DevConf 2017 retrospect

What did I learn from it? What can I take from the workshop, the meeting or the conference? These are questions that you should ask yourself as participant of such an event. This question should be asked not only by the participants, but also by the speakers!

In this blog entry I would like to share with you my personal experiences. To hold a conference and to prepare workshops for a whole day are very different tasks than those you are confronted with in your daily work life. You collect as many experiences as the participants – just others.

Obviously, we wanted to produce as much as possible of this “wow” effect and show what a wonderful and fascinating world Javascript and Angular can offer. At the same time, one has to try to pick up developers with little experience in this field as well as people with more experience. The tasks should be developed so that they are not too complicated, but not too easy. So we are walking on a fine line.

Some things worked better and some things were worse and some things could not even be foreseen. An electricity problem or not delivered meals are hard to be foreseen. I have summarized a few of the collected experiences into short and concise rules to share my experience and to show how much thought we have actually put into the whole subject. Maybe it helps one or the other in the next planning of a workshop.

Get to the point.
Especially when people know that there is a workshop and everyone is waiting to code – most people do not necessarily want to deal with theory for a long time. This is in the nature of things. I understand this really well – it tingles almost already in the fingers. Much of the things we told at the beginning were new and necessary for the further understanding but if something can be compressed that is good and should be done. Overall, I think, we had created a very good crossover.

Take your time
At first we had twice of what we had finally presented. We had to realize early on, that we have planned too much. You cannot explain everything in just one day – the subject is simply too big. We also tried our talk with an intern and we saw once again that you have to screw down the content at one place or another. At a workshop, you just need a lot more time than programming at your own laptop. Problems arise, people want to try things out and also understand what individual notations, methods, etc. do. All in all, it was a good decision to leave some of the topics out of focus and instead restrict ourselves to the basic principles. And even with this subject matter, we had the feedback that it was quite demanding. On the second day, we even adjusted the content and reduced it a bit. This is probably one of the most important lessons in designing a workshop: concentrate on the essential components and take time for them.

Relax the mood
After lunch, the audience must be caught again. We made a quiz with the most jovial questions about Javascript and distributed small goodies for the right answers. The idea is not new and I have seen it at some conferences – but as always, this relaxation is gratefully received. Especially when it goes from one workshop to the next – a little change can be worth a mint.

May I introduce
Shortly before we started our DevConf I got the tip for a preliminary round. In the first moment I thought it was not really necessary – most of the participants I know already and the few that I do not know – I would get to know them in a small talk. But there are, of course, colleagues who are not as long part of the team or even not hired at our company and because of that the idea makes really good sense. That is we decided that everyone has to introduce themselves briefly. You should tell who you are, what you do at work, what you have to do with Javascript and the name of your favorite series. This was very informative for me, to be able to guess the knowledge level of the workshop group and it was funny at the same time. The funniest answers came for the favorite series and it calmed the atmosphere. Series are a favorite topic of many people – just in times of Prime or Netflix everyone has a favorite series … I thought. Some of the answers did surprise me!

Documentation, documentation, documentation
What is the password for the network, who can I contact if I have problems, what was the command at the command line to create a new component, which editor should I actually install? These are questions which are no problems if you sit at a table for two or three. But if you are sitting together in such a large group, you want to answer all open questions and support the participants as much as possible. I was already at some events and had to ask all these questions as a participant. That’s why it was important for me to help the participants in the run-up, or give them the opportunity to prepare for the day. We have prepared mails, wiki pages and a cheat sheet in order to be prepared for the most common questions. On the cheat sheet – a two-sided A4 sheet, which every participant received on the conference day, were useful information which would be needed in the course of the day. A simple but helpful tool.

 

With this retrospective, I hope to have encouraged the one or the other to be thought-provoking, and perhaps to provide even more interesting workshops in the future.

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