"You haven't got six hands?"


I give tips on organizing the event and talk about holding the JavaScript Central Asia conference

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published on August 12, 2019

Hi, my name is Masha, and I am "Mowgli" in the world of programmers. For almost two years now, I have been working in Attractor Software - it was here that I realized that event management is mine and organizing events brings me great pleasure. The most important event of this year for me was the JavaScript Central Asia conference, which was held in May 2019.
The idea to hold conferences arose when it came to the understanding that many hackathons, meetings, and other "mass events," often poorly organized and absolutely not suitable for developers. Most often, students come to them. It's cool that there is a platform where they can try themselves and learn something new from the world of information technology. For experienced developers, the practical benefits of such events are reduced, and therefore, they often miss them. This trend affects the cohesion and communication of the professional IT community, which in our city, is still small. So the idea came to us to hold conferences of a new format, the most useful for the employees of IT companies.

My first experience of holding a large event was the PyCon KG conference in 2018. Even then, we managed to hold a conference, the participants of which were more than 300 people, and among the speakers were guests from Moscow. It was a good experience, which helped to take into account many nuances and make the preparation for JavaScript Central Asia better.

What is needed for the successful holding of any event? Of course, the preparation time and the team. The group of my co-organizers included three girls - wonderful, very professional, with connections in the community and, by the way, they are all TechWoman graduates of different years. It took us almost four months of intensive work to prepare, the result of which was a cool conference - JavaScript Central Asia, which was held in May 2019.

You ask, why is she so cool? It was the first "narrowly focused" conference for the professional community without unnecessary formalities and pathos, but filled with fun and entertainment, with interesting speakers speaking on stage and via video link from the UK, Germany, America, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.

Only the collection of applications and the selection of proposed topics took more than a month, and after determining the list of speakers for almost two more months of constant communication and hard work on presentations and the quality of reports. The speakers were scattered across different countries and were in different time zones - someone had to call up and discuss the speech at five in the morning, while someone only got in touch in the late afternoon.

In parallel with working with speakers, it was necessary to resolve other organizational issues - it was necessary to decide on the most suitable platform that meets our requirements, collect sponsorship packages, accept contributions, select and calculate the menu for coffee breaks, order stickers, organize ticket sales online, calculate and order T-shirts with corporate design and a large number of tasks that are difficult to handle even if you have six hands and three heads.
The most important, primary task was the venue. For several weeks we could not decide. We needed a place where there would be a sufficiently large room - not less than 300 people, and there would be a second room for another 70-100 participants with noise isolation and good Internet. The level of service and catering was important for us, as well as the presence of an open area for spending active time. As a result, one of the Bishkek hotels met all these requirements - we chose it as the venue for the event. Due to the high level of service in this hotel, almost all the problems in organizing the space and the necessary equipment were resolved quite quickly.
The next task that our entire team worked on was to raise funds. Unfortunately, many local IT companies cannot provide financial support for such events for various reasons. We took several weeks to compile sponsorship proposals for different amounts of contributions, arrange them and send them to different offices. Some companies gave answers immediately, but usually, there were refusals, others could remain silent for several weeks and voice their decision later - after a few weeks. Nevertheless, several local companies responded and agreed to help us financially, acquired sponsorship packages, and gave rise to the formation of our budget.

The more time we spent discussing and preparing for the event, the more tasks and work items appeared on our list. Two months before the conference, the moment came when we had already concluded a contract with the hotel and started selling tickets, but we had a catastrophic shortage of money for arranging a flight for the speakers and their resettlement.

Our perseverance did not give us rest; we could not give up and tried to find financing anywhere. One of the girls on our team contacted the US Embassy, shared with then our plans them about our plans and made an appointment to discuss the possibilities of our cooperation. I never thought that with such a "big and serious" organization, it would be so easy and comfortable to work. The embassy very clearly and formulated its expectations, which were successfully followed, and the result was that the US embassy allocated us funds for organizing flights and accommodation for two foreign speakers. I will tell you a secret - their arrival cost almost half the budget of the entire conference as a whole. From that moment on, our budget began to suffice for all our plans!

A lot of work had to be done in the last couple weeks of the conference preparation - to print, pick up, take, accept, talk, go, organize, not sleep ... There were so many tasks that these couple of weeks flew by in an instant, and here it is - the day of the conference.

