Photo by Frederick Fehling. Hello Marc, could you introduce yourself, present the theme of your conference and tell us who this conference is for? Hello, my name is Marc Thiele. I’m 43 and I’m living in Germany. I’m organizing and running beyond tellerrand, an international conference. Topics at this e...
Hello Marc, could you introduce yourself, present the theme of your conference and tell us who this conference is for?
Hello, my name is Marc Thiele. I’m 43 and I’m living in Germany. I’m organizing and running beyond tellerrand, an international conference.
Topics at this event circle around Web Design, Design, UX, Technology, Typography, Type, Networking and much more. These topics are presented in talks at two days and full-day workshops on another day, plus Side Events taking place around the main event. Right now, in 2018, I organize three bigger shows next to many smaller gatherings in Germany: Munich, Düsseldorf and Berlin. However, to welcome participants from all over the world, my conferences and workshops are held in English.
Every year 500 attendees travel from all over the world to the sold out event in each city. I do not target a specific profile in terms of attendees, but I think one factor is the price policy, that attracts many young freelancers and students, who can afford the tickets, because of the fair price.
What is your background and what is your role in organizing the conference?
Around 2008 I was looking onto what I work on and was satisfied overall, but I thought, if there would be THE ONE thing that I liked most during a year of work. It’s a longer story, but to make it short: it turned out it was an event I held every year around April or May. And so I started beyond tellerrand in 2011 and later Smashing Conference in 2012 together with Vitaly Friedman.
Concerning the event organization, I do everything from A to Z as only me is running the event.
What is the philosophy/purpose of your conference?
I want to bring people from various disciplines together to have them take a look at each others work. Hence the name beyond tellerrand, the name of my event, which is a mix of the English word “beyond” and the German word “Tellerrand”, which is the edge of a plate. In Germany you say “Über den Tellerrand schauen” which translates to “Look over the edge of your plate”, meaning something like “Think outside the box” (which does not hit the meaning 100%, but comes close).
I want to bring people from various disciplines together to have them take a look at each others work.
What makes your conference a unique or singular event?
That is a hard one for me to answer, running the event. But listening to what people say, that have been at the event, I hear that it has a very special, friendly and familiar atmosphere. Plus the mix of topics, with often unexpected speakers and topics, is another things I hear attendees talk about.
How do you attract attendees? Do you use specific marketing strategy?
I do not use a real “strategy”, as I am a one man band. I do not have a huge budget for marketing. Therefore I use my social media channels, my constantly growing network and the people coming to the event to do marketing. I have written a longer post about it here:
Marketing without a marketing budget
Indeed, social media is still a very good way of promoting the event in my case. Next to this I am happy that many online and offline magazines do media cooperations with me and beyond tellerrand.
What are the 2 ou 3 main problems you have encountered in organizing your conference?
A huge problem is time. One person can only do a certain amount of tasks each day. With 3 events in 2018, I am definitely at my limit. As much as I love the idea of getting someone on board to help, I would have to delegate tasks to that person and would not know which ones and how right now. Plus, I don’t know if I’d have the budget to pay someone for a full-time employment as well.
After many years of running beyond tellerrand it is still often a problem to “sell” it to possible partners (that is how I like to call my sponsors). They haven’t heard of it or don’t know what the name of the event means and what the content is, because my event’s name does not reflect this directly, like JSconf, CSSconf or PHP Conference and similar. This means I have to work very hard to get the word out. Constantly and over and over again.
How did you solve these problems?
You can’t solve them completely, I guess. Speaking about time, I think even if I had someone helping me, I would not have enough time. Speaking about getting the word out, it simply is a job you constantly have to do. No matter if I speak to possible new speakers, new partners or also attendees. I travel to as many events as I can. I speak to as many people as I can – online and offline.
Have you found tools or services particularly helpful?
No, not really. I mean, of course there are services I use, like Colloq and tools that I use day by day. See my post:
Useful hard and software for event organisers. Though these tools mainly help me organizing my workday, rather than solving the problems mentioned above.
What’s your advice for conference organizers who are organizing their first event?
Ohh … there are so many things here, where should I start. Better give them my phone number. ;)
The one thing, I’d like to state here is, that if you have an idea of an event and a true reason (and passion) for organizing the event, don’t let other people change your mind. Listen to your inner self and run YOUR event like you want to. Listen to feedback afterwards of course, or suggestions people have, but let it be your event, and don’t loose trust in why you initially wanted to run the event. Don’t let money rule your decisions, but also don’t be stupid and be honest to yourself: is the event making enough money to keep it running and invest a lot of time into it? Just don’t run events purely to make money. It won’t work and you earn more with other jobs and projects.
I am also a believer of the fact that people coming to your event will notice if you are not running the event for the reason of running it. Commit 100% or don’t do it. And if you go for it, don’t forget that the focus should always be on the people at your event. The speakers, the partners, the attendees, those who help you running the event … everybody actually.
I mean, I could write forever here and surely the few sentences will not express 100% what want to say really. I hope you have an idea of what I mean, though ;)
Listen to your inner self and run YOUR event like you want to.
Thanks Marc for your participation in this interview.
Follow Marc on internet:
And don’t forget to take a look at his amazing event:
If you are a conference organizer yourself and would like to be interviewed, please do not hesitate to contact me.