Community meetup tutorial

How to bootstrap your first developer conference

Vincent Kraus - January 17, 2022

Time to read: 5 min

We were stoked to pull off the first Ory Summit 2021 in October, bringing together an all-star group of developers who presented on the diverse ways in which they use Ory open source products. We bootstrapped the two-day Ory Summit with a core team of three people, supported by the rest of Ory, plus the presenters, members of our open source community who were generous with their time and energy.

The look of Ory Summit on stream

All Ory Summit 2021 presentations can be watched again here.

Normally such events are executed with three times the amount of resources and time, so we had to find an efficient framework for making our first conference a success. In retrospect, we learned loads about how to run a live digital event for developer communities, and that’s what we want to share in this article.

Why we held the Summit

Digital human communities usually center around recurring events that bring them together in one place to share a communal spirit, exchange ideas, and get to know each other. The Ory Summit is the first recurring event for the Ory Developer Community.

Ory services provide free and open identity infrastructure for a lot of different platforms – examples include an Anime media aggregator called Animeshon, or SumUp, a payments company specializing in solutions for small businesses. We thought our developer community would enjoy more opportunities to share the challenges and solutions that arise as they integrate Ory services.

So you want to bootstrap a developer conference?

1. The Basics

  • Know your audience
    It is hard to overstate how important this is. If you know your audience well, you'll understand what they expect from a community event and how to reach and engage them best. If you lack a clear picture of who your audience is, you may cast the net too wide. Ask yourself: Do you want to organize an event for a wide audience or the members of your community?
  • Good internet connection
    This is self-explanatory. If your internet connection is not tailored to support high-quality streaming, you'll have a bad time. 4-5mb/s up speed should be the minimum to stream in decent quality; more is better!
  • Keep it simple
    Don't overcomplicate the event. In practice, this means you have to cut certain activities/parts of the event. If a half-comatose person can follow your event proceedings, organization, and planning: you're doing it right. If people need a half-hour introduction into how everything works and they still don't get it, you have a problem, officer.

2. The Stack

If you have nothing but the basics mentioned before and some frontend skills, we recommend the following for your tech stack:

  • Vercel Event Frontend
  • Youtube
    It's free and easy to stream on Youtube, performance is good, and it's unlikely that your stream goes down. Plus, most people know the platform.
  • Chat
    We use Slack for chats. Discord is also an option, plus a myriad of other chat apps. If you already have a chat platform for your community, just use that!
  • Authentication
    GitHub OAuth. Most developers have a GitHub account. If you want an email/password option and more control, we recommend using Ory Cloud.

3. The Preparation

  • Prepare talks, workshops and find speakers:
    This could be an article by itself so we'll keep it brief. Since you have clearly defined your goals and audience for the conference, finding suitable topics, workshops and speakers should come naturally. Keep your eye out for opportunities; talk to your team, users, top community members, and grandmother about presenting, organizing a workshop, or managing a Q&A session. You may also want to publish a "Call For Papers". A CFP describes the themes, topics, and formalities of the conference and lists important information such as deadlines or the format of submissions.

    Once we had all the speakers, workshops, and sessions lined up, we sent out a "Speakers Package" to onboard speakers. The package contained a collection of banners/logos/cards for social media and a step-by-step guide on how to use the event platform and ensure smooth, stress-free performance on the day of the event.

  • Organize backup presentations:
    Hope for the best and plan for the worst. As with any live event, it’s necessary to plan for last-minute cancellations or emergencies. Line up at least a couple of replacement talks, which can come from your team or anyone else you feel comfortable asking to be a replacement. You can also use group discussions or ad-hoc workshops/hacking tutorials as backups, but keep in mind that those require extra time and effort to plan. If all goes well and no backups are required on event day, plan for a one-off session or a "surprise" session near the end of the event to make use of one of them.

  • Practice with a dry run:
    Create an environment that lets you simulate the real event as accurately as possible. Ask members of your team/friends/relatives to act as fake visitors or presenters. Don't do too many dry runs to preserve the goodwill of the lovely people helping you. My specific advice: do one initial dry run followed by one final "dress rehearsal". Feedback should be shared after the first dry run and been taken care of when doing the dress rehearsal, which should resemble a finalized version of the event.

  • Promote the event:
    Our main channels for promoting the Ory Summit are the Ory Community Slack, our newsletter, word-of-mouth, banners on our website, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The most effective were our Slack, newsletter, and word of mouth. The optimal place to market your event depends on where you interact most with your community. In our context, personal connections and word-of-mouth are more powerful means than traditional ads. We also promoted the conference on our GitHub, some developer conference lists, and in team members' personal networks. There are many ways to promote a conference and it's one of the most crucial ingredients of a successful event.

Ory Summit Headquarters

Ory Headquarters during the conference.

4. The Event

Seemingly a million things occur in the days leading up to a conference. Here are some general tips to ensure success:

  • Don't panic.
  • Keep the team and yourself fed, watered, and as well-rested as possible.
  • Double-check the technical infrastructure before and during the event, including equipment for recording, streaming, audio, and network connectivity.
  • Have fun.
  • Celebrate with an after-party 🥳.

5. What else?

Remember to keep it simple: Some things are mandatory, like a proper Code of Conduct (the geekfeminism CoC or the Berlin CoC are good examples), or good audio quality (encourage speakers to use headsets/earpieces with boom microphones instead of AirPods). Other features are optional for your first bootstrapped developer conference.

Here are several topics that we didn't delve into, but should be considered:

  • Code of Conduct & Inclusivity
  • Audio & Video Quality Optimization
  • Visual Branding
  • Landing Page
  • Interaction with Audience/Q&A
  • Interactive Workshops
  • Merchandise
  • Sponsors
  • Tickets (Free/Paid)
    ...and much more

Ory Summit Headquarters

Repurposing the Ory kitchen as Ory Summit mission control.

6. After the event

  • Publish recorded presentations:
    Remember to get permission from the speakers to do this!

  • Do a retrospective to get feedback:
    We sent out an exit survey that 10% of the attendees filled out and asked Ory team members to share feedback. Here are a few things we want to improve at the next Ory Summit:

    1. Use a simple event platform.
    2. Publish recordings directly after the sessions.
    3. Plan backups earlier.
    4. More content for non-technical people.
    5. More workshops & beginner sessions.
  • Analyze the data:
    This depends on what you collected. Our main source of data was the exit interview and some attendance metrics collected on the platform.

  • Organize the next event:
    Take a deep breath, and begin planning your next event.

Ory Summit 2022 ⛰️

In light of how much fun we had at our first event, we are stoked for the Ory Summit 2022. Preparation has already begun and we will soon publish a call for papers and more. If the global health situation permits, there will be an option to attend the Ory Summit in person this year. It will take place in Q2/Q3 – the exact date coming soon.

We have many things planned for this year. While not wanting to spoil the surprise, I think this is going to be the biggest Ory event ever 😁.

Thanks for reading and participating in the Ory Summit 2021. We organize this for you, the Ory Community, so if you want to participate or help in any way, please reach out via email or on our chat.

Greetings from the Ory Team

Ory Team celebrating after the conference.