procrastinating cat cartoon

When we ran BaconBizConf, here’s just a smattering of the “crucial features” we left out:

  • badges
  • goodie (aka junk) bags
  • a conference hotel * multiple tracks
  • a green room
  • a hallway track (or even a hallway)
  • a stage
  • projectors (we used a big TV)
  • wifi (yes, really, we offered no wifi)
  • more than 2 free drinks
  • the circus of related “fun” events

We sold out, and lots of people told us it was one of their very favorite events ever.

We did have an “after party” (on the first day, to save money) — but that was sponsored 100%. If we hadn’t had our lovely sponsors, we would’ve just rolled up to one of our local bars & it would have been pay as you go.

When we launched Noko Time Tracking, here’s just a sampling of what we left out:

  • password recovery
  • invoicing
  • a timer
  • reporting, except the barest of bare (pathetic) functionality
  • a freelancer plan
  • permissions
  • a back end for us
  • a way to cut off people’s accounts if their CC didn’t work
  • …a way to automatically bill the credit cards people gave us
  • special support channels…

among many, many other things.

The greed for “features” is a psychological trick:

If I don’t know what’s important, ALL THE THINGS MUST BE IMPORTANT.

Corollary: If you don’t deliberately do the work to find & set priorities, it’s your fault and yours alone.

It’s nice to blame customers…or imaginary customers…or competitors…or imaginary competitors. It’s nice, to be able to say, “We have to have this feature, our competitors have it” — but it’s just not true. That’s just the post-hoc justification.

So, what matters for a conference? It varies, but for us it’s:

  • focused, actionable talks
  • lots of opportunities to meet & learn from each other

That’s it. Anything else is a nice bonus (or maybe even a distraction), but far from necessary.

That’s why we spent tons of effort on coaching speakers — assigning topics, giving feedback on focus, ordering talks in a ‘narrative’, demanding slides ahead of time — and zero time on “fun.” That’s why we catered meals, instead of letting people go out — so they’d stay, and chat.

That’s why we told our attendees: DO NOT BE LATE. The door will be locked.

What matters for people who fucking hate their time tracking?

  • to enter time without pain or stress
  • …to kinda see where that time is going

Bam. Done.

That’s why I spent 95% of my interaction design time working on making the time entry process the most friction-free, fastest anywhere. That’s why we had so many fanatical early customers, even though Noko wasn’t even “half a product.”

That’s one of the very real, boring secrets to success:

Know what matters. Two to three priorities, max.

Ruthlessly drop everything else.

And the best thing is…people often complain about what’s in front of them (“The wifi doesn’t work! JEEEEEZ WHAT IS THIS, AN AIRPLANE?”) but rarely complain about what they don’t have at all.

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