[Made in océan Indien] What challenges for the organization of a virtual event?
Meeting with Mary Jane Kirstätter, “The Hunter”, at Agile Media Ltd, member of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community (MSCC). It is to this agency that we owe the organization of the DevCon (Developers Conference) 2020 in a new format. Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic requires, the largest IT community in Mauritius met virtually and over 3 days (9,10 and 11 September), on a platform specially developed for the occasion.
How did this digital version of DevCon go? Was it focused on a particular theme?
The Developers Conference 2020 was initially planned on the theme “Comics” and we have decided to keep it for the Virtual Developers Conference 2020, all the marketing materials having been ready for a long time. For the “little story”, with the closure of our borders due to the pandemic, we had to contact all our partners just two weeks before the deadline dates in order to postpone the annual developer conference.
The positive reactions allowed us to calmly postpone the event to a later date. We were right to rely on our sixth sense, the government having publicly announced the closure of the borders at the end of March …
Why choose to virtualize the event rather than cancel it outright?
The Developers Conference has grown in popularity so much over the years! It has become one of the major IT events of the year in Mauritius. We have international partners as well as international players and their absence would no doubt have created a feeling of deep frustration among the public who are interested in this universe. So, to deliver DevCon 2020 in a secure environment, we simply worked even harder to make it a virtual event!
Tell us about the organization of such an event in the current context: the challenges, the good surprises, the way in which the participants welcomed this online format.
I have to admit it was a lot of work, an extraordinary human and technical challenge with many new obstacles to overcome. After having proposed our idea for a virtual event to our partners, the unanimous support of all allowed us to move forward with the planning of the conference.
We are a group of nine people in the organizing team (all members of the MSCC – Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community). During the preparation phase, we held regular weekly online meetings. Since April, we have had countless conference calls to work out the details of the website, regularly reassured our partners with updates on progress, and we have re-contacted stakeholders to confirm their interest in holding their meetings. conferences.
Additionally, we contacted previously turned down speakers (mainly due to the cost of airline tickets) to verify their availability for the virtual version. Again, the amount of positive responses was extraordinary! Once the dates for the Virtual Developers Conference 2020 were fixed, the event could finally be announced on all our social media channels.
We also advertised and booked paid social media campaigns to promote DevCon 2020 internationally.
The participation rate: did you reach your goal?
The number of registrations has increased compared to previous years: a total of 668 unique registrations. Although it was not mandatory to register to attend the event online itself, the audience (the majority of visitors being in Mauritius) outnumbered the figures. According to statistics, our videos posted on YouTube received 8,842 views during the conference period (the majority from Mauritius). As for the conferences held live, they managed to cross our borders! I want to take this interview to express my thanks to everyone who took the time to view these videos and live broadcasts!
How did you manage to convince the participants of the legitimacy of the event despite the change of format?
The Developers Conference has made a name for itself in recent years, so attendees, speakers and partners now know what to expect. I have to admit that we received a lot of feedback during the live broadcasts expressing audience satisfaction with the offered content, layout, design and theme of the conference.
Can the public also attend these conferences?
Videos of the Virtual Developers Conference 2020 are available on the MSCC YouTube channel and are therefore freely available to the public. However, our physical conferences are only accessible to registered participants. The registration process and to become a member of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community requires a simple registration on the MSCC Meetup page. We openly welcome new subscriptions and encourage MSCC members to speak at the conference.
Do you plan to adopt this digital format for the next DevCon conferences?
Very tricky question… We can’t wait to participate in Google DevFest 2020 in November. However, I have to admit that we missed that human touch that is unique to the Developer Conference. I also know that many members of our community share this sentiment. We like to meet up after each conference day, to meet in a more relaxed atmosphere. We’re definitely looking at doing things alongside the live broadcast. In this way, we will be able to offer online participants the possibility to attend our sessions!
When is the next DevCon?
Definitely next year before the end of March! But our developer conference is heavily dependent on reopening the borders. So let’s keep our fingers crossed …