copy and paste from Word or your postings will look terrible!

Reposting with correct format!


I ran a consulting business for about two years and it was a rude awaking to say the least.
I quickly realized why so many firms charged the rate that they did.

You’re asking for suggestions, so here are a few:

Talk to other companies about how they do it.  I know that sounds obvious, but you would be amazed at what others are willing to share.

Have you looked into outsourcing the effort?  There are firms that do this for a living, but I haven’t personally looked into the costs.  I have a feeling that it would be more expensive, but you never know until you shop around.

I would take a look at your profit margins and try to tie one of them to the event to help offset the costs.  Maybe offer training the week before/after in the same location. 

Just some thoughts, hope they help…


I know. But you agree this would be another revenue possibility, don't you Tim? :-)

Cláudio Rodrigues 

Speaking of names, why didn't you post yours up instead of hiding behind anonymity?  I think we know who the pissant is.
Here's a silly idea because I am a nuttah.

Why not just pick a city and say that's where the event will be a year

Let your Vendors/Sponsors sort out booking/food/beer of the places where
they will deliver their message and pony up some dosh to you for acting as
the go between to give some sort of idea about what's going on, where it's
going on and when it's going on to folks who register to attend the event.

Then the punters can spend their $1000 on a nice holiday, see the sights and
sneak a peak at what the latest blither is on about if they can be bothered.



It's not so hard to understand Brian!

A sponsor can spend $10K to exhibit at a Microsoft show or better yet VMworld with an expected attendance of 10,000 this year.  So if a VMworld sponsor gets only 500 quality leads (worst case scenario), that would equate to $200 per lead.  At BriForum Europe, you're expecting 200 pre-madonnas who don't want to listen to the vendor pitch to start with.  What are you charging $8K?  Even if the sponsor got all 200 of the attendees as good solid opportunities (best case scenario), that would be $400 per lead.  Big difference between the VMworld worst case scenario and the BriForum best case scenario.  No wonder why the vendors don't see a good ROI from BriForum.

If your attendees truly value the 3-day technical education conference without the vendor pitch, then they should shell out $2500 each - this is basically a 3-day training class - and then you can forget about how many vendors participate.

Your other option is bring 10x more attendees to make it worthwile for the vendors.



I agree... consider raising the price option again.  Training - or most other tech conferences  - run around $1500+... (ballpark - do a market comparison).  As you say, raising by $250 to $1250 for 200 expected attendees gives you an extra $50K.  I wouldn't worry about losing attendees so much - if it is a valued conference (which it is) then we'll still come.

I'm curious to hear what the rest of the community thinks - what is the fair price for a ticket?  Would you go at $1250?  $1500?  $2000? $2500? How many companies cover the expense for the ticket? 

I totally get your point, but I have a quick question. Do you know for a fact that a vendor can get a table for $10k at a conference with 10k attendees? I know for a fact that at Citrix iForum, the silver sponsorship (the lowest option) is $20k, and iForum has 3k attendees. Now assuming that the same percentage of attendees get their badges scanned at BriForum and iForum, that's still a bigger price per lead for iForum. (By the way, your numbers are off by a factor of 10.. it's $20 or $40 per lead in your example).. But my point is the price difference is there, but it's not too far off.

Leave it to the 'Whisky Master' to put it so well!  Nicely done Jack.

 To take Jack's comments/thoughts, distill them, and give it a twist, let me offer up the following:

1 - You're running a business, and business needs revenue and cash flow to survive and flourish. Even the top 3-5% of the technologists in our field (the people who attend BriForum) recognize that. Someone's got to pay the bills. We recognize vendor sponsorship keeps our costs down, and are fine living with their presence at BriForum to do so. In some cases we even welcome them, as it often introduces us to some great companies in the market who're not loaded enough to do a Citrix or VMware event.

2 - The key reason this event is so valuable is the session content and 'culture'. As long as the vendor participation at the event doesn't ruin the independence, REALism, and trustworthiness of the session content, their presence at BriForum won't ruin the event or dilute it's value.

3 - Don't write off a vendors' ability to deliver a real, marketing free technical session. I don't know how you would filter this and keep it 'clean', but in a lot of cases the vendors employ some darned smart people. If they bring them, and let them talk without carrying the corporate flag, their contributions would be well received.  (A thought on this note - what if the attendees had the ability to 'ban' vendors from participating at the next event? If a vendor was profusely dispensing marketing BS or making attendees feel uncomfortable, give us the ability - via some feedback mechanism - to vote them out.)

4 - The top tier of technologists have well developed 'bullshat filters'. Marketing mumbo-jumbo will go in one ear and out the other. As long as you give them the opportunity and means to avoid an invasion of privacy or personal space, I don't think you'll drive us away.

I also really appreciated Tim Mangan's short, sweet, to the point comments above. I support them 100% as well. Now if I could just learn brevity from him... ;-)

Long story short - we're behind you brother. We understand changes need to be made, and if we take issue to them we'll let you know. You've got to keep the event going - our industry needs the dose of reality it brings us twice a year.

RickD/(respectfully) out


VMworld sponsorships include:
- Innovator: 5x5 station, internet, 10amps, and signage for $10k
- Silver: 10x10, internet, 10amps for $15K

The innovator pkge is more than typically provided at BriForum.  If you just do percentages and say that the sponsor is going to get 10% of the attendees in terms of leads: that's 1,000 for VMworld and 20 for BriForum Europe ($8K?).  $10 per lead for VMworld and $400 for Bri.

I hope this helps.

For what its worth, and for the sake of sounding “Cheeky”. What about a little lateral thinking on this topic, you are inviting a bunch of IT guys(and maybe some girls)... What about Having other people promote/sponsor like Hooters, Coke, Starbucks or somebody like that.. Sure it's a bit commercialized but you never know... I read a great book called “Do something different”  

From Virgin Press (Richard Branson).  Maybe you are looking for your money in the wrong place. Beer, Women… All of those things sell just as well :)



I have to agree with this post somewhat.  I would have any problem with going to a expo where the beverages were sponsored by the bottling companies (i.e. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Starbucks, etc.). The only thing I fear of this is the control that they will want, for example if it were coke, then perhaps the drinks would be Dasanai, Coke sodas, Poweraid, etc., but then they may not want Brian to offer anything else (i.e. Gatorade, Pepsi, Aquafina) and then he has another battle to fight.

I wouldn't complain if there was a slight increase in a attendee price, something like $1250 is totally reasonable.

Perhaps you could maybe work something out with a hotel for both the attendees and presenters.  Last Briforum I attended at Chicago, you had a suggested hotel (Hilton I belive), but I was a government contractor and the hotel you listed was not in government per diem rate.  I was lucky though because I was able to find a hotel only one block difference for quite a but less through  I talked to many people at the forum and they didn't even think of shopping around when it came to picking a hotel.   If you talk to the hotel ahead of time and guarantee them that you can 200+ guests if they want to work a package deal with you, they'll probably listen.  Then you can also get almost all of your attendees at one place which makes it easier to network with one another.  I don't know of anyone that got one, but you could also work with car rental companies, seeing if they can give a discounted rate.  then whatever companies that seem to work with you, offer them a sponsorship giving them a advertisement in the forum info/sesson info brochure. 

One other thing I just though of is perhaps letting the WiFi guys pitch a five minute deal sometime possibly discounting the fees on which they give you (I have no idea who you used, and I imagine most of the attendes don't either), I believe this is another potential where they could do some advertising speal, and I won't think that I am listening to another vendor mumbo jumbo.