Phillip Mendonça-Vieira

Thoughts on running a (software engineering) conference

  • Get a good night's sleep the day before the conference. If you're doing a good job you will barely sleep at all for the rest of the conference.

  • Naps in hotel lobbies are a great way to spend superfluous lunch hours.

  • It sucks to cut off a great speaker because you're running out of time. Try to massage the time limit into them.

  • Get everything that needs to be printed finished at least a week before the conference start (unless you possess some deep love of frantic all nighters).

  • The time in between talks is not the best opportunity to expose people to your taste in indie electro pop anarcho vegan grindcore. Keep it simple. (D'oh!)

  • Competent and responsible people are worth their weight in gold. Knowing someone's got your back is an awesome feeling.

  • What comes off as an asshole over email can easily turn out to be shy and extremely busy in person. Mind you, I still think, uh, what Sirius Black once said still applies.

  • People have an absolutely astonishing capacity to not respond to emails. This was the most stunning thing I learned while organizing the conference. That was probably naïve of me.

  • Emails are informationally porous. No one actually bothers to read them. If there is anything they need to remember, say it within two or three paragraphs.

  • Distribute lots of power bars throughout the conference. I learned this at FutureRuby and RubyFringe but completely forgot come D-Day.

  • Hotel internet just sucks. It's almost worth selecting a venue on this basis alone.

  • Nerds need to be coached into any social event. You have to force them to interact in some way. I occasionally still suffer from nerd-social-paralysis, but it's easy to forget when you've been wired for a week, constantly talking to dozens of people.

  • On a related note, students find $7 drinks morally obscene.

  • If you're giving away stuff in a raffle, write the damn randomizing script ahead of time.

  • Always get your speaker's contact details and travel information beforehand. Due to the efforts of my excellent coworkers, the only time I had to worry was when a speaker checked in a day late.

  • The day after the conference can be brutal for some people. You go from being relatively important and receiving dozens of emails a day to a nobody the second the conference is over. After you physically recover, schedule some pleasant evenings with the friends you've been neglecting.

# 2010-02-09