July 11, 2014

Inside Drupalcon Amsterdam Frontend Session Selection

After attending and helping to organize several Drupal events in Europe I have met a lot people and also had the chance to listen to many good speakers. I am also an usual speaker in DrupalCamps. That brought me enough experience to know when a session was interesting for the audience and feedback from attendees and organizers helps improve my sessions in the future.

It’s important for the speaker to know how to engage and entertain attendees. People will learn more and will be more satisfied if the session is dynamic and, why not, funny.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to collaborate, together with Lewis Nyman, in the Frontend track session selection for DrupalCon Amsterdam. I have never spoken in a DrupalCon so it was a good chance to learn from the best.

Our role was to help guide those who proposed a session by better aligning proposals with the suggested topics. That was a really good experience because I had to contact speakers I met in previous conferences and others I wanted to meet but we didn’t coincide in any event. Also we tried to invite speakers from other communities to spread the word of Drupal in other horizons and also to have opportunity to learn from professionals that are working in different projects and environments than those we use to know.

The response was impressive: we had more than 50 proposed sessions only in our track, for a total of more than 500 submissions overall. That’s a really big number taking into account that the topics were related to theming and design and because we have other tracks that cover development and site-building topics. Sometimes we had to move sessions from one track to another because it was difficult to decide which track the session fit best in.

Session topics were diverse but fit well with our needs, what made it really hard to decide between them. We had a limited amount of sessions to accept so Lewis and I tried to estimate different factors in the valuation process. We took into account previous speaking experience, using speaker profiles and videos or slides from previous sessions in other events.

A session's description was one of the most important factors to evaluate. Tip for prospective speakers: you should be really careful with your session description if you decide someday to speak in any conference. We contacted a few speakers prior to and during session selection to suggest slight variations on their session content so they can fit better with track topics or differ from other proposed sessions.

We tried to have a diverse Frontend track with interesting sessions, not only for front-end developers but also for UX designers, site builders, graphic designers… and not only Drupal people will be interested in them. I think anyone dedicated to web will enjoy and learn new techniques and tools used by well-known professionals in high-end projects.

You can imagine all the amount of time invested to prepare and coach speakers and also to plan and organize. We meet weekly as a team to comment, discuss and make decisions (also have a good time with Drupal fellows). It was a really enjoyable opportunity for me to gain more experience organizing Drupal events.

Ruben Teijeiro (rteijeiro)
DrupalCon Amsterdam Frontend Co-Chair