How to organize a Cloud Foundry Unconference
The Cloud Foundry Summit Europe in Frankfurt is one of the highlights in 2016. When the appointments of the CF Summit were announced, the idea to become a part of the unofficial but somehow related Unconference of the Cloud Foundry Summit was born.
Before I started working at anynines I gathered experience in event agencies and accomplishment of events, so this was not a completely new field of work for me. The acquired experience, the interest and tension to execute events have remained until today, which I can constantly realize in a small scope in our company.
For me it was so obvious to connect the pleasure of the event planning and my daily work.
The idea to organize the Unconference was suggested to the team, without being sure if this worked at all and if we could get the contract.
Highly motivated, I inquired the Cloud Foundry Foundation, which possibilities there were to organize the event on our behalf and particularly the procedures for the registration.
Collaboration with Paula Kennedy from Pivotal and organization of the event
The request was sent to the Cloud Foundry Foundation. After a few days I received an answer and I was excited whether and which opportunities would arise, actually it could be only: yes or no.
My fears were that they might not give me, as an almost or at least still unknown person in the CF community, any chance. But the opposite was the case. I got the commitment to organize the Unconference together with Paula Kennedy from Pivotal.
Paula and I had met briefly at the Cloud Foundry Summit USA and I was very glad and happy that I was able to work with her.
From the first day we spoke the same language and agreed on everything as well as we had the same targets and goals for the event.
Paula told me about her experience and adventures from the Unconference at Berlin in 2015, all tips and tricks were very helpful. We didn’t lose any time and began directly with the organization and distribution of the tasks for the event.
This event of just a few hours required many micro management tasks up to the difficult and complicated part – the search for sponsors. In addition to the search for sponsors, the planning with the location became more concrete and required more time than previously thought, because there were many details to coordinate, nevertheless we didn’t want to minimize the quality at any time.
After a few phone calls and consultations with Paula the scope of the event with the rooms, drinks, food, technology, service, day and times was given.
Everything seemed to run smoothly and we had the first sponsors on board and the plan to organize and carry out a great and successful Unconference went well. The event came closer and we still needed more sponsors, speakers and especially the most important: participants.
We were not quite at the very point, we wanted to be at this time.
The response was still too low for us and we had to find a way to make the event successful and generate more participants.
Paula and I sat together and decided to relocate the event from Sunday to Monday, with the concern that previous sponsors and participants would perhaps cancel again.
We hoped with the change of the date and thus closer to the CF Summit to get more participants and gave the conference visitors the opportunities to come to our event.
The Foundation supported our decision and the plan worked.
We were increasing support and the search for sponsors and speakers became less difficult. It is not always easy to convince people and companies to sponsor the Unconference, it tooks a lot of time, but we persevered and it has paid off.
We convinced great companies and speakers to participate in the event such as Swisscom, Armakuni, Google Cloud Platform, Pivotal and anynines, this event would not have been possible without them.
It was such a relief as we had achieved the target of the sponsors and that we could announce the participants fantastic speakers.
Shortly before the event
There were only a few weeks left until the Unconference and sometimes I had the feeling that I forgot something despite good preparations and frictionless cooperation with Paula. But I lost the feeling very quickly. When I talked to Paula to discuss all details, like the signage, name stickers and more, I realized that we had everything and we were perfectly prepared.
We were ready for the Unconference: location, sponsors, speakers and a huge number of participants as well as provided subsistence.
When I thought we were done with the planning for the Unconference and everything was done, Paula encouraged me to moderate the event with her. It felt a little bit uncomfortable, because to speak for a large audience is not my first choice and in particular not in a foreign language. I thought for a moment about the moderation, but I said to myself: if we make the event than completely and entirely.
There were only a few days left until the Unconference and I tried, alongside my daily work, to prepare for the moderation.
Day of the Unconference
One thing I can say: I was extremely nervous on the day and I had the feeling that I had completely forgotten my entire text. All or nothing, the day of the Unconference had come.
Paula and I met us early at the event location and I was very glad to see her again and to organize the event.
The last coordination points for the moderation and process for the event were quickly defined; despite all the stress and excitement we kept our fun and good mood.
Final arrangements were made, such as: check the screen and microphones if they work, last agreements with the service to provide the food and drinks, prepare the signage to find the right rooms for the talks, discussion round and drinks and food. Everything was ready to go.
Punctually at 5pm entered the speakers and many participants who joined in the informal atmosphere with food and drinks.
We were fully booked.
Despite the relaxed atmosphere and reunion of many familiar people, we had a little agenda for the Unconference, although it is somewhat unconventional, but what was planned and announced should be performed anyway.
My first appearance in front of the CF community had come, the moderation.
As I expected, the inevitable came to pass: I forgot my lines. The audience was so nice and they forgave me my little mistake directly and together we smiled it away. It was not so bad and just ‘carry on’ was the motto and aim.
We began with fantastic speakers and their lightning talks:
- anynines – “Thoughts on Shared and Dedicated Data Service Instances” by Julian Fischer, CEO
- Armakuni – “Armakuni, Cloud Native and Cloud Foundry” by Tim Savage, Co-Founder
- Google – “Latest Updates on Google BOSH CPI” by Eric Johnson, Tech Lead/Manager
- Pivotal – “Operations in a Global Thermonuclear War” by Colin Humphreys, Global CTO of Cloud
- Swisscom – “Future of enterprise IT – Plexus of Things” by Michal Maczka, Product Manager – Application Cloud / PaaS
After that the rules and scope of the discussion round were explained. The audience generated seven topics to talk about. For the discussion rounds we used a small timetable of 20 minutes and separate rooms to keep the volume as low as possible.
The entire moderation and also the Unconference with their speakers and discussion rounds were a great and fantastic experience.
Looking into the faces of the participants and seeing how pleased and happy they were with the evening and that no one wanted to go home, was the perfect reward and encouragement.
The response during and after the Unconference was enormously positive and encourages me that it was the right decision to organize the event and also to moderate it. The leap into moderation at that moment may not have been pleasant, but it was an experience that I would repeat at any time.
All the time for the preparation was very exciting, teaching and sometimes exhausting, but the Unconference had more than paid off.
The collaboration with Paula, emergence of new contacts and satisfaction of the participants make me smile today and give me the feeling of contentment and also let me think about the next event.
All in all for me and also for Paula it was a great and successful Unconference, which was lots of fun for the both of us. The organization of the event and the Unconference itself provide a huge diversity like breaking the languages barrier, integration of non-technological persons and especially in our case: women.
Not to forget: A huge thank you to Paula Kennedy for all her help, support and collaboration and also a large thank you to the sponsors and speakers of the event and of course the Cloud Foundry Foundation, they were the ones who gave us the opportunity to organize the Unconference.
This event would not have been possible without them.
With pride I dare say: Bringing the Cloud Foundry Community together was a real pleasure. The event was a total success and it was a wonderful experience to organize it together with Paula.