Three weeks in the life of conference organizer.

For several years now, people have been asking me how to run conferences. I keep telling them I don’t know anything about running conferences, but I know what I like to have at conferences I attend, so I just make sure those things are at my conferences. Yes, that’s a rather flippant remark, but much of it is true. To help out the flurry of conferences which seems to have sprouted lately, I thought I would give you an overview of what happens behind the scenes of BSDCan and PGCon. This will either convince you that have what it takes, or that you don’t want to get involved at all. Either way, you’ll know where you stand. Warning: some of what you’ll read is not directly conference related, but gives you an idea of what goes on. This includes mundane details of getting to and from the conference venue. Yes folks, this is glamour. Watch me shine.

Here it is, exactly 10 days before BSDCan 2008 starts. On that Tuesday the 13th, approximately 130 people will gather. Two days later, the numbers will swell to well over 240. Of that initial 130 people, a record 85 will be present for the FreeBSD Developer Summit, which has become an regular pre-conference assembly. The remainder of the people will be assembled for two days of tutorials including VOIP, network analysis, and building wireless drivers.

I spent this morning helping Jan Weick (PostgreSQL developer and core-team member) shift his family to a new house. From 10 until 11:30 we loaded the truck with the heavy stuff. From 12 until 12:40 we unloaded the truck. Done. Some lunch, some chat, and some resting, and I was home by 2pm. Time to pack.

I put almost everything I needed into the car that night:

  • Colour laser printer (badges? Yes, you need badges)
  • WAPs – for your wireless access
  • cycling gear – I’ll need to do some cycling while in Ottawa
  • hand truck – for moving around your t-shirts (ever tried carrying 400 t-shirts?)

It is an eight hour drive from Philadelphia to Ottawa (including stopping three times for gas/food/nature). Depending when I woke up, I was going to leave Warrington some time between 8AM and noon. I didn’t want to leave any later because I prefer to drive in daylight.

Every night before a trip I think about the things I need to take with me, what I’m going to do while there, and try to remember any forgotten items. I went to sleep about 11pm, pretty confident that I had remembered everything. I was wrong.

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