Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Organising a conference, Mix-IT 2012

On the 26th of April 2012, Mix-IT 2012 took place in Lyon. This second edition was handled by the same team as the first. As the internal organisation had matured, the team was more relaxed and the pressure only soared in the last days before the conference.

The following paragraphs concern my own feelings and what I learned. This is not the Mix-IT team view, which is available on the Mix-IT web site.

Organising an IT conference is a pleasant exercise, mainly due to the rewards of meeting passionate people and skilled speakers. Hereafter, find a list of points to address when you want to launch a conference and my current opinion related to Mix-IT.  

Defined goals: If you just launched an event without goals in mind, being consistent in the organisation would be hard. Choices would be difficult to make and would lead to long hours of unproductive discussion.

For me, the Mix-IT goals are:
The entry price must be affordable to every IT guy. Even an unemployed person should be able to afford it from her own money. This year the price was €30.
All talks and games must be of a high quality. It doesn’t mean the speakers need to be famous, but they do need to be good.

Differentiation: More and more events for passionate people will be launched. Your brand must be understood. Is it fun, traditional, for local people, big and international, for experts?

For me, what makes Mix-IT different is:

A diverse content mixed with a desire to create information technology that works NOW.
The conference experience of a participant should open her/his mind to new knowledge and also help her/him to improve others.
Both genders make it happen.
Participants’ conversations and meetings should improve the effectiveness of communities.

Commitment of Organisation team: If your conference is organised only by volunteers, you need to define roles. Make sure the quality of your event won’t suffer from a dysfunctional team. Trust is mandatory. Having the guts to say what the organisation principles are, is probably the best way to avoid conflict.

For me, the Mix-IT is organised:
By self organisation, where the main principle is commitment to users.
By each organiser making sure the task she/he agreed to perform is done. Done means: Conference users will at least not complain about it after the event. e. g. an organiser in charge of a task makes sure it is completed before the conference and is still concerned about it during the conference.

Focus on quality: You should define what quality is from your point of view, and stick to it.

For me, a quality Mix-IT is:
a focus on participant well-being, e. g.
Participants should find water and coffee all day long. Toilets must be clean. Everything must flow. Visual signs and boards are mandatory: e. g. Programs are displayed everywhere.

Speakers are the essence: Speakers are the key to the whole. Whether you invited them or they proposed a session during the “Call for paper”, you must pay huge attention to them all, before, during and after the conference.

For me, at Mix-IT we did the following:
We made sure their hotels and the travel were booked one week before the conference.
We asked for the material they needed for the conference,
We picked up foreign speakers at the airport,
We invited them for a dinner the night before the conference (The food was average, but it was nice to share with them),
We invited them to the closing social event after the conference.

Do not forget the sponsors: Sponsors also deserve particular attention. Make sure they can communicate with the participants as they expected.

Self improvement: Make sure you get something out of the conference.
Before writing the previous content, I went back to last year’s post and I realised, the team met in december 2010.

My own pleasures were:

Team work without conflict,
Exchanging and listening to the speakers during dinners with them,
Learning during the talks and games
Meeting a lot of passionate people

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