Organizing a Conference with More Than 400 Participants

Last week, DjangoCon Europe 2021 took place completelly online from the 2nd to the 6th of June. This yearly european conference focuses on the web framework Django, and it includes 5 days of talks, sprints, and tutorials. I was the lead co-organizer and it was both extremelly fullfilling and completelly exhausting!

Orginally, the conference was planned to take place physically at the Super Bock Arena in Porto, Portugal; we had to shift to a different approach and make the conference virtual (yet again).

Despite the event having “Europe” in its name, it was trully a worlwide event with people watching from all continents without exceptions! Ok, maybe Antarctica… Since everything was online there was no need to travel, and, no matter where you were, you could attend it as along as you had a device with internet connection. As a result, it drew over 400 participants.

If you are looking for resources, there are several awesome organiser resources, from which I’d highlight the The Less Obvious Conference Checklist.

In terms of platforms & software, we’ve used LoudSwarm as the virtual venue; beamian as the ticketing platform; Gather.Town for the social track, where you could walk with your own avatar in a Pokémon-like map as if it was a Game Boy (pictured above); pretalx as the call for participation & scheduling tool; Slack as the chat app; and Jitsi for the Q&A with the speakers (these last two already integrated in LoudSwarm). And that is just for the “frontend” of the conference, of course the list doesn’t end here. In the “backend”, we’ve used OBS for the streaming from a Zoom call with the speakers; the website was proudly built on Django; several shared Google Docs, Sheets & Forms; and the list goes on. Overall, this is a good example of the complexity involved in organizing such an event, and just touching on the software tools involved in a virtual conference.

Another example where this complexity is visible is in the different teams of volunteers involved: content, financial aid, conduct, social, public relations, support, diversity, sponsors and djangogirls - I literally had to check the list right now because of how many there are, which just proves my point: organizing a conference is extremelly complex - there are numerous little pieces all over the place and they all need to be working together to create a great experience for everyone.

At the end of the day, although it required a lot of stressfull work, it was an highly rewarding experience - being able to see that what you have created together with several others had such a huge impact. As a final remark, I’d like to leave a big thank you to all the amazing people that made this conference such success: speakers, attendees, sponsors and volunteers!

For more information:
🌐 Website
📅 Schedule
🎤 Talk Recordings