Conference design patterns that I love

29 Jul 2017

Recently I’ve had the honor to do some conference traveling. Participating in a few open source technology events earlier this year, with more to follow this fall (come see my talk at Strata in September!). As I’ve been reviewing my notes, looking back at presentation videos, and sharing links with colleagues I’ve grown fond of certain things that some conference organizers plan. I don’t plan to name any conferences specifically, but I just wanted to share my appreciation for some conference design patterns.

Red Hat Summit 2017

My top 5 favorite conference design patterns

1. Posting videos of talks ASAP

When I go to a good tech conference, I’m usually overwhelmed by the number of really interesting topics that are presented. I love the breadth and depth of the work that is happening across the computing world. But, the bummer is that I can never see all the talks I want to and often make tough last minute choices about what to see.

That’s why I find it to be especially helpful when a conference releases recordings of the talks on the same or next day. I’m noticing more and more of the larger conferences doing this, and I completely applaud it. Often times there is a lot of downtime when traveling spent in hotels or around the conference lounges and it’s great to be able to catch up on things you might have missed.

2. Keeping schedules online after the event

I find it slightly frustrating when reviewing presentations I’ve enjoyed or collating notes from old conferences to come across conference web sites that do not preserve old schedules. I realize there is a non-zero cost to produce websites that are structured to store the information, as well as the technical cost of maintaining the infrastructure. But, with that said, I really really appreciate it when conference organizers make the decision to store their older schedules long term. A great side benefit from this is that presenters get the opportunity to thoroughly link back to their accomplishments for reviews and sharing.

3. Having a big hacker’s lounge

Ok, this one is a pure personal favorite. I know that space is at a premium for most conferences, so I don’t hold a grudge but I really do appreciate it when organizers plan to have a large area for people to hang out, network, and get some hacking in. It can really help cut through the endurance drain of a long conference schedule to have a place where you can sit for 20 or 30 minutes, chat with a new friend, and sketch out those code ideas that just hit you during the last session.

4. Using a common platform for recordings

I think it’s great that more and more conferences are putting their videos on platforms that are free and easy to access (Youtube, Vimeo, etc). I totally dig it when a conference makes the recording available for download as well. It seems more frequently the norm that conferences are following this trend. But for the few that are still hosting recordings on custom sites or behind login barriers I can only ask that you please reconsider, set the recordings free! =)

5. Linking the event schedule in the recording information

Ok, so you’re recording the events, putting them up the same day that they happen, using a nice common platform, and listing the events in perpetuity, awesome! How about one step further and put the permanent link to an event in the recording metadata. You’ve come this far, how about just a little further.

My message to all the conference staff and contributors

thank you image by Ashashyou

I hope these patterns I’ve highlighted don’t cause any extra stress for the conference organizers, planners, and participants. I truly am thankful for the tremendous amount of work and responsibility that the event staff shoulder. I know it can often seem like a thankless job with a mountain of unending work, but know that at the least you have one big fan who loves what you do.

I raise these highlights only to showcase what I feel are little things that push a conference over the top. Some of these patterns require more planning than others, and they may not even be reasonable for all events. But I wanted to at least share some things that have brought me joy from events that I find to be extremely valuable to the tech world.

Thanks for making it this far, and thanks again to all those out there who love learning from our colleagues at these great events. Keep on trucking!