Let’s wind back the clock for one and a half years. I just started my new job at 9elements and at that time I would have never give thought to organizing a conference.
But soon after I became a part of 9elements I took over the responsibility for the already existing user group PottJS and began to organize all upcoming events of this cosy meetup. The PottJS grew quickly, and we partnered up with several other companies that provided their working space so we could scale up the meetup and invite more people.
But how can one organize a conference without any time and a whole lot less experience? Back then I was a student, only working a few hours per week at 9elements and as mentioned above -and that can’t be overstressed- without the slightest idea of how to organize a full-blown conference.
So I talked to Sebastian and Eray (Co-founders of 9elements & my bosses :)) trying to share my vision. Needless to say that both of them thought it would be nuts to try and do it on my own but after a long and productive discussion both of them agreed and allowed me to dedicate my working hours to organizing the RuhrJS. I would like to thank Sebastian and Eray for their trust and support; they gave me the chance to learn and outdo myself through that task.
The three of us agreed that we had to show the world that there is more to the Ruhr area than coalmining. We wanted to let everyone know that this is a flourishing metropolis full of great universities, cool meetups, and awesome companies to work for. And we wanted to be a part of the big JS-family from all around the globe, of course.
So, this is how we set out. Still, there was a long way to go. And here we return to our initial question: How to organize a conference? Since I couldn’t give myself an answer to that I needed to find people that would. And I found lovely and kind assistance. A heartfelt “Thank you!” goes out to Ola Gasildo for sharing her insights about attendee caring, code of conduct and diversity with me as well as for always being there to cheer me up, Robin and Katharina (Kida) Mehner for letting me take a look behind the scenes of RejectJS and giving me useful tips for taking care of attendees and finally Jan Lehnardt for inviting me to JSConf in Berlin and for showing me how a good conference has to be organized and held. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to make RuhrJS nearly as great as it was in the end.
Sponsors, Check! Next up: Venue. We needed a venue with a stable internet connection, enough space for the attendees and a good caterer. Needless to say, that I wanted it to be in Bochum as well. So I reached out to Jahrhunderthalle but unfortunately, after I got their first offer, I had to realize that it would be too expensive for us. So, I reached out to other venues and eventually found Jahrhunderthaus. It was the perfect fit for our conference. The venue is beautiful with a lot of space, a good caterer and everything that we needed for the conference (well, sort of, but we’ll get back to that).
Alright, we had our sponsors, and we had a venue, everything seems pretty good so far. But the essential part of a conference was still missing: the speakers. We started a Call for Papers and 110 people submitted their talks. After we closed the CFP, we let our early bird ticket buyers vote on which talks they’d like to hear at RuhrJS, and an amazingly high percentage of around 80% of our ticket buyers took part in our voting process (big shout out to you folks). So, piece of cake from now on right? Just contact and invite the speakers, book flights, and hotels and finally hold the conference. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy, turns out that a lot of possible mistakes still lie ahead, ready to be made. Rest assured, concerning the organization of the traveling and accommodation for our speakers I nearly made them all. But eventually it all went well, and at least I got a good idea of what to avoid the next time (seems like the right moment to thank our speakers for their patience).
I wanted a good video team for the RuhrJS, so we can later upload the talks to YouTube. I knew Nils from OTSConf, who did an incredible job filming the talks, and so, I booked him (http://www.medienkompetent.com/). We met at the Jahrhunderthaus to check on the technical equipment (remember from earlier, everything was supposed to be there) and realized that we would have to replace the whole technical stuff. And the bad news didn’t stop there the WiFi was the next big setback. When I talked to the folks from Jahrhunderthaus, they told me that their WiFi could handle 400 devices. But when Dominik from rrbone checked the internet connection he found that it was only 2 Mbps So, we had to book another provider so we could provide our guests with a stable WiFi and apart from the fact that it was sometimes a bit slow, everything worked well. Big thanks to Dominic and his team, great job! (https://www.rrbone.net/de/)
Now, finally it was all set, and this is how RuhrJS 2016 went down: We started on Friday with an opening party at the “Bergwerk” in the Bermuda 3-Eck (translates to Bermuda Triangle). It was a great kickoff for the RuhrJS; everybody had a lot of fun.
On Saturday the actual conference began. I barely slept the whole week (I guesstimate only 8 hours in 6 days). Though deprived of sleep I enjoyed every second. The first day was awesome, a lot of attendees showed up early in the morning and get awesome coffee sponsored by Neopoly, listened to the speakers, talked to our sponsors or other attendees, and enjoyed an excellent breakfast and lunch. At 9 p.m. we entered a club in Bochum called the RIFF and had a great party until the early morning hours (for everybody who’s been there: again, I’d like to apologize for the incidents with the security staff, I made sure that this won’t happen again next year).
Finally, it was Sunday, and I was completely exhausted. Just like on Saturday we had a blast. And then I realized that I did it. What a great feeling.
So, what’s left to say about RuhrJS 2016? I am overwhelmed. I am exhausted. I am ready for the next one. Our attendees and speakers were amazing! A lovely crowd, awesome talks and great sponsors.
But what I’m most proud of is our diversity program. With the help of our sponsors, we were able to invite 40 people from underrepresented groups and could even provide two full scholarships. That means that 20% of our attendees were invited.
Almost everyone asked me whether I would like to organize the RuhrJS once more in 2017. At first, I was like: Hell no! But now that I had 20 hours of good night’s sleep, I have to say: ABSOLUTELY YES!
If you would like to be part of the next RuhrJS, just drop me a note :)
Awesome Coffee Sponsor:
- Wirtschaftsförderung Bochum
- rrbone (best Wifi ever!)
- Bermuda Digital Studio (Pre-Party Sponsors)
- Zalando (Main-Party Sponsor)