After hearing about how great PHP Benelux Conferences were I finally made it over to Belgium to check it out, and i was impressed. To catch you up on the new, I moved to Amsterdam last december and thus had the chance of attending the conference which is now 2 hours away on a train ride.
I could not expect less of a wonderful conference when names like Michelangelo van Dam are involved and this was no exception. Its a community conference, planned and organized by community leaders and for community members, this is what makes it so amazing that even without a big name behind it this conference can put up quite a show and bring so many sponsors. As I sat there watching the closing remarks I realized other User Groups and conferences have lots of lessons to pickup from this conference. Let me name a few:
1. Value your sponsors. This was very well executed, during the whole event the sponsors had their logos all over the place and the ones who were present had plenty one on one time with conference attendees. Finally during closing remarks each one was mentioned and with a touch of genius their contributions were described, talk about being thankful.
2. Value your speakers. Who would not want to be a speaker at a conference where you get free belgian beer and chocolates at the end? I know i would, and i’m not even a beer drinker. The amount of care put into the speakers is legendary, pickups, great hotel and i can only imagine what else I did not see myself as a non-speaker.
3. Value your attendees. This should be easy, but lots of conferences fail at it. Good sessions, good venue, good food and infrastructure, just make your client feel confortable. Don’t make him want, make everything available to him at the venue and keep him around for more networking and fun.
4. Awesome socials are awesome. The social events around a conference are the crowning jewel to the experience, it allows for much more networking and just plain fun and bonding. This is great for speakers and attendees alike, and is usually the moment where great projects take shape. There is a lot to learn from a chat with Ian Barber about public speaking, he even put it in writing. And there was so much more.
5. Make your attendees pay. Yeah, I said pay. Many conferences think that being “open source” means having a free conference, I say “ppfffff”. Charge a reasonable “I’m a beginner developer with low income”-price and put up a great conference using that money, and people will pay. If they do not pay their employers will, if neither of them does, the problem is bigger. Surely the people who will be leaving the conference better then they came in will be willing to pay. This also adds value to the conference, makes it an investment.
6. Value the organizers and your volunteers. There was no single-man effort in the conference, they (from what i saw) worked together like a very well oiled machine. Many times did i see all organizers united discussing something and no man was left trying to solve everything alone. Expand your group, get more people, get volunteer and be sure to thank them, give them their “dues”, they will give you their all.
7. Have Fun! Events are always stressful, but you would never guess this from seeing the PHP Benelux crew at work. They just had fun with it, enjoyed, worked, solved solvable problems and apologized for unsolvable ones, what more do we need?
There are probably more lessons to be learnt here, it was a very well executed event, with great speakers, great guests. Coming from Brazil to such a rich network of PHP events is very exciting for me, I love events and now i have multiple large events all around me.
In Belgium I got to see great friends, make new ones, ans most of all realize that it will not be a year before I see them again (yay!). I also picked up quite a few topics to research more and study, as well as being inspired to kickoff new projects and old ideas, the keynotes really did an awesome job to get us inspired.
You can be sure to find me around PHP Benelux 2013, I will be putting out my best to be either a speaker or an attendee, but I’ll be there for sure. Congratulations PHP Benelux Crew, it was a wonderful show and a great experience.
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