THEORY #1: the wrong dates
I replicated the model of FlipTech East Coast, which got well over 100 attendees: the last weekend of June. Everyone's school year would surely be finished, even if we got a bunch of snow days. That was one of the easiest decisions I made, but it was probably a fatal flaw.
ISTE19 is in Philadelphia on the Monday-Wednesday before FlipTech. Last year it was in Chicago with the same timing, but I believe ISTE is attracting a lot of attention in the Northeast region. I probably lost some potential support from MassCUE because their lead organizers are heading south that week. I've come to realize that other tech-savvy folks in the NYC - Philly - Baltimore - DC area made a similar choice. It's really tough to compete with a monster like ISTE....
THEORY #2: excessive pricing
Again, I copied the price structure that seemed to make FTEC successful and profitable for the FLN. I tried a couple promotions like Early Bird Specials, a 28%-off promotion until April 28th, a group discount, and a 1-day ticket option.
However, the sticker price may have scared some people away. Again, if you're deciding between ISTE and a smaller local conference (and probably other summer PD options too), then psychologically all the 3-digit prices seem similar ... even through $149 is a fraction of the $500 for ISTE! Oh right: a superintendent's office might actually pay for that because they've probably heard of it before.
THEORY #3: no 'big name'
With all due respect to the scheduled presenters and keynotes, Aaron freakin' Sams is the OG. He literally wrote the book on FL!
Theories #2 and #3 are connected, because FTEC could perhaps justify the dollar figure because of the Aaron Sams factor. How many people went to last year's conference for that reason? We have no way of knowing, but I'm sure the number is larger than zero. If I hadn't been picked as a presenter for FlipTech East Coast then I sure as hell would have paid to go there anyway in large part to maybe possibly meet Mr. Sams. (I did!!)
THEORY #4: what's the flipping point?
This might be my most unpopular opinion, and it is not yet fully formed.
Flipped learning / flipped classroom is not a new idea anymore, right? I'm sure that at least 60% of teachers have heard of it ... although what they think it is might not be what it really is. Maybe it seems so easy, so accessible, so basic that some potential conference attendees think "Why do I need to shell out $$$ to go to that? I saw a few tweets / read a couple blog posts / skimmed an Edutopia article / watched a Youtube video. How hard can it be? FlipTech is for suckers."
And maybe that's the flipping truth. What if FL is a victim of its own success??
Or, worse yet, what if it is a victim of its own apparent easiness?! People think they know how to do it so they don't seek help. Then either it works (maybe?) or it doesn't (probably) or what they end up doing isn't actually flipping (augh!).
THEORY #5: organizer incompetence
There is a saying that the worst failure is the one you didn't learn from. Now I know lots of things I would do differently, so I guess it's not so flipped bad after all...?