Cloud Meets Special Events – From DragonCon To Your Conference

Let’s get a confession out of the way. I attended DragonCon 2012 this year and enjoyed every moment. For the uninitiated, DragonCon is a collection of over 30,000 fans of science fiction and fantasy works with a liberal dose of science, culture, and video gaming. Famous people sit at tables and sign autographs while fans sit in halls listening to craftsmen describe how they create the material beloved by the fans. People dress from head to toe in costumes that range from exact replicas of the 1940s Superman to complete body makeovers that turn whole families into a walking Hunger Games advertisement.

Options for attendees

Let me set the stage for you. Same-day tickets are usually available on-site the day you attend. This means standing in line from 7 a.m. until you crawl across the badge pickup-up line in a sweaty, rumpled heap. It’s as mind numbing as you think.

This year I took advantage of an online sale. Buying early lets you by-pass the payment and registration line and go directly to printing. While the main line is not optional (winding all the way around the building), once in the door the line splits the lucky from the unlucky. The lucky souls are finished in 5 minutes. Unlucky ones spend another 2 hours to register and pay. Time elapsed from start to finish was 54 minutes versus 3 hours, and it was completely unnecessary.

The evolving registration process and the cloud

I’ve been to a fair number of conventions and trade shows in my time going back to the mid-90s. The process has evolved from a paper and pen affair to streamlined queues where previously registered attendees are sent down specific chutes toward waiting tchotchke totes and lanyard dispensers. On-site registrants line up at laptop kiosks where they self-register and even pay. Everything is networked and each terminal dumps to a printer queue, much like self-check in kiosks at the airport. Elapsed time is measured in minutes.

Is there any way the cloud could help DragonCon move from a 2000s style registration system to a 21st century system? As a matter of fact it can.

Trickle down cloudonomics

Many Cloud products today promise an “in a box” concept where you spin up resources as you need them. Private and Public clouds become resources in much the same way we add resources to a single server.

Need more processing power? Go ahead and provision it. It’s great for seasonal and periodic surges that threaten your platform.  Quickly increasing your cloud performance means your customers never think to themselves, “Must be a lot of users on today.”

This kind of cloud product is perfect for a company with a robust event management platform. They can start small in the early months, allowing for application testing. As pre-registration ramps up, more virtual machines or resources can be added to the platform. During the final months before the event a full production environment can be provisioned, integrated, and tested before the first attendee picks up a badge. Usage will surely spike during the event with the majority of during the first day of the event. Afterward badge pick-up ends and the platform settles into a running state. Once the event is over the platform and cloud can be easily reduced to prepare for the next event.

The DragonCon application hosts maps of each venue, schedules of breakout sessions, and even a full list of Professional attendees. It also provides a way to communicate between attendees. All in all, it’s a more satisfactory experience that should be extended to handle the badge process. With the right system in place a useful application on a solid platform inside a scalable cloud makes sense.

Hopefully they’ll have all that in place before next year. I hear the zombies will use the big line. Seems they heard snacks are provided.

Have you experienced event registration facilitated by the cloud? Or has your organization hosted conferences where cloud improved the attendee experience? Share your insights below.
Jeff Morgan Lead Product Marketing Manager AT&T About Jeff