CONFERENCES AS CONDUITS FOR CONVERSATION
Farhad Mafie is President and CEO at Savant Company. This week Mafie and his team celebrated a big success with their 1st International System-on-Chip Conference, held at the Radisson Hotel in Newport, CA. Although the event was the brainchild of Savant, it was held in conjunction with Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Long Beach, and U.C. Irvine. When we spoke by phone just after the 2-day conference had concluded, Mafie's evaluation was unqualified: "The conference was fantastic!"
If the attendance and program are any indication, it looks like the folks at Savant may indeed have had reason to celebrate. Mafie told me that upwards of 200 people attended the conference, where they could hear several keynotes from academia and industry, several panel discussions, and 35 technical sessions covering five different subject tracks
The panel sessions -- one on configurable processors and DSPs moderated by EE Times' Ron Wilson, and one on EDA tools for 90-nanometer design moderated by Electronic Design's Dave Burskey -- were outstanding, according to Mafie. He said, "The panels were heated and very informative. People were challenging each other on technical issues, talking about the benefits of their own architectures and discussing the weaknesses of the competing architectures. The second panel ran so long, we had to cut it off because they finally ran out of time."
When I asked Mafie if anybody really needs yet another conference in this industry, he said, "Absolutely! We have too many general conferences today, while a lot of people are looking for more specific, more targeted conferences. Some of the exhibitors who participated at our conference told me that when they go to meetings like DAC, they just get lost in the big event and don't get the traction that they would like to have."
"In our environment this week, where we combined just the right mix of the academic and the commercial, we were able to keep the content at a very high level and meet the needs of our specific, targeted audience. Even the presenters from the commercial side gave valuable technical presentations in keeping with the spirit of the conference."
"Also, we didn't allow the topic material to be confused with unrelated subject matter. As a result, people didn't end up wasting a lot of time on issues not related to their particular topic. And importantly, although we had five tracks, the sessions ran sequentially, not on a parallel schedule. Everyone was able to attend all of the tracks if they wanted to."
"The event, in fact, could have been a lot bigger but we tried to keep it small for the sole purpose of maintaining focus. We actually turned down many papers and numerous companies who asked to be allowed to exhibit. The evaluations that people turned in at the end of the conference proved we were right in the decisions we made. Many people provided us with the names and contact information for specific people who should be invited to our next event. "
"My message is straightforward. This is a very focused and targeted event, and we will not change that mission going forward. Our next event will be in the later part of this year, and although the location is yet to be determined, we will continue to arrange for university connections. We're looking at dates and locations right now. Also, we're providing a series of scholarships for graduate students working on their Master's or PhDs, so they can attend the conference and add to the technical merit of the event. Clearly, for anyone interested in SoCs -- whether they're in academics or in business -- this is going to become the conference they're going to want to be attending on a regular basis."