A 101 for first-timers on the best practices for attending a conference
EuroPython (EP) is approaching (can you believe we are so close to it? Have you gotten your tickets yet? If not, you better purchase them here!) and thinking about the first-time goers and the long-time-no-see ones, we thought about putting together a 101 on the how-to attend a conference for everyone. We hope it is useful and that we can all have fun and learn whilst doing it.
Make your own schedule
There are a lot of things going on this year at EuroPython. Our schedule is packed with juicy content the entire week and you would be a fool to miss it. That being said, it is humanly impossible to see and do it all without the gift of omnipresence. You should then consider having a look at our wonderfully organised schedule and take your picks. The first two days (Monday and Tuesday) will be fully dedicated to tutorials and workshops.
- Naomi Ceder will be hosting Trans*Code, a hack event series focused on drawing attention to transgender issues and opportunities organised by trans people, for trans people.
- DjangoGirls will have coaches available to help female beginners build their first website.
- For the data scientists wannabe, Laís Carvalho will host a 6 hours HumbleData workshop covering the basics of Python and data science using Jupyter Notebooks. The following three days (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) will be full of talks for all levels. Special attention will be dedicated to our wonderful keynote speakers, who are four of the brightest voices which are leading our community and will talk about our current challenges and offer their take on them. Finally, to close the weekend with a golden key we will host sprints! Not sure what they are? You might want to have a look at our Mentored Sprints session, which will be hosted on Thursday (14th).
We believe that conversations flow better when provided with a dedicated space to present your ideas and host discussions and prototype insights together. EuroPython will provide an open space area from Wednesday (13th) to Friday (15th) so you can bring your ideas and exchange some thoughts with the community. Any ticket holder will be able to reserve a time block there and propose an activity for other attendees to participate in. Keep an eye on the scratchpad outside the Wicklow Hall 2A to know what’s going on.
Sometimes all we really need is a break! Thinking about that, we have made available for you the Quiet Room at the Wicklow Hall 2B. As the name suggests, the space is destined for you to stay quiet, get sme work done or simply reduce social interaction. It is a no-phone noise zone. Think a library where you bring your own books and get a stern look from everyone if you make too much noise.
Now that you have your schedule ready and are ready to mingle, let’s jump into the nitty-gritty of conference attendance.
One of the most important (and missed) features of in-person conferences is the Hallway Track. Do you usually leave the lecture hall chatting about all that was learned? Discussing your impressions? Asking questions to those around? Or even chasing the speaker for that bit of extra information? Congratulations! You’re familiar with the Hallway Track. They are named as such because the hallway can be a place of as much discussion and learning as the formal tracks inside the lecture halls. We believe that happens because some people can feel intimidated by the density of people and knowledge shown in the sessions indoors. Hence, it feels easier to approach folks outside.
Being social @ EuroPython
At EuroPython we love and encourage informal connections and discussions so much that we decided to help by distributing stickers signalling people’s levels of approachability (and willingness to interact). A green sticker indicates you are up to handshakes and conversations, the blue one says you are up for hugs (and conversations). The yellow signs elbow bumps and signals you should only approach that person if you know them, and finally, the red sticker hints they are not willing to engage in conversations.
Our conference stickers designed to ease interaction
We hope these can facilitate interaction and make it easier for everyone coming back from a social distancing spree, who is not sure how to engage or what to do at social events just yet
To the first-timers, especially, please remember that you can always ask to join a conversation. As Tim Pepper wisely says “Most hallway track conversations can be approached by saying, “Hi, do you mind if I join the conversation?" A conversation in the open is clearly welcoming for other people to join. ”, so please do not shy away from great discussions.
Picture this: You have listened carefully, weighed the knowledge of the people in the room, bit your fingernails and decided to raise your hand to ask THE QUESTION. First of all, we would like to thank you because, without you, our Q&A would be dead. Unfortunately, in such circumstances, time is extremely limited and we are here to help you with your enquiry to better help our speaker on addressing it.
This person. Do not be like them. Source: https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/conference_question.png
- Be polite: we love questions and we try our best to answer them how we can and engage in discussions but being impolite is a short way to have your query dismissed. And remember that you have agreed to comply with the Code of Conduct to be at the conference.
