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Celebrating 10 Years of Relativity Fest: A Look Forward

Sam Bock

When I started at Relativity in March 2012, “Just wait for Relativity Fest” was a common refrain. It would only be our third annual conference, but already it was the pinnacle event of the Relativity community. Today, it’s a staple of what we do at Relativity and it’s our favorite way to gather with the community each year.

Last week, we talked about the history of Relativity Fest—which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. We heard about the unchanging mission of the conference and its changing dynamics. But what’s next—and what’s in it for you?

Our Fest veterans are back to share their thoughts on just that with you.

The Future of “the Fest”

The mission of Relativity Fest hasn’t changed a bit over the years—although the scale and appeal of the event certainly has.

“The mission has always been about educating and connecting the e-discovery community, and that mission hasn’t changed. That said, the definition of ‘the e-discovery community’ has broadened,” explained Shawn Gaines, Relativity’s vice president of marketing. “It’s still a great show for litigation support teams at service providers, but now has huge numbers of attendees from law firms, corporate legal teams, academia, developer firms, the press and analyst community, and even some from local Chicago tech.”

He’s excited to see how that audience could evolve further: “I could see more coming out of our developer partners who display their amazing applications and integrations in the community pavilion each year, maybe even some of them having their own conferences inside of Relativity Fest,” he went on. “Ultimately, I can see it becoming a show for anyone that cares about discovering the truth and wants to share ideas for doing it even better.”

What else might be in store for 2019 and future years of the conference? If anything’s certain, it’s that we’ll keep the surprises coming.

“One thing I can say about Relativity is that we like to shake things up and keep challenging ourselves. Whatever we come up with will be the result of a lot of thought and passion,” Constantine Pappas, senior manager of Relativity solutions, said.

Josh Sullivan, our senior manager of EMEA marketing, sees big things in Relativity Fest’s future. “I think it will continue to grow, expanding in both scale and content. I think we’ll continue to see new audiences at the show as our products evolve to meet more challenges within e-discovery and beyond,” he said. “And who knows? Maybe we’ll start to expand to other cities or slice and dice the show to accommodate more targeted programming for attendees.”

Come Rookies, Come Veterans

Big goals and big lessons are all well and good, but what really matters is what you—personally and professionally—will take away from the experience of attending Relativity Fest.

Some of our veteran attendees have made flocking to October each fall a habit for years, and they say it’s always worth the trip.

“There are lots of things about Relativity Fest that make it worth coming back year after year,” said Caroline Pollard, manager of e-discovery services at Ballard Spahr. One example? “Nothing beats exchanging ideas with Relativians and peers over breakfast.”

“The event has always been such an inviting and communal experience that I hope any first-time attendee would feel comfortable and welcome to chat up strangers, talk with Relativians, and build an agenda that both introduces them to new things but also gives them some tangible skills they can use right away when they get back to the office,” Josh added.

In our first installment of Celebrating 10 Years of Relativity Fest, we talked to Relativity VP of Marketing Shawn Gaines about putting together the first Judicial Panel. One of the calls Shawn made was to David Horrigan. David is now Relativity’s discovery counsel and legal education director, but at the time, he was analyst and counsel at 451 Research.

“I had been a speaker at Relativity Fest before, but it was a real honor to get the call from Shawn and the invitation to moderate the first Judicial Panel,” David said. “Of course, I had no idea I’d ever be working for Relativity or that—all these years later—the Judicial Panel would become a Relativity Fest tradition.”

When they went to work on that first Judicial Panel, other content by and for attorneys followed. Thus began what has evolved into the Relativity Fest Legal and Industry Education track. This year marks the sixth annual Judicial Panel, and the track now features multiple days of programming.

“Relativity Fest’s Legal and Industry Education track has expanded with continuation legal education (CLE) programs and sessions analyzing data from studies and surveys we’ve sponsored during the year. Issues span from the changing role of the general counsel to efforts on GDPR compliance and data minimization.”

David says the CLE credits are big reason to come to Fest, but not the only reason.

“The end of the year will be here before you know it, and it’s great to get multiple days of CLE credits all in one place, but—even if you don’t need CLE credits—there’s something for everyone.”

So if you’re considering making your way to Relativity Fest for the first time this year, don’t hesitate.

Asked what she’d say to those considering attending Relativity Fest for the first time, Susan James— senior practice support analyst at Davis Wright Tremaine and about to attend the conference for her eighth year—said: “Do it! If you're passionate about e-discovery and love working with Relativity it's a no brainer—you’ve got to go! And if you're not, attend anyway! I guarantee you'll walk away with tools you can use right away.

Shawn had similar advice about diving in: “If you can, stay at the show all day—go to lunches, networking events, strike up conversations in the hallway. The community that attends this show is so great, you won’t want to miss an opportunity to meet as many new people as possible.”

“You’re in for a treat,” Constantine promised to new attendees for this year. “You won’t be able to hit all the sessions you’d like to, and that’s ok, but make sure to take advantage of the hands-on content.”

As for the veterans, Constantine shared his excitement for them, too: “No matter how many Fests you’ve attended, there will always be something new for you. What’s more, this is the perfect venue for us to get your feedback on how to make Relativity better,” he said. “Repeat attendees are a huge part of what makes Fest great.”

Josh agreed. “You’re a valuable member of the community, and as a Relativity Fest veteran, you’re an amazing resource for those who might be attending for the first time,” he added. “Come help us improve the show, give us feedback on what you miss from years past and what we can do to improve going forward, and make sure you build your agenda in advance.”

“If you’re attending for the tenth time, pretend it’s your first time,” Shawn suggested. “Commit to trying new sessions, meeting new people, and exploring the show a little more.”

Kelly Lohan, senior manager of events at Relativity and head of the team that executes on all the Relativity Fest magic, is pumped to greet this year’s guests—new and experienced: “We can’t wait to show you what’s new in the product and provide you with the education and networking to take new learnings back to the office with you!”

Don't Miss Relativity Fest 2019 for More Lessons

Sam Bock is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, and serves as editor of The Relativity Blog.

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