So PyTN was discussed a year and a half before it took place, Ryan Macy and I were working together at the time. We had just returned from a great weekend at PyArkansas, and wished we had something that wasn’t quite so far away. Things got in the way, and we didn’t end up acting on the idea. However, I never forgot about it.

Fast forward 6 months, and I brought up the idea again in the #pynash irc channel. I didn’t start planning it really until I went to PyOhio with Brad Montgomery, and saw a lightning talk on why we need more Regional Conferences. We came back to TN, and I immediately set about making this imaginary beast into a real thing with real people.

Step 1: Are you sure!?!

On July 11th, I setup a meeting for an initial group of organizers to see who was interested in doing what part of the organizing effort. I initial had 8 people split between Nashville and Memphis. Life happens to everyone, and it will cost you organizers and their time. While we only lost a couple, a confluence of issues left the majority of the effort in the hands of a few after the talk review process.

As a conference chair, you’re responsible for delivering on every promise to the attendees and sponsors! Stop and reread that line. So if something starts to slip or isn’t getting done you grab it, you don’t complain, and you continue forward. Sometimes you’ll be an army of one behind the organizers (we) moniker other times you’ll have a full battalion of support. Just keep pushing.

The Work

The work you have to do to have a successful conference greatly varies based on the type of event you are having. I’m gonna cover these in chunks in follow up posts, but at PyTN the checklist was:

  • Email
  • Social Media
  • Sponsorships
  • Tickets
  • Venue
  • Food/Snacks
  • Hotels
  • Proposals
  • Security
  • Graphics
  • Printing
  • Swag
  • Young Coders
  • PyLadies
  • Speakers
  • Keynoters

The Good Parts

The best part of organizing an event is that there is a community that you are serving, and they are eager for more events and want to support your event! The PyTN sponsors page is full of people who offered guidance and support in monetary, event planning, and emotional areas. Event attendees are excited that your creating an event for them to be themselves, and in general are very supportive.

Serving others is a very emotionally satisfying activity for many people, I find that to be the case for me, and fits my role both as an employee and a conference organizer.

Talking with Young Coders after the event is extremely fulfilling. I heard from many of the teens that they loved it! It wasn’t facebook, snapchat, whatsapp, just plain simple coding that got teens to say they enjoyed it! Mind Blown!

The Bad Parts

Every conference has drama, some of it is just stress inducing like losing a keynote speaker the day before the event, and some of them will bring you to tears. BTW, don’t fret crying is a normal part of conference organizing from what I’ve seen. I can attest that at least it was for me.

Every decision you make will be the wrong one to someone who doesn’t have all the insight or knowledge of why you did it. Just remember you can not please everyone, and you serve the community as a whole before an individual member of it.

Life doesn’t care about the conference. Your life and the other organizers life will have tremendous events. PyTN saw the birth of two children, a marriage, a death, and a few job changes in the organizers committee. This creates a level of stress that seems insurmountable at times. It will pass, and the conference shall go on. Don’t force people to move through that life event any faster than they want to themselves. Simply move the work to someone else.