Rafael Almeida

@rafaelcpalmeida

What I’ve learned from organizing a Tech Conf

Recently Hello World Conf took place, for the third time, and I decided that I should write down what I’ve learned from organizing a Tech Conf.

I’ll assume that most of you don’t know or didn’t hear about Hello World Conf so, and I’ll try to keep short, Hello World aims to be (yet another) a Tech Conf that brings some of the hottest topics at the moment alongside some of the most awesome speakers out there and, of course, our awesome participants, just because technology nowadays is advancing in a galloping rhythm. What you used last year can now be obsolete in some way. (Figure of speech here).

But you’re here to read what I’ve learned while organizing a Tech Conf. So, «let’s get ready to rumble!».

You can’t please Greeks and Trojans

As the Portuguese saying states, you can’t please Greeks and Trojans. Translating this you could say that you just can’t please everybody. And you’ll go nuts if you try to do what everyone asks of you. Please note that I’m not saying that you shouldn’t help or try to make your participants experience if you can, as everyone knows (or should), there is no such a thing as two equal persons, but just don’t try to make everyone happy. It’s simply not possible.

Speakers may not stick to their available time

This is a serious problem and I struggle with this every single edition of the Hello World. Some speakers just don’t understand that 30 minutes available means that you only have 30 minutes to present your talk. Please don’t get me wrong here, if it weren’t for the speakers I wouldn’t have a Conf, and I’m quite sure that most of the speakers don’t do this intentionally. The problem is that if they use more than the 30 minutes slot the crowd will start to disconnect from the topic, at least in most cases. This year, and to fix this problem, I decided to develop an app (Yep, shameless self-promotion right there!), to run both on the Mac and on the iPad (or iPhone). The app would basically show a timer and it would switch the color so the speaker could easily know when the time is running short.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Speakers should use the computer you provided

Everyone enjoys using their own computer, right? They «feel at home» while using their own machine and it’s natural that they want to use their own computer while presenting their talk. However, in my opinion, you shouldn’t let them do this. Why? You might be wondering. Well, it’s quite simple (just a few of points actually):

  • You’ll need someone to go up on stage and make the switch of the computers. This is bad because while the person is doing his job your participants might be distracted by what he’s doing and might just not listen to what the host is trying to say to them.
  • Shit happens. Sounds impossible, right? No! According to Mr. Murphy, «Anything that can go wrong will go wrong». Either the projector will fail, the computer will need an adapter and, even if you have one, it won’t work. The list of possibilities goes on but I prefer not to exceed myself here.
  • You can’t maintain your Conf image either show your participants a video of your sponsors while you’re switching computers (Assuming that you have to get up on stage). Having a bla(n)k screen being presented to your audience sort of ruins your Conf image. I think that having a video from your sponsors or your logo always visible while switching speakers/talks transpires professionality.

Networking and mingle are very important

We, Humans, are social animals. If we were sent to a desert island we would, most likely, forget everything we knew and turn into animals. We need social interaction with other people. And what better opportunity to do so while eating and drinking something? Coffee-breaks are quite important! People use them (or should) to mingle with each other, get to know other people or maybe to ask that question that they had to the speaker but they were too shy to ask him in front of an entire audience.

Photo by jens johnsson on Unsplash

Spreading the word is still the best publicity

We decided to send out some emails this year to some colleges around the venue, also a college, and I can say that it worked much better than having some paid publicity on social media. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have paid publicity! I’m saying that sending some emails to your contacts in other places is a good way of advertising! We managed to gather lots of participants from other colleges because we asked their students associations to spread the word!

Great food equals happy attendees

This year we decided to hire a catering company to do the coffee breaks for us. It’s expensive, there’s no denying, but I can tell you that it’s completely justifiable. You don’t have to bother anymore with making sure that your attendees have all the food they require or drinks. The catering company might have much more experience regarding that than you do. After all, they do these things for a living, right? And also, providing great food for the participants should make them happier with the conf. So, Great food = happy attendees!

Photo by Ashley Kirk on Unsplash

Topics should be carefully picked

One should take into consideration when choosing the topics that are going to be approached at the conf. If your conf majority of attendees are too young (regarding experience, mostly) and the topics are quite advanced they will end up to lose interest and probably leave the conf earlier than expected. This also goes the other way around, if your attendees are experienced and the topics are introductory ou superficial they also might lose interest.

These are some of the topics that I thought that might be interesting to be shared.

I would also want to thank my whole team, Rui, Rebeca, Joaquim, João V., João S., Cátia, Zé, André, and Rúben, for helping me make this event possible. Also, huge kudos for Sara, my girlfriend, for always having my back, and, of course, our amazing sponsors for finding value and believing in our event.
Feel free to share your thoughts on the comments below on approaching me on social networks.

Cheers,

DISCLAIMER: This is my experience. Your’s might be slightly different.

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