Just thought I’d do a bit of a recap from an insiders perspective on how things unfolded during the course of Kiwi PyCon 2009. Needless to say, the organisation of the event happened over a few months and most of the preparations had been done quite a bit in advance of the big day. So this is more of a how did all these preparations culminate and did it blow up in my face or did we bask in ‘our’ success :)
On the Friday of last week around midday, I went to the printer and picked up the conference programmes (they also combo-ed as a name badge). They looked great. I then swung back round home and picked up Dylan Jay as well as all the conference gear (i.e. signage, some food items, T shirts, lanyards + pouches, etc).
We got to the venue about 12:30pm and started unloading the car. Fortunately Party Warehouse had already delivered the 120 chairs, 2 PA systems + wireless mics, and the disposable eating utensils. Andrew Groom had already arrived and a few more helpers arrived in short order so I got them started setting up the chairs in both the Track 1 and Track 2 rooms. Meanwhile I shot off to the Effusion Group offices to pickup the power boards + extension power leads (thanks guys!), as well as a few coffee plungers.
After getting back to Cii, a few more volunteers had arrived so I asked if they could start laying out the power boards and power leads. The idea was to lay them out underneath the seats to allow the delegates to plugin during the sessions. I also asked if the projectors and projector screens could be setup and got Darryl Cousins to setup the registration area (Darryl also did an excellent job of looking after the registration area during the conference). In the meantime, Dylan and I got into putting up the conference banners.
Brian Chatterton arrived soon after with Andrew Turner and started getting stuck into setting up the wireless network. They had about 6 wireless APs, 3x 802.11a and 3x 802.11g. I better add that Brian did an excellent job of setting up and running the network during the conference (which is further borne out by the conference survey results). He also sacrificed going to the Pre-Conference Party and even the dinner we had on Saturday night to iron out some network issues.
Jonathan Harker of Catalyst IT arrived about this time and got stuck into setting up their sponsor table. Michael Hope had gotten into setting up his video camera in Track 2 and after finishing up with this I asked if he could also get the 2 PA systems setup. I was still dilly-dallying with getting the main front banner up and getting distracted with other issues so I eventually got Dylan to finish this up for me while I had to shoot away and take my dog to the vet about 5pm.
After getting back to Cii around 6pm-ish, I finished the setup of the entrance area (particularly getting the partitions for the Cii reception area in place) and also asked if Michael Hudson could confirm where he would be taking the post-registration photos. We ended up draping one of our white table cloths over one small section of wall and using this as a backdrop for the photos. I also asked if Natalia Tyan and Jane Hill (both from powerHouse) could setup the boardroom as this is where we would be putting out the conference food.
The projectors and projector screens were now setup but we were using a whiteboard in Track 1 as a projector screen and it was really not suitable as a projector screen. This was partly due to our wanting to keep the whiteboard in Track 1 as that is where the Lightning Talks and Open Spaces Sessions would be but also because we only had 1 proper projector screen (we actually had 2 but 1 was permanently fixed and therefore couldn’t be repositioned for our needs). Things were getting a little stressful as it was already about 8pm but Jane phoned up Steve, the powerHouse CEO, and he said he could bring his projector screen in for our use - what a lifesaver! Jane then made another call to another contact and arranged for him to bring in his newer and brighter projector for our use. Even better!
It was around 8:45pm now and we’d pretty much finished up the setup of the venue so Dylan and I headed over to The Twisted Hop for the Pre-Conference Party, which incidentally was a great venue and thanks to Marek had lots of yummy food!
I woke up about 5am and couldn’t get back to sleep so got showered and dressed, woke up Dylan and headed over to the venue about 8am. Natalia had already opened up and there were already delegates lining up at the registration desk, which was a bit of a surprise given we’d said 8:30am was registration opening time. So Natalia and a few others mucked in to get them signed in and I headed upstairs to get the projector going with the event/sponsor slides and to switch on the background music.
Something that was raised the day before regarding displaying the venue’s sponsor logos was raised again and we decided to cover them up with the event’s sponsor logos. Some last minute signage was also made up for the Track 2 door, some signage on the entrance as well as the boardroom and then the event was underway with my welcome speech.
