Every year, more than 1,000 software professionals descend on the Kalahari Resort in Lake Delton for the annual THAT Conference, heralded as “summer camp for geeks.”
The conference, which wrapped up its eighth edition Aug. 8, attracts attendees from across the Midwest with a focus on implementation of new technology and a family-friendly atmosphere. According to conference president Clark Sell, 2019 marked the best year of the conference to date.
“(We’re in) a new space that we fit in better,” Sell said, speaking of the newly remodeled Kalahari convention center. “This is our eighth year, and people are starting to live what we’ve been preaching. The family gets a little tighter, gets a little bit better, a little bit stronger.”
Sell’s company commits fully to the “summer camp for geeks” aesthetic, with themed decor throughout the convention space, and extensions into the food provided on-site. Organizers even hold a pig roast on the penultimate night of the convention, serving pork slow-cooked on a spit.
Sell said all this is part of the appeal to conference attendees and their families. He said that some people buy into the marketing a bit too much, apparently one According to Kalahari’s corporate sales director Tifani Jones, it’s all part of what keeps people coming back year after year.
“We had an opportunity, just sitting in the hallway where a family walked by,” Jones said. “And we were just making small talk with this family that has four kids that attend, and their youngest child wasn’t even born the first time they attended.”
Jones said part of the reason THAT Conference is so successful for both attendees and organizers is that it ties in neatly with Kalahari’s brand; both organizations hold family-friendliness in high regard at their core.
In fact, THAT is the first organization to hold an event inside the fully remodeled Kalahari convention center. According to Jones, the success of this year’s event bodes well for the future of the space.
“We currently host 1,900 events every year, and we expect that number will grow,” Jones said. “But we also see additional visitors coming to existing events because of the extra space. Those conferences that were looking to grow have the opportunity to add additional members.”