Having been to both the Chicago and Barcelona editions of Adobe MAX, I thought it might be worth in doing a little comparison of the two in terms of location, sessions, party etc.
Location No clear winner - while the size of the CCIB in Barcelona was a lot more manageable than the huge McCormick Place in Chicago, we would sometimes run into serious queues at the escalators when going down for lunch.
The Barcelona convention center was very close to the beach where there was little to see outside the Chicago convention center.
Attendance In my opinion the Chicago edition was a bit too crowded with 4000+ attendees, the only time it was fun to have that many people was during the keynotes and sneak peeks -- at other times it just got a bit too much to work yourself through the crowd and find the people you're looking for.
With just over 1000 attendees Barcelona was the perfect size, the atmosphere was a little cosier but the community was still well represented and you could find people from all over Europe.
I don't think we can realistically expect the Adobe MAX conference to downscale in the coming years but don't overdo it, bigger is not always better. I'll mark Barcelona as the winner here!
Sessions Chicago overdid the amount of sessions in my opinion -- 25 to 30 sessions going on at the same time (I'm not even exaggerating) is way too much even if you want to cover the entire spectrum of Adobe products.
In Barcelona we had around 7 on at the same time I believe, that's still a lot but at least you didn't need to spend your entire break reading through session descriptions to figure out what you want to do next. Both Chicago and Barcelona had a good mix of Adobe and community speakers.
All things considered, Barcelona wins!
Keynotes / Sneak Peeks This is not a difficult one, Chicago was obviously the place to be especially for the sneak peeks. The keynotes were pretty comparable, I would even say Barcelona's were better because they looked at the feedback that surfaced in the community and tweaked the demo's (Thermo for example was presented a lot more clearly in Barcelona than in Chicago)
For some reason a lot of Adobe employees seemed to think Europe has not heard about that thing called the 'internet'. I'd estimate that 90% of attendees were already clued in on the sneak peeks that were shown in Chicago -- at the BoF session the night before they were weighing their words not to give away too much of what was to come, it was just hilarious.
It would be nice if Adobe could leave one or two sneak peeks for the Europe and Japan editions rather than present everything in the US and expect people not to hear about them (please don't go down the NDA route). Also make sure you can do all sneak peeks, not doing the Flash with C/C++ sneak peek in Barcelona was a huge let down.
No live music during the sneak peeks, no gimmick like we had with the Blues Brothers in Chicago.
Community Pavilion I liked the Community Pavilion at both events -- what I liked about Barcelona is that it was the central hub for lunch, receptions etc. whereas in Chicago you had to explicitly make your way down there if you wanted to see community members or sponsors.
From a sponsorship standpoint Barcelona was a lot better organized I think. I'm pretty sure every attendee went round the different booths at least once where in Chicago it wasn't always as busy.
Catering Chicago was the clear winner here -- great breakfast, snacks between sessions (even ice cream) whereas in Barcelona it was even difficult to grab a coffee during the day. Lunch were just some small tapas and finger food, not bad but not exactly lunch. There were very large queues for food and drink.
With about four times as many people in Chicago I'm still amazed at how fast they were able to serve us, it was brilliant. The speaker dinner for Barcelona in the Hilton was a lot better than what we saw during the conference though.
Receptions Receptions in Barcelona didn't really have the same vibe as in Chicago. People were hanging out in the community pavilion, there were some tapas and beverages but don't think many people saw it as an opportunity to do networking.
We needed something like the O'Reilly Ignite 5 minute sessions here to keep it lively. Think most people just stayed around for half an hour or so and teamed up to grab some real food in the city.
Party The Chicago party was very impressive, the hall was decorated on theme -- lots of entertainment. I preferred the live music in Barcelona and the terrace overlooking the ocean but the casino theme didn't come across all that well. The hall was barely decorated, grabbing food was problematic again and they apparently ran out of booze.
OK, a casino theme is difficult to achieve with thousand attendees running around in t-shirts. We could play some casino games and had a couple of Nintendo Wii consoles to entertain ourselves with. It could've been better in my opinion.
All things considered Chicago wins, though I think they spent a ridiculous amount of money on theirs and they could've toned things down.
Speaker Ready Room The speaker room in Chicago was good, the one in Barcelona was very good to very bad. When asked where the room was on the first day I was directed to the press and VIP room -- coffee, soft drinks, breakfast/lunch, power sockets,... life was good!
On the last day myself and a fellow speaker were semi-forcefully told to move our non-VIP butts to the actual speaker room which I can only describe as a soviet-inspired bird cage, complete with cardboard walls and netting as a ceiling. Located behind the wall in the community pavilion it wasn't exactly a quiet refuge. The amenities were two big round tables and four power sockets located at one end of the room. The chances of getting your laptop charged there were minimal let alone work on your session here.
What can I say, Chicago wins but Barcelona did a mean press and VIP room.
Chicago 5 - Barcelona 4
I think Adobe did a great job for their first European edition of Adobe MAX and am sure they'll take attendee feedback into consideration and improve things.
Enjoyed my time at both conferences and am looking forward to next year in San Francisco and another European destination!