I have to say right away that the event exceeded all our expectations! In the morning, after registration, the conference was opened by the speech of US Ambassador Donald Lou, followed by speeches by representatives of sponsoring companies. Then the microphone passed to our host, who, to help us with the conduct, came from Kazakhstan and, in between witty jokes and interactive with the audience, ran out to feed her very young daughter.
The topics of reports delivered by the conference speakers included various areas. We talked about new Java Script features, frameworks, progressive web applications, testing, and much more. One of the most interesting presentations was devoted to graphical applications, where the written code according to the given parameters were displayed on the screen and reproduced the movements of particles of a certain substance in a vacuum, flocks of birds and even the movements of stars and galaxies in space. The most significant guest for us was, of course, Leoni Watson, who flew in from the UK. As a person with special needs, she has reached incredible career heights and is the director of TetraLogical; Member of the W3C Advisory Board; co-chair of the W3C web platform working group; and member of the Advance Mobile Pages Advisory Committee (AMP). Her story is amazing and motivating, and charisma and love of life give a boost of energy to everyone around. The meeting with her was especially important for children with disabilities who completed the "programming without barriers" program and thanks to the financial participation of sponsoring companies, we invited them to the conference for free and were able to organize comfortable participation for them.
The star of the conference can rightfully be considered Ilya Klimov - CEO in JavaScript.ninja and Senior Frontend Engineer in GitLab. He made his report at the beginning of the day, after which, wanting to have dinner at the hotel, he left the hall and ... did not reach it. He fell into the hands of a crowd of curious students and talked with them almost all day! The speakers changed in the hall, but their conversation did not calm down. Everything was out of the question - from the importance of education to software testing - they managed to discuss everything.

Remember, at the beginning, I talked about entertainment, and then I got carried away and did not write what exactly we organized? According to our observations, developers are mostly seated, often they do not have enough time for physical activity, and work can be stressful and nervous. That is why we have chosen yoga as mobile entertainment. Yoga sessions were held on the large lawn of the hotel and became a feature of our conference. An experienced trainer conducted several different practices, and everyone could participate - try meditation, breathing and stretching exercises, and even stand on nails!

We also had a lot of food! A whole sea of hundred sandwiches, hot pizzas, juicy fruits, and fragrant coffee ... Mmmmm, I feel hungry again!

During the day, participants came and went, but their number until the close fluctuated around 300 people. By the evening, after the official closing and summing up, many people left the conference, but the most interesting was waiting for the rest - afterparties. In addition to invited DJs playing sets in the techno style, a code battle took place! This was a real confrontation between developers who, in complete darkness, competed in layout to the deafening sounds of music and had to demonstrate all their skills in a short time. It was awesome! According to the results of the rounds and observers' voting, the winners were determined who received valuable prizes - software licenses from Jet Brains.
* * *
Almost three months have passed since the conference, and I still get rave reviews and requests to organize this again. Most often, I hear the phrase "it's cool that so many people go to your events!" There's always someone to talk to and what to learn, "and the most popular question is," Don't you have six hands? How do you manage to do all this?" So, I'm sharing small tips that can help you in preparing the event:
1
Start making it in advance
If you estimate that three months will be enough for you, then get ready to start better in five
2
Decide what you are doing and for whom
This will help you draw up a high-quality action plan and get rid of unnecessary fuss. You must have a clear idea of what you are doing, to whom, and why you need it
3
Build a team
It will be hard for you to do all the work alone. Gather a team of responsible like-minded people who will be ready to help you at different stages of organizing the event
4
Get ready for surprises. Not always enjoyable
No one is safe from force majeure. Sometimes unexpected circumstances and difficulties will arise for you. You are sure to cope with them!
5
In search of investments do not hesitate to contact different organizations
Strive to tell as many people as possible about your event. Perhaps help will come from those who at first glance, do not apply to your event
6
Carefully approach the choice of premise
Describe the specific technical requirements for the room in which you want to stay. Here you need to consider everything: lighting, soundproofing, air conditioning, capacity, technical equipment, and many, many more points. Describe the infrastructure that is ideal for your event and looks for it
7
Find a lead
Leading an event on your own is very difficult. Most likely you will have a lot to do, so invite someone who could help you and have an event fun, with jokes and assist your guests in relaxing for a while
8
Plan your guest's rest
Allow enough time to rest and eat. Guests and their brains also need to rest. Do not overload the program and help guests get distracted
9
Do not skimp on high-quality photo and video
Photos and video materials in the future will be useful to you, and it is better if they are made with high quality, supporting the image of your event
10
Make ticket purchases available
Work hard to find the most convenient option for paying for tickets. Please make several payment methods so that everyone can buy a treasured ticket. Even if you connect all kinds of payment options, there is still someone who wants to buy a ticket at the last moment or right at the entrance - remember this :)
If you have questions or would like to receive advice on organizing such events - write to us by mail and I will be happy to answer you!
Many are surprised when they find out that I do not have a specialized education - I am not a developer, not a PM-manager, I didn't even have experience in organizing events. I just wanted to work right after graduation, and by luck, I got into Attractor Software. That is why I call myself "Mowgli" :) Attractor Software is a company that takes an active part in social projects and invests ideas that do not always bring financial benefits but help to support and develop the local IT community. And it makes me very happy!

I think the most important thing in any work is to enjoy it, and that is why my conferences are so interesting, high-quality, and significant for the community. Each new event provides the ground for reflection and the cultivation of new ideas that will most certainly be implemented in new events soon!
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Worked on the article:
Maria Ilchenko
PR and Event Manager
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