Episode 34 - September 21, 2020

Organizing Conferences and Events with Kevin Lewis

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About our guest: Kevin Lewis

There are so many moving parts to organizing a conference, from seating and food, to making sure speakers feel respected, and creating networking opportunities for attendees. While the value of face-to-face interaction will never go away, there are times when going virtual is a necessary part of your event program, like a global pandemic, for instance. Today’s guest is Kevin Lewis, a Developer Advocate at Vonage, a Vue.js Developer, and an event organizer. In this episode, he shares what it’s like to organize events, the shift from IRL to virtual conferences in the wake of COVID-19, the software he uses to keep things running smoothly, and what he believes is lost when an event goes virtual (like networking). He also talks about some typical mistakes organizers make, practical scheduling, and creating opportunities for mingling, as well as the importance of over-communicating, his opinions on single-track versus multi-track conferences, and CFP or the talk selection process. Tune in to find out more!

Key Points From This Episode

  • What brought Kevin to the Vue ecosystem, after struggling with the “magic” of React.
  • What Kevin’s day-to-day is like at Vonage when it comes to organizing events.
  • Shifting to virtual conferences and events, and how Kevin’s team has gone on to help others.
  • Some of the software Kevin has used for virtual conferences, like Remo and StreamYard.
  • Women of React was the first remote conference Kevin organized, and he learned a lot!
  • Event organizing versus remote conferencing – how Kevin started his career and what he thinks is lost when an event goes virtual.
  • Typical things Kevin sees conference organizers get wrong, from access points and WiFi to food, networking, and plants in the audience.
  • Scheduling – planning breaks, based on content of the conference, facilities, and buffer time.
  • It’s your responsibility as an event organizer to make sure that speakers feel respected.
  • When it comes to Q&A sessions, Kevin has some tips fro making sure it’s moderated well.
  • Kevin asks the panel what makes an event good for them as attendees – Ari says the hallway track or time between talks is vital.
  • Ben says he appreciates guidance for newer attendees on after parties and dinners, etc.
  • Tessa’s feedback includes structured activities for attendees to mingle, like bowling.
  • A firm structure for events and locations seems like a low barrier to entry, but it’s crucial.
  • Over-communicating is critical! Your audience needs to know if things in the program change.
  • Single-track versus multi-track conferences – it depends what you’re trying to achieve.
  • Selecting speakers – Kevin reacts to Ben’s story of a conference with a blind CFP survey.
  • Kevin talks about BarCamp London and the simple concept of an unconference.
  • The CFP or talk selection process, and Kevin’s take on it for an event like You Got This.
  • Keynote spots are a way to course-correct if your lineup isn’t diverse or goes off the rails.
  • The value of a mentorship program for first-time speakers to encourage and support them.

Kevin's picks:

Resources mentioned:


Coming soon!