A few weeks ago, hundreds of web, mobile and IoT developers gathered in Mons, Belgium for the 5th annual Dev Day Conference. Coordinated by a dedicated group of MVPs, Reconnect members and evangelists, the technical conference offered developers from near and far the chance to discover and discuss new technologies, meet other passionate developers, and make the local developer community stronger.
The organizers– who include MVPs Olivier Matis, Christophe Peugnet, Renaud Dumont, Denis Voituron, Adrien Clerbois, MVP Reconnect member Matthieu Vandenhende, and Microsoft evangelist Frederic Carbonelle, – put on a show once again this year, treating around 450 participants to exhibitions and talks by industry experts, including Scott Hanselman, David Catuhe, and Laurent Bugnion.
Yet another big success, was the fact that Dev Day has grown from a single-room operation welcoming 5 speakers and a few dozen people, into a multi-stage, 26-Speaker affair drawing hundreds. So how do the MVPs organize such a big event?
Here’s how they did it
Of course, the logistics of such an event aren’t easy - especially since MVPs are known for juggling multiple projects. To make it possible, the team started planning 6 months in advance. They sat down to review last year’s attendee feedback, to define goals for the 2017 conference, and to divvy up tasks.
One of the most important thing to do was secure speakers. For the most part, the speakers at Dev Day were acquaintance that organizers had met at other conferences – the organizers knew who they wanted, and contacted them personally. They also launched a call for papers via their website.
A big obstacle, however, was funds – think money for the venue, the catering, and accommodation fees for the speakers, among other costs. To afford it, and to keep the event growing, the organizers were forced to raise admission prices for the previously free event – 100€ for professionals and 20€ for students.
When it came time for the curtains to rise, the planners also had to pay special attention to how they managed this year’s much bigger space, as well as the expectations of their audience.
This year the event was held in a large Mons movie theater, so the group invested in walkie-talkies to communicate across different rooms. And to keep their diverse audience excited about the speakers, they looked for great technical content in both English and French. The sessions alternated between the two languages, thus keeping the material accessible to the local community.
What tips they’d pass along
For others looking to plan similar events, the organizers offer some words of wisdom.
To begin with, have fun. Dev Day made sure everybody did that this year – they showcased “experiences” exhibits, offering visitors the chance to test cutting-edge tools/toys like Hololens virtual reality helmets.
Additionally, they recommend others to just get started. Planning a whole conference can be daunting, but once it's started, and provided you have a plan, everything will fall in place. So have faith, and jump in!
And finally, get the word out and ask for help. A conference organizer needs a lot of partners, such as caterers, lodging, graphic designers for the invitations etc. Ask your friends, ask their friends, and take advantage of an extensive network to help you coordinate all the moving parts.
These organizers' determination and careful coordinating offer inspiration to all those looking to plan similar events in the future. Five years ago, they saw a need in their community for a developer conference, and they set out to do it. With another successful event under their belt, they’ll be looking towards the 6th annual Dev Day next year.
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