Claris Engage 2020 Revisited

The very first annual Claris Engage conference has come and gone. While not originally intended to be virtual, Claris did a great job in pivoting the conference and pulling off an impressive virtual event.

You can see a recap of Day 1 here…

And Day 2 here…

I particularly enjoyed the panel discussion of business owners and managers discussing why FileMaker really works for them and why they see it as a strategic asset. Some critical points were raised like the importance of employee buy-in to a custom software development project and the measurable value of a custom database application.

The conference isn’t quite over as Claris will be releasing additional technical content in the Engage On Demand area, there are some very interesting sessions I’m looking forward to checking out on topics like JSON, FileMaker 19’s new Add-On feature, and numerous others.

See the Claris Engage web site for links to the above content.

The AutoEnter Slack channel by Geist Interactive was the social centerpiece of Engage, replacing the normal networking and chatting in the halls of the conference hotel.

Within AutoEnter there were several sub channels, including one for chatting during a session and a series of ‘booth’ channels for vendors who would otherwise have had real booth spaces at Engage.

In total, Geist Interactive reported 800 total users and 34 Vendor Booths ( Slack Channels ) participating. Those are great stats for any event.

Let’s look at the sub channels and features.

First, the lobby – people from around the world were joining 24/7. The engagements were incredibly fun and really made it feel like we were all together. I couldn’t help but think that this was a much easier social interaction for those intelligent minds in our community that value both socializing and solitude at the same time.

It was also possible to listen to every conversation that was happening rather than be limited to the one in front of you, which changed the dynamic quite a bit. As for me, I said far fewer awkward things this year than last year. If that’s a metric to measure by, I would say that’s an indicator of success.

All sorts of tips and tricks were shared in the Lobby/Bar channel.

The Engage session channel was chock full of questions and facts as much as witty developer goodness. There were those who typed into Slack that they were working while listening. I did not believe them. (Ok, yes, if you ignored the Slack chatter, then maybe.) I had trouble enough keeping up with both the sessions and the Slack chatter during the session. I’m not sure I can ever watch a Claris session again without feeling the response of the crowd. I’ll have to practice controlling the LOL responses for when we’re actually together again.

You don’t usually get the opportunity to inject insights into a normal Engage presentation.
An example announcement, with no intent of supporting one product over any other. This is what I had a screenshot of.
Like I said…witty developer goodness.

am super confident that Claris was watching the chatter to see what resonated. When you see responses like “ANDROID!!!” It’s pretty indicative that a nerve has been both identified and hit. Or, when comments like, “Did they just say [insert amazing feature here]?” pop up, that’s market research gold. If I was Claris, I would have asked Geist Interactive for a transcript of the entire event so they could study the crowd reactions to the different presentations. But, alas, AutoEnter saw its last daylight on Friday, August 7, at 9:10am PT, and no record was kept. It was intended to be like this from the beginning.

Outside of those two main channels, there were a few other dynamics worth mentioning. First was the announcements channel. This is where anyone could announce anything, and direct people to a booth/channel/website/what-have-you. This by itself was a welcome concept. The dynamic here is that you pick and choose when you get announcements put into your eyes. And it gave equal voice to everyone who had something that needed to be communicated without jamming up the other channels. It seemed respectful to both buyer and seller alike.

The second dynamic was the use of Slack calls. Someone could post in the Slack channel, “In 15 minutes we’ll be doing a demo of XYZ.” In 15 minutes you would find that person and join in the call to see the demo. This was very useful, and a lot easier than trying to randomly get people interested on the convention floor.

Mention must be made of the virtual booths, too. These were individual Slack channels that were all about one company, product, or service. Being virtual, this meant that you had the attention of the entire team at any given time, not just the folks who might be at the booth.

In my opinion, AutoEnter was a huge part of Engage, Many thanks to Todd Geist and Geist interactive for making a magical experience in a year that really needed it.

The location of next year’s Engage conference was announced, San Diego in September, pandemic permitting.

~Brad Stanford and ~John Newhoff


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