I want to take a moment to update the CodeMash community on the state of the conference, considering the tough economic and market conditions we are all experiencing. CodeMash was started in 2006 as a conference for the community, by the community. We wanted an awesome event in the Great Lakes region, supporting and showing off our local talent. Our goals have always been to create a great event that is accessible, affordable, and helps us learn outside our comfort zone. We have always been 100% volunteer run, and no one has ever taken a salary or paycheck.
As CodeMash has grown, we’ve upgraded and expanded the experience of CodeMash. But at this point, our sponsorships are 30% below budget, and our ticket sales are about 50% lower than usual. This is likely due to Covid carryover, massive inflation, and the uncertain economic times around the corner. This has increased our costs across the board and made both sponsor and attendees hesitant to spend money on a training conference.
We have worked with our major vendors on flexibility and terms, but we still aren’t to a balanced budget yet. Both the Kalahari, and Colortone have been great partners in this. We also have close relationships with other vendors who historically have given us massive discounts off of their services, sometimes upwards of 100%! I would like to thank Zagg Studios (web site and design), Gaming Nomads (laser tag and Artemis), and Sea Dog Games (3d printing lab), who are examples of this kind of support and partnership.
We have had to cut back on some of the ‘extras’ that we have added over the years, and go back to our leaner and more streamlined model of the past. Even with these adjustments, we are still more than $150,000 over budget. I’ve listed the items below, in no particular order, that have to be cut or reduced this year. The planning committee and I are happy to answer any questions you may have.
- $12,500 speaker Honorariums – We’ve offered a small honorarium to speakers who present during the precompiler. This is because a four-hour session takes much more time to plan than a one-hour session. We’ve always couched this as optional, based on the financial status of CodeMash. This is the first year we’ve offered it that we’re not able to follow through.
- $2,000 Branded hotel keycards – This is usually a sponsored item.
- $2,000 Achievement/Ribbons – We’ve added ribbons in the past few years, and they have been fun. If you want to share your pronouns, which we used to do with ribbons, you can still write them on your badge.
- $110,000 Tuesday Dinner – We usually don’t offer dinner on Tuesday night. We were hoping to offer it this year, but we can’t afford it. Precompiler days cost us a lot more than usual conference days, even before dinner is added.
- $500 Wed Staff Ice cream – We usually have a small ice cream snack for staff, to recharge them mid-week.
- $8,000 Friday surprise snack – For years, since the bacon bar, we’ve had a surprise snack on Friday.
- $12,000 Game room evening snacks – We’ve liked offering chips and sodas in the board game room in the evenings.
- $1,000 Speaker ice cream – We also usually have ice cream in the speakers’ room, at random intervals, to keep their energy up.
- $25,000 Attendee soda tickets – We usually offer soda, as an additional drink option. This year, the beverage bars will have water, coffee, iced tea, decaf coffee, hot tea, hot water, and lemonade. The snack bars will still be available, but at a cost.
- $15,000 Wednesday Welcome Reception food – Years ago, our Wednesday reception was just a bunch of people at the bar in the lobby. Then it evolved into a night with a band, lightning talks, dancing, and food. We’ll still have the lightning talks (which are fantastic), and we’ll have a cash bar. We’ll setup some space for any musicians who are attending to hang out and jam. We’ve had to cut the fancy food.
- $5,000 Thursday waterpark rental – We’ve also enjoyed having the after-hour waterpark party. There used to be lots of sponsors, and attendees having fun down by the pool. In recent years, this event was very thinly attended.
- $1,000 Thursday waterpark food – While sponsors provided most of the food and drink at their waterpark booths, we always offered a little bit too.
- $10,000 Thursday reception snacks – We will still have a reception, with a free drink punch on your badge. It will have desserts, but there won’t be snacks set out after the desserts are gone.
- $8,000 Friday Staff Mash – After the Friday closing event, the 120+ staff spends 2-3 more hours tearing down and packing away all of our gear. After that, we have one more meeting to wrap up on feedback and insights. We usually have a light meal for staff, with drinks, as a thank you for all of their hard work.
- $25,000 – General reduction in meal options. Some breakfasts will be continental instead of two hot entrée options. Thursday dinner will have fewer options as well.
- $5,000 KidzMash shirts and closing – We love having KidzMash, and it’s an important element of CodeMash. It is a very small part of our overall budget, but cutting kids shirts has saved us some. We’ve also had to cut the KidzMash closing entertainment.
- $14,000 Hotel shuttles – Our regular attendee count is around 2,500. When we are that big we sell out the Kalahari, and four local hotels. This year, we have very few people staying off campus. It doesn’t make sense (economically or environmentally) to cycle shuttles all day for 20 people.
- $12,000 Boosted bandwidth and network staff – When we are at regular size, we stress the network like crazy. We’ve paid the Kalahari to have extra IT people on staff, and to boost our Internet bandwidth, in the past. We can’t afford that this year, and with a smaller group, we won’t need the extra bandwidth.
- $500 Recharge Pavilion (pipe and drape) – This is an extra sponsor space that hasn’t sold this year.
These changes are unfortunately necessary in order to continue to deliver on our values of a great accessible and affordable conference for everyone, and we hope that everyone will understand. We’re working hard to get creative and find new ways to stretch the offerings we do have. Even with challenges, the conference will go on and we are using this opportunity to recalibrate our offerings and come back better than ever.
The value in attending CodeMash isn’t high end food, soda, or non-stop parties. It’s the connection with the community, the sharing of ideas, everything you will learn, and being energized for the coming year.
CodeMash really needs your support. Please encourage your friends and coworkers to attend. And there are plenty of good sponsorship opportunities left <hint> <hint>.
CodeMash President, co-founder