How to make a track at an IT conference in changing conditions and at the same time not miss work: the experience of the organizer

It all started with an offer to participate in the conference. We had to brainstorm to decide on the topic of the report, and organize several meetings for corrections and clarifications in form and content. The decision to conduct the sessions online added technical difficulties, but allowed me to stay with my family, who watched and worried about me. Now I have in my hands a good material for training our employees.

Vlad Shevchenko, Head of Python/Golang backend practice, red_mad_robot

For me it was the first experience of participating in the conference, it was interesting and exciting. On the one hand, I wanted to perform offline, but online it was even easier for me, not so scary. I am from Siberia, so I am very glad that we have such events. I would like the conference to develop further and still remain offline.

Kristina Fedorova, Head of Java backend practice, red_mad_robot

Take responsibility for everything and work with speakers as a facilitator

The DevFest organizer is a member of the program committee. And his task is to lead the process and bring it to the result. If you mixed up the time and date, this is only your responsibility, it means that you conveyed the information incorrectly. So, I had a great speaker, with whom I had already agreed, and then it turned out that we meant different dates – and I lost him because I did not keep the necessary contact with him and did not double-check again.

The organizer is a person who not only finds speakers, but also guides them completely in the preparation process. They may be excellent engineers and strong experts, but the organizational responsibility also lies in ensuring that the reports are of relevant quality both in content and in performance.

I liked everything: organization, assistance in preparation, the conference itself. During the preparation, Ilya helped a lot, suggested what could be improved in the report, what to add, and what to change. As a result, the performance turned out to be interesting and versatile. I can only imagine how difficult it is to organize a conference in an online format, taking into account different countries and time zones. Despite this, everything went without technical or organizational problems. The speaker and listeners had the opportunity to communicate in a virtual room and discuss issues. I will definitely participate in the next DevFest.

Alexander Kalinka, Golang/Ruby developer, Evrone

Some of the guys were already almost ready for the report, with someone it took more work. I worked with the speakers individually, devoting 3-4 hours to each of them: we called up several times, discussed ideas, looked at developments, and skipped speeches with presentations. I threw ideas, articles, documentation, suggested design options if I saw that the idea could be better conveyed with the help of illustration or the content needed to be adapted to the audience. For example, there was a speaker with an interesting but rather complicated report. It had to be simplified a little – we wanted to attract as many people as possible to the Go language, so we needed to show how cool this technology is.

Very cozy and interesting conference. The organizers offered to help with the business trip when the offline format was still planned. Unfortunately, I couldn’t come, but even here the guys got into position and offered to go online – for this special thanks. It was interesting to speak and listen to other speakers. Topics ranged from Docker specifics on M1 to specific cgo usage. I hope that in the future I will be able to perform again – and this time offline.

Denis Kolpakov, backend engineer (core services), Avito

Flexibly respond to changes

In September, the conference was moved to an online format, because some of the speakers left the country. We lost that same networking, but gained accessibility: we made the conference free. Now anyone could connect from anywhere in the world.

Down in the middle is me
Down in the middle is me

There are better recordings than what happens at offline conferences. And this is important, because each such report is a “brick” from which a strong Go-community in Russia is built. That’s what turned out to be important in this vein.

1. Prepare the technical part

We used online Stream Yard – convenient, but specific technology to conduct a conference. So 2-3 days before the event, I spent six hours in a row telling different people how to use this program. Thanks to red_mad_robot for partially freeing me from work for the time of preparation – I managed to combine everything, not burn out and not overwhelm my work tasks.

2. Calculate options

Equipment sometimes breaks down, the Internet connection is not always stable – there are jambs that are not related to the speakers. For example, there was a moment when it was the turn of the next speaker, but his report was not loaded. A slight hitch – and he began to share his screen. Then he lost the Internet, and I had to pick up the audience, talk about something until he reconnected.

3. Don’t do it for free

Online conferences are much cheaper to produce and available to anyone. But on the example of this DevFest, I realized that making events absolutely free is not worth it. I thought that everyone would come to listen – interested schoolchildren and freshmen, novice developers, experienced engineers. But this did not happen. It turns out that even a small cost motivates more. A person makes a personal, albeit symbolic, financial investment and feels responsible to himself so that this money is not wasted.

4. Have a backup plan

Offline and online events are prepared differently, and the sudden transition is difficult. Therefore, it is important to immediately build a strategy and allow time for restructuring. When we switched from offline to online, but did not change the ways of attracting in any way, we sank in terms of the number of viewers. I’m sure more people could have been involved.

It was the same with speakers: I was looking for speakers for an offline format and did not even consider people online. Therefore, I lost the tough guys who were abroad. And the offline conference format itself would attract more people from the Omsk IT community.

Conclusion

I already had the experience of writing articles, and I wanted to try myself in a new role – to make my own conference or track in an existing one. Even among my New Year’s plans for 2022, I had such an item – and at the end of October I boldly ticked the box next to it. Did I think that it would go exactly as I planned in early January? No. But I realized that in addition to development, I have another interest – to hold conferences, share knowledge, show new people in the community. Gained a lot of experience, lost two speakers, but experienced great pleasure despite the difficulties. I want to correct these errors in the future and continue: next conferencewhich I am organizing will take place in February 2023.

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