November 13th 2018 saw our first ever “York Developers” conference - YorkTechFest. Back in 2016, Daniel, Chris and myself were sat at our “Code and Coffee” meetup in York discussing how it would be great if one day we could put on our own tech conference in York. We also decided to register ourselves as a registered charity with the Charity Commission which we achieved in March 2018. At the start of Summer 2018 we decided to try and put on the small conference this autumn. Daniel then jumped into action and before long was busy meeting people and quickly arranged partnerships with York Digital City (part of City of York Council) and York St John University.
We knew from the start that we wanted the event to be based around the various York based technical groups, but we weren’t sure at first about the best format for the event. Not having put on a conference before we had a number of questions:
Being a community based event we decided to turn to the community to find out what people wanted and we did a poll at a “Agile York” meetup in June 2018 to find out what people were prepared to pay (if anything). Surprisingly a figure of £10 was on average acceptable.
We spoke to Henry (who runs the York Swift group) and Kevin (who runs the dotnetYork group) and Tony (who runs AgileYork) about their experiences about other technical conferences they had attended.
A plan then began to take shape, we picked a date and time and started to tell a few people about it. A common response was “do you have a website we could look at?” I set about and put together a highly advanced technical website using all the latest development tools. (Actually, I copied the YorkDevelopers site and edited it using Notepad). I have to admit that initially the site was a bit short of information, as we had not yet decided on the number of tracks or who the speakers were. We then begin to ask people to come and speak and the whole we had positive responses! As people sent in their Bios we added their details to the website.
One of our concerns was getting a equal distribution of attendees between the different tracks. We solved this by asking people to choose the sessions they wanted to attend in advanced. The only change to the time table we had to make was to merge the two York Code Dojo sessions into a single session.
We started selling tickets about 3 weeks before the event. As with a lot of meetups, after the initial flurry of signups the sale of tickets came to an almost halt. We were low on numbers; so it was time to do some marketing, this was mainly posting on social media and emailing various contacts we all had. (As Treasurer I allocated a marketing budget of around £0). Not sure if it was due to our marketing but as the evening of the event approached the sale of tickets ramped up. To the extent that we had to release additional tickets and then put a waiting list in place.
A couple of other groups in York (YorkHackSpace, and YorkExplore and Guild of Media Arts) contacted us and asked if they could have ap prescence at event. We welcomed them and they created a small exhibition of tech non profit groups in York. This formed our event identity – a showcase of tech non profit groups in York.
I knew it was going well when my teenage daughter asked if she could come and help-out at the event. We asked her to be a YorkTechFest Youth Ambassador booking people in for the event.