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Cover image for 2019 Southern Dev Conference Post Mortem

2019 Southern Dev Conference Post Mortem

schusterbraun profile image Schuster Braun ・7 min read

Southern Dev Conference 2019 Post Mortem

The inaugural Southern Dev conference in 2019 was seen as a success. To build on successes there should be a discussion about what actually took place, what were some reactions we received so we can allocate our effort more effectively for next year. Up front I want to say that this is only my opinion and my best effort to communicate what I experienced directly and heard second hand. However as an organizer of an event I know that my direct experience is going to be different because people are unlikely to look me in the face and give me honest feedback about the event. The team here at theClubhou.se is very interested in getting constructive criticism. As a non-profit one of our mission pillars is to build community and for that to happen we need to be approachable and inclusive. So, please let us know your ideas and want to work with those in the community at large who are advocates in the tech community.

Packed crowd in one of the talks

Successes

Engagement

Our biggest success was that the organizers, attendees, sponsors, and speakers built strong relationships with each other that continue after the conference. Everyone has communicated some really positive messages about new friendships and deepened feelings of wanting to get involved in community building. Conversations have continued online, in public, and via direct messages. This tells me that this is something important and why we are going to continue to organize this event as long as we can. Since I view engagement as our biggest success I want to communicate different aspects of the process that possibly led to that outcome. We supported local companies and focused on building them up. I think we also built a secure, inclusive, and supportive environment for everyone the day of.

Initial thoughts towards Improvements

We learned that we can do better in the information dissemination department. A way to improve this would be to have a better definition of roles on the organizing committee. For example, we didn’t disseminate what the conference wifi was. It may seem small but there probably were attendees who just used data because maybe they didn’t feel comfortable asking. I would like to be transparent about the organization of our conference and how we build its success. I think one of the flaws we had in the organization for 2019 was that the mission, goal, and how to accomplish tasks was left ambiguous. This year we will improve on our clarity of purpose.

2020 Southern Dev Conference Committee Organizers List

Description:
Now that we were able to work some of the bugs out, 2020 is going to be even better. Our goal for this conference is to represent the desires of an inclusive, diverse tech community in small to mid-sized cities in the south. Cities with these cultural perspectives and values, will grow holistically.

Here is a list of the breakdown for a great organizing committee

Sponsors

  • communications
  • recruitment
  • sponsor package

Speakers

  • travel and lodging
  • call for papers
  • communications

Event Planning

  • Events

Marketing

  • website
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • graphics
  • assets

Finance

  • budgeting
  • expense tracking

Two of our Sponsors talking together, Enoch Tarver and DREAM

Sponsor Committee Organizer Details

Communications

Each sponsor needs to feel like they are getting value for their donations. We don't only want to keep our sponsors informed but engage with them and want to communicate how important they are to the success of the conference.
We want to let our sponsors know when we learn about new developments that come down the pipeline with venue, day of preparations, marketing pushes, etc. A major goal for this conference is to pay for the entire conference logistics via sponsorships. If we can successfully do this then ticket sales can be donated and go towards the next year's conference and towards local non-profits.

Sponsor Package

A Sponsor Package is a document that communicates the vision and logistic requirements of our event. The creation of this document will be led by the head of sponsorships and requires collaboration between event planning, and marketing. This document will act as a reference and an initial source of truth to help guide our sponsors in their journey of discovering our event.

Sponsor Recruitment

To fund our event we will be relying on financial investment from local, regional, and national industry leading organizations. It is the responsibility of the sponsor branch of the committee to build out funding efforts, these will look like contacting/networking with potential partners.


1 of our MCs Nicole Floyd introducing our Speaker Jessica King

Speaker Committee Organizer Details

Speaker communications

Our speakers are highly valuable to this event. Speakers can make a career by sharing their insights with audiences across the globe. In 2019 we learned that this valuable insight can spur a movement in a city. Their engagement with the event and our attendees provides clarity to our event's vision to our attendees, sponsors, and organizers. This would entail being proactive in our communications with our speakers, and letting them know our intentions up front and keeping them in the loop when there are any scheduling changes. This also means relaying speaker concerns and questions.

Speaker Travel and Lodging

It takes a special kind of person to be a conference speaker. Professional speakers fly all over the world to share their insights. The expectation is that we should do as much as we can to make the process as seamless as possible for them. Our speakers from out of the area will share their experiences back home, so it is important to provide the best experience we can. We will work with budgeting to be able to cover travel, lodging, a speaker dinner, and the day of conference.

Schedule Day of Speaker Activities

Speakers on the day of the event are usually very busy. Sometimes this can look like talk preparations, slide edits, talk practicing, alone time, or on the event floor talking with attendees. For this reason our event needs to have a safe quiet space where speakers can take time to prepare themselves. We also want our expectations to be clear about the activities our speakers may be interested in attending and try to make accommodations for them to be able to participate in those activities.

Call For papers/Speaker Line up

In 2019 we had an overwhelming amount of interest from speakers around the globe applying to our event. We had approximately 100 submissions to work through. These submissions ranged from small paragraphs to well thought out research paper abstracts. The timing for choosing speakers needs to give notice to applicants well in advance so that they can schedule flights and logistics. Our main strategy is to foster diversity and inclusion in our speaker line up. We will also build strategic partnerships with communities that represent our target audience.


Event Planning

Events

In 2019 we hosted the conference proper as well as several experiences before the date. The conference proper was the 27th of April, which is what attendees would have been able to purchase tickets to. Tickets purchased entry to the conference floor, talks, breakfast, snacks, and lunch. Individuals were also given the opportunity to purchase VIP tickets, which happened after the main conference. The night before the conference we kicked off the programming competition that continued to the conference proper. At the same time we had the speakers practice and a dinner. The day before we had an event introducing the programming competition and the platform it was built on. We are looking to expand the event catalog to engage more deeply with our audience.


Veronica Hanus at PyconCZ sporting DREAM created earings. Compliments of @wrzasa on Twitter

Marketing

We are working to represent an entire region and to do that we need to work on our representation from the entire region. The marketing team should engage with our communities on our social media platforms. It is extremely important to maintain connectivity with our audience. Our community is great and if we maintain our relationship with them they will provide us invaluable feedback on how to make our event even better. We will also try to support our local tech scene as much as possible. This looks like open sourcing the website, utilizing local machinery and equipment if possible to make our badges. It will be open source so that developers in the community will have a way to be able to engage with the conference and contribute to the development of the conference themselves.


Finance

We are focused on inspiring the building of a community. This means in my mind that we are inspiring competition and sustainability. We are interested in activating our attendees, inspiring them to continue to participate throughout the years. This philosophy drives our financing plan to center around the concept of openness. We won't get our funds in a manner that isn't readily recognizable by our attendees. This looks like opt-in as opposed to opt-out strategies when it comes to email marketing and data gathering.


A group of conference goers, organizers, and speakers on the rooftop of the Georgia Cyber Center

Conclusion

The success of the conference is not based on how the day of event goes. The success is based on the engagement in our community. We are trying to build economies in the south by fostering strong and sustainable tech communities. To do that we need to stay engaged and consistently involved and active. This is a big job but we at theClubhou.se believe it is essential to support our communities to make the world a better place.

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Schuster Braun

@schusterbraun

Web developer, instructor, community organizer

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