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FileMaker Developer Conference 2017: Lessons Learned

That was probably the most interesting conference I’ve been to …

I just returned from the 2017 FileMaker Developer Conference. I’ve blogged about the conference before, but this year was special and different. It’s the first time I submitted a proposal to speak, and the first time I was selected to speak. Very cool, and a big honor to boot.

For those who are new to the conference, it’s the annual gathering of FileMaker developers and companies from around the world. This year set another attendance record – 1600 participants – and was held at the beautiful JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Conference Center. Since I was speaking, FileMaker, Inc., picked up the tab for my conference registration and hotel – which was really great, because it was the first time I’ve actually been able to stay in the conference hotel.

Let’s get to the conference itself. The main focus this year was on web tool integration, with the advent of native functionality in version 16 to support cURL and JSON. Don’t worry too much if you don’t know what those are; they’re just standard tools for applications to exchange data and instructions over the internet. And they’re now natively available in FileMaker.

I’ve linked to a copy of my trip report, which you can read at your leisure if you’re interested in the details of the experience. I’ve also included my session materials – the slides and demo file. But I want to talk about some other aspects of the conference – things I learned about business and people.

When I picked up my rental car at the airport, it was not a pleasant experience. You see, we don’t believe in credit cards here. In fact, we don’t believe in debt. We run our business, and our household, on the basis that if you don’t have the money for it, then you probably shouldn’t buy it. (Crazy, right?) So the “credit” card I have is actually a debit card. Unfortunately, that causes some issues for some companies who don’t quite grok the debit card thing. That included the rental car company, who shall remain nameless (Thrifty).

The policies for accepting debit cards at this company include a forced credit check (if you don’t agree to it, they won’t rent to you), extra fees, and, as a bonus, a very rude clerk who said *I* had a problem because I didn’t have a credit card. (Seriously, dude? You’re willing to lose a sale for the sake of a snarky comment?) If I hadn’t had a passenger (another developer who asked for a ride share), I would simply have walked away and used another company. (Maybe I should have anyway.) But I’ll never rent from Thrifty again, and I’ll be happy to tell anyone who will listen why.

Now, contrast that with the experience at the hotel. When I tried to check in, the room wasn’t ready yet (housekeeping wasn’t finished). I said, “No problem,” and just went and registered for the conference, talked to some people, and waited until around 4:30 to try again. (The room was promised at 4:00.) Still not ready – so the staff upgraded my room at no extra charge, with multiple profuse apologies for the inconvenience.

See the difference? The former example couldn’t have cared less how the customer felt, and worse, didn’t care whether it would cost the company the sale. The second experience was so much better. I would happily patronize that hotel again.

And then, there was the personal experience. My session was going very well – up until I tried a key feature of the demonstration database. It started throwing errors – and it hadn’t done that before. First disaster. Second disaster what trying – and failing – to find and fix it on the fly. Many apologies, self-deprecating jokes and helpful tries from the audience later, I moved on and worked around it as best I could.

But what happened afterward was interesting. Several people offered their sympathy, and almost every one of them made the same comment: “You handled it well.” At first, that wasn’t much comfort, but upon reflection, I realized that was actually more important than the presentation going off perfectly.

The measure of a company (or an individual, really) is how you handle situations that go wrong. It’s easy to be polite, cheerful, and pleasant when everything is going your way. But how do you react when everything is going to a really hot place really fast? Do you acknowledge the problem? Do you take responsibility? Do you make reparations? (I actually worked into the next session to fix the issues with the demo file and re-posted them to the conference web site, with an apology to attendees who had to suffer through the malfunctions.) These are the things that built relationships, and companies. No sane person expects perfection (and honestly, who wants insane customers?). But treating other people well always works. And making every effort to make it right.

That’s what we try to do here. If you ever have a negative experience with anyone associated with Net Caster Solutions, I want to know about it. Use our contact page, or email I take customer experience very seriously, and have a very low tolerance for treating our clients, or suppliers, or anyone else for that manner, poorly.

But after all that is said, I’ve added some photos from the conference for your enjoyment. Really was a beautiful area and venue. My trip report and session materials are also attached. Enjoy!

2017 Trip Report

Session materials (slides & demo file)