- Ask a question (don’t just comment): as the comic above illustrates, commenters are not the most productive. When you have the word, make sure to be concise and ask the question. You can even choose to introduce yourself, just make sure not to talk for too long. Remember: time is limited and people are there to hear the speaker.
- Be constructive (not just combative): there will be an opportunity for you to disagree with the speaker another time, hopefully. When you have the word, try and be constructive and ask a question. You can even ask them to clarify something which was not so clear or request their opinion, but please avoid the “I-couldn't-disagree-more” type of approach. Finally, in case your question cannot be answered in the formal track, you can always chase the speaker, either in the Hallways Track or in their socials, or by email, or send a pigeon.
Check out the sponsor’s stands & Open Source tables
We all love some swag, don’t we?! This year, to fulfil the intent to be more sustainable i.e., reduce the amount of plastic stuff we already have, we at EP decided to use the money to try and neutralise our carbon footprint. Less stuff for you to carry and less stuff for the planet to digest eventually. But that does not mean you get to go home without shiny new conference gifts! Our sponsors have wonderful swag and will be more than happy to have you visit to chat about the cool stuff they do (and get some swag going). So, feel free to chat & collect at our sponsor’s booths, which will be available from Wednesday (13th) to Friday (15th).
The Conference Burnout
Have you booked sessions from 9 am to 6 pm without a lunch break and meetings in between tracks? I am sad to tell you that you are running towards what we call ‘conference burnout’. By the third day, you will not be able to stand the subjects any longer and sitting in the lecture halls will bring you to sleep quite quickly. Exhaustion will be stronger than your coffee and the days will seem to get longer. Although, you seem to be suffering from some sort of memory loss. ‘What was it that I wanted to ask the speaker this time? Was it in this session?’, you ask yourself on event day number five. To avoid such a scenario we recommend you take it slow. Take breaks, maybe skip a few lectures and talk to people. Make friends, contribute to the hallway track, and gather swag. Moreover, try and keep your sleep schedule to the best of your extent (easier said than done) and remember to stay hydrated. Dublin doesn't have the typical hot European summer but coffee ain’t water, yo! This is a marathon, not a sprint. And we learn more and assimilate content better when we are rested and enjoying ourselves. And remember: all work and no fun makes us all dull girls! And no one wants to deal with your grumpy self so be cool!
And in case you do get grumpy, check out our Quiet Room at Wicklow Hall 2B for a bit of a rest.
Online Chat with other participants
If you want to use the chat to interact with offline or online participants we have two options:
- Chat in Venueless, we have #random and you can also have 1-1 chats or video-calls
- The Europython Telegram channel
Of course, you are also free to auto-organize alternatives with your fellow participants.
How-to remote conference
EuroPython this year will finally be in-person but it will also be remote, for those who cannot join. We are very excited about all our remote attendees as well and would like to suggest some basic things which will help the hybrid event be more personal.
- We are going to stream the 6 parallel tracks to Youtube (and Mux as a backup)
- The streams are free. Check the tickets!
- We also have Venueless, an online platform, for people to watch the stream while interacting with other remote attendees, sponsors, speakers and offline attendees.
- Participants with Remote tickets can ask questions live using Zoom. (our Remote Operators are going to coordinate it in the chat). Our expectation is to give Remote participants the same opportunity as onsite ones. While asking questions you will be live on the screen in the venue and in the streaming.
- To join Venueless you need a Remote ticket and a browser. It can also be used on mobile phones (3 devices maximum).
How to join Venueless
Any ticket (except the Stream-only) will have a link to join the platform. Just open your ticket and click on the link to join. There is no user or password, the link is your password.
To conclude, we hope this article helps you enjoy more fully the conference we have been preparing for you. A lot of work went in and we intend that a lot of fun and learning will come out of it. As always, If you have any suggestions or questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep an eye on our Twitter page (loads of conference updates will show up there) and don’t forget to use the #EuroPython hashtag to show the world how your EuroPython is going.
- Tim Pepper on The Hallway Track Is the Hidden Gem of Open Source Conferences
- Georgina Torbet on A Guide to Asking Good Questions at Conferences