There was a good sized audience for the opening speeches. Danny Adair (NZPUG President) followed my speech with a few opening words and then Joel Burton began his speech: Why Python Web Frameworks are Changing The Web. Joel gave a captivating speech and drew a few laughs from the audience with some of his witty comments.
I’d organised for a couple of local cafe restaurants to heat up our savouries for the morning teas and this all went very smoothly both with delivery and pickup by our great team of snack runners: Dylan, Michael, Natalia, and Darryl. So following Joel’s talk we were into our first morning tea, which all went very well, including Natalia and Michael’s hardwork in the kitchen pumping out the plunger coffees.
Then Track 1 and 2 split off into 2 sessions and I chaired Track 1 while Guy Kloss chaired Track 2. I kept a fairly tight rein on the timing of the talks and Guy and myself also tweeted each of the talk titles as they unfolded throughout the day.
Papas pizzas delivered our 75 pizzas labelled and on time and I also kicked off the lunch break with our first draw of 4 books courtesy of our schwag sponsors.
Guy had spent some of the morning tea break scheduling the Lightning Talks and finished this off over the lunch break. So following lunch we all gathered again in the Track 1 room for the 12.5 Lightning Talks (the first one by Morris Johns was a very brief intro to his arduino robot).
Then again we split into 2 tracks until afternoon tea, which again went very smoothly thanks to Natalia and Michael’s efforts in the kitchen. Things did get fairly hot in the Saturday afternoon in Track 1, though, due to the lack of air conditioning at Cii but Morris did manage to prise open a window, which helped alleviate things. I also did another draw of 4 books during the afternoon tea break. All in all I did 4 draws over the 2 days, with the draw for the Webstock schwag being made on the Sunday lunchtime.
Day 1 finished without a hitch and we ended up heading off to Tulsi for dinner, which was something we organised as a spur of the moment thing on the Saturday afternoon.
I got an early night on the Saturday night and ensured I slept at least 8 hours so I’d have enough energy for the last day. We arrived at Cii at about 8am and it was all shut up. So I used my Cii access card and security code to open up and gave the coffee barista a quick call to see how far away he was. We’d organised for him to setup outside the front entrance, where he’d serve fresh espresso coffee out of the back of his converted kombi van from 8-10am. It went down really well and the delegates lined up and handed over their free espresso voucher. Take my word for it, this coffee is the best in New Zealand!
Then at 9am the sessions kicked off again with me giving my Getting All Your Web Apps To Wear The Company Brand presentation in Track 1 and Stuart Mitchell presenting in Track 2. Again morning tea passed without a hitch and Guy used this time and lunch to organise the Open Spaces Sessions. I also made an announcement preparing the delegates mentally for aiding in the big tidyup that would be needed at the end of the event.
A couple of talks later and we were together again for the second keynote by Tim Penhey: Launchpad: The Good, the Bad, and the OMG How Does That Work. Tim also gave a great keynote and looked very poised in front of the 150 strong crowd (he even finished within time!).
Then it was time for lunch with John at Subway delivering on time and even throwing in a bunch of free cookies to boot, which were a real crowd pleaser.
Following lunch we were into our Open Spaces Sessions, which went quite well but did feel a little rushed at 30 minutes a pop (originally they were set at 45 minutes but the delegates pushed for 30).
Following the Open Spaces Sessions we had our last afternoon tea, which again went swimmingly well and then it was the homeward stretch to my closing speech, which too came off really well. As part of my speech I again called for volunteers to help out with the final cleanup and also let everyone know the 4 overseers who had been assigned to each area of the venue. The response was absolutely amazing with most of the attendees pitching in directly after my talk and the whole venue being cleaned up in about 30 minutes (some reckon it only took 15!).
All-in-all a very successful event, which I felt was organised well enough and also wouldn’t have been possible without the great team of volunteers who helped out in all of the key positions.
Looking forward to Kiwi PyCon 2010 in Paihia!