How does an event like DevOpsDays Nashville get started?
With an idea. It can be one person, two, or ten, but all collectively see a need in their community and desire to fill it. The landscape of Nashville is now a mosaic of diversified industry from music and healthcare to finance and marketing, all looking for the edge in tech to make their company stronger, competitive, faster, adaptive, and more resilient. Some just want to know what the heck it is and why they should adopt such principles and methods into their work culture.
DevOpsDays Nashville was brought about in that way. The leader of a local DevOps Meetup group attended a DevOpsDays conference and knew it was exactly what Nashville needed. From there, he assembled a small team to bring the conference to Middle Tennessee.
How do you build/choose your local DevOpsDays team?
Creating and assembling for DevOpsDays Nashville is a balancing act between preparation and execution. The volunteer conference team, sponsors, and dedicated attendees and speakers, collaborate to assure presentations, ignites, open spaces, etc. are able to be understood and executed smoothly.
It is because of all of our volunteers such efforts are made possible. Those who come to the Meetups month after month and work daily in environments embracing DevOps methodology and philosophy see the positive outcomes from its adoption. Individuals like these are your biggest allies and will be able to understand and communicate, not just the need for such an event, but drive sponsorships and community partners as well.
How do you get the word out for submissions and choose format/topics/speakers?
Here’s some in-the-weeds details on this topic.
- We use CFP tools like Papercall and email blasting to Meetup groups, Slack groups, and contact email addresses.
- Once the submissions come in, the conference organizers rate the talks individually on an anonymous basis (meaning the organizers see just the title and content of the talk – no identifying information about the speaker).
- Once CFP closes, all talks are categorized (culture, enterprise transformation, configuration management, etc), and the org team selects a topic at a time that they think their audience would want to hear – usually relevant to the overall devops maturity for the town. Talks that were highly rated among the whole group are discussed and 1 or more topics from each category are short listed.
- Once the short list is created, the talks are un-anonymized – meaning we now see speaker contact information. The organizers then review the list to ensure balance (no one company is overrepresented, 1 person is not selected for more than 1 talk, etc.)
- The few talks that cannot be decided on are waitlisted and notifications to selected speakers are sent out.
- Finally, once all selected speakers are confirmed as still wanting/able to speak, the notification to the rest of the submissions are sent.
What does getting sponsorships look like?
The rub is, like any other large event, it takes money. Getting sponsorships is the foundation we as volunteers need to begin actualizing the planning and preparation to make the event a success. What is great about this tech conference is it has been successful across the globe and each conference can look similar and also different based on what best suits the city and its potential sponsors. This means, sponsorship types that work in Austin, may not work similarly in Nashville, so finding event-specific sponsorship types is essential.
We love our sponsors, they provide funds to make the event possible, but they also represent companies within the Nashville community who want to invest in the city’s technological future and its tech leaders. So we make sure our sponsors get the most out of their sponsorship contribution. What you are aiming for is matching the right company with the right sponsorship opportunity.
Challenges for such an event like DevOpsDays can be as simple as scheduling the date of the event, as the larger the city, the more conflicting events may be taking place making many vendors and venues no longer an option. IT is also important to keep in mind company event funding cycles will need to compliment your sponsorship appeal periods.
Sponsorship emails and appeals is the first step. This can be done through partnerships with tech councils and communities who are willing and able to share information with their contact lists, to social media connecting and professional contacts to those who already have expressed interest in bringing DevOps into their company.
There is always a focus on ensuring the projected event costs can be sustained by the types/amounts of sponsorship funds received. Periodically as milestones come close (venue payments), another round of emails go out to those “maybe” sponsors informing them of the most current opportunities available. Constant contact and availability is key and we try our best to keep communication open and updated with all or potential and secured sponsors.
This constant contact and communication with all organizers and entities involved in the conference is vital and allows for the most accurate data to be collected, analyzed, and predicted to ensure all folks who want to be involved in the conference are able to be, whatever that may look like.
We did it and you can too!
An event this size can seem daunting and downright stressful, and though there are times it can be, all want the same outcomes from it and that is to bring companies, individuals, leaders, and others together to share their stories, values, successes, and sometimes failures so we can all learn and grow to reach our highest potential. That is what DevOps is and organizing this conference is no different. Where there is a will there is a way!
DevOpsDays Nashville 2017 Organizers
Alicia Sepanik // @SepanikDavis
Brian Pitts // @sciurus
Calah Brewster // @calahbrewster
Jeff Davis // @jeff_devops
Joel Parks // @joeljparks
Nick Wallace // @NickalausW
Steve Stewart // @steveestewart
NashDevOps // @NashDevOps