Here was my written feedback in the post-event survey:
On-site signage needed to be higher and larger. A lot of the signage was below eye level and the signs completely disappeared in the crowds. This gave people the impression that there were no signs and the event was disorganized. Always put signs above 6' such that they can been clearly visible in a crowd. The "village" area behind the auditorium had all of these buildings had store-front marquees with plenty of space for high signage, but none of that space was utilized.
There were a LOT of contradictory instructions from Live Nation staff vs. Google staff. In one case Live Nation staff told a line I was in to move from one spot to another. 5 minutes late Google staff was managing another line at the original spot and telling us to get in the back of that line. :-(
The best form of line control is line avoidance. You need to work hard to avoid situations where lines form. For example, at the beginning of each day the busses arrived at 7:15, but the venue doors didn't open until nearly 8am. This cause a huge line and a rush for the food when the gates opened. This could have been avoided by simply scheduling the busses to arrive no earlier than the gates opened. It would have been fine for us to be let in before breakfast started to be served.
As many others have commented, the session tents were too small. I think it would have been great if outside of each session tent there was a covered area with picnic tables and a screen/speakers showing the session going on inside the tent. I know this would have taken even more space, but it would have allowed for casual attendance of sessions and more seating (see below for more on that). Probably would have relieved some of the pressure on the session lines.
Consider doing a live audio-only stream of the session rooms and make it available through the IO app. Then put TVs/Screens around the event in the casual seating areas showing the live video. Then attendees could listen using their phones and watch the appropriate screen for the session they wanted. Audio-only would lessen the burden on the event wifi which is always an issue.
The meals needed to be spread out more, especially at times when we were constrained to the amphitheater village area and blocked from the parking lot / tent area. Many of the storefronts weren’t being used and all of the food was coming from 2-3 small areas. This caused huge lines and crowds. Spread out the food to more stations. This was much better when the tent parking lot was open and there were plenty of food stations. Also it would have been AWESOME if the there was some sort of meal guide that would explain that different food stations had different options and give the menus.
I agree with the decision to not give away tech at the conference, but it would have been much more effective if you had told people this prior to opening registration. That would have constrained the demand for tickets to mostly engineers and set attendee expectations.
You needed to have substantially more casual seating around the venue. I would recommend seating for 30-50% of attendees outside of sessions. You should have scattered 3-4 times as many picnic tables around the event. It left all of us very uncomfortable while trying to eat or take a break.
Speaking of uncomfortable. One of the best parts of IO is Code Labs. Could you have chosen more uncomfortable seating for this event? I ended up doing 3 code labs, but I would have done way more if you had proper chairs. The stools were SO unbearable. If the intent was to make it too uncomfortable for someone to hog stations, you succeeded.
All of this being said, I had a good time and I applaud Google’s efforts to think outside the box. I do event planning myself and It was refreshing to see the level of creativity that went into the event. Unlike many of the respondents, I wouldn’t actually mind if you tried an outdoor event again, but please work on the issues.