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Learnings from Organizing DevCon Summit 2015 (Pt. 1)

  |  November 17, 2015
DevCon Ph 2015

Image courtesy of DevCon Philippines

DevCon Summit 2015, a 2-day developer conference that had over 1500 attendees, ended 2 days ago. I was part of the organizing team which consisted of 60+ volunteers – The largest team we’ve ever had at a DevCon event. It was a really bumpy ride for everyone. Mistakes were made, and a lot of things were learned during the event. The event opened my eyes and made me appreciate how hard events production can be.

I will be listing some of the things that I’ve observed and learned to serve as a post-mortem of the event. Hopefully, this will give our attendees and exhibitors some insight as to what was happening behind the scenes and why things seemed the way they were during the whole thing.

Pack your goodies/loot bags as early as possible

DevCon volunteers preparing goodie bags

Volunteers @devconph preparing for the big event tomorrow #GoOpenSourcePH (Image courtesy of Terence Ponce)

The first challenge that we encountered before the event was that we had to pack the loot bag for our attendees. This involved having all of the giveaways from our sponsors be delivered, and arranging all of them to put inside the loot bag. Imagine having to collect, arrange, and distribute 1500+ of each piece of giveaway in 1 day, let alone just a few hours with a few other people. It’s crazy! What actually happened is that we were only able to pack around 1000 loot bags because of the constraints that we had.

Some other constraints involved during the process of packing loot bags:

  1. Late delivery of various loot bag items. Some of them were delivered just a couple of hours before the event. Imagine our frustrations when we realized that we had to go through every loot bag again just because a new item arrived.
  2. The packing was done on a weeknight (Thursday). Most, if not all, of our volunteers are professionals who have day jobs, so we had to start the packing in the evening when everyone got to the venue from the office.
  3. Schedule conflicts. More than half of our volunteers weren’t available during the packing process, so we had to do this with only half of our capacity.
  4. Time and energy. We had to do the repacking late in the evening. We were already sleepy by the time we started, so we weren’t able to finish what we were supposed to do. We had to make up for it during the event itself.

We finished packing at around 1:00am on Friday. We had to wake up at around 4:00am because the call time was 5:00am. We barely had any sleep during the first day. In fact, some of us weren’t able to sleep at all, so we weren’t in our best shape during the event.

Here are some ideas that I have to ease the process the next time we have to do this:

  1. Have the sponsors deliver their giveaways at least a week before the event.
  2. Pack the loot bags as early as possible. Never do it during the day before the event. Rent a place that is accessible to the people who will pack the bags if you need to.
  3. As a result of #2, just have the loot bags delivered to the venue on the day before the event. You might need to rent a vehicle to pull this off.
  4. Have more loot bags than what you need. Always assume that there will be walk-ins regardless of whether you accept walk-ins or not.

In retrospect, I realized that we weren’t treating our volunteers as best as we can as we were focused too much on pleasing our participants. I really appreciate how selfless they’ve been during the whole thing despite not being paid for their work

I’ll be posting more points on my second installment to this blog. For more blog posts and insights, you may visit my blog.