Planning for AWS Community Day Pune 2020

Originally was published on my self hosted Wordpress blog. Moving it here.

A little background of AWS Community in Pune

AWS Community in Pune city was dormant for quite sometime. In July 2019 it rose back from slumber, credits to the efforts of Jayesh Ahire (Twitter – @Jayesh_Ahire1) and a numerous AWS employees. I happened to be working quite actively during that period with AWS and decided to go to the very first meetup. The talks scheduled for the very first meetup were so great that I was immediately convinced to attend every event that this group would schedule in future.

That day I met Jayesh and a few senior folks from various companies. I happened to meet a Sr. Solutions Architect from AWS whom I had met with in the AWS Summit Mumbai that year and expressed my interest to speak in the community and also to be a volunteer in the community. We had a healthy discussion around AWS during the break and also after all the talks were done. During the same period I met with Toshal and Amey, who would become the core part of the organising team in near future.

Me and Toshal (Twitter – @toshalk) were quite regular to the meetups and were helping organise the meetup in whatever area we could over the next 4-5 months. In absence of Jayesh, we took care of couple of meetups and I spoke on a couple of AWS topics as well on this platform. The AWS community grew at a pace that we did not expect. The meetup page soon crossed 5000+ followers and we started getting an attendance of anywhere between 50 to 100 people for each meetup that was organised over the months. During the same time I attended the AWS Community Day Bengaluru and also AWS Community Day Mumbai. After a long time of getting to know the AWS folks from all over the country and attending the community days, we figured it was time Pune gets its own community day. This thought soon became a reality and Pune was given an opportunity to host the first ever community day of 2020 in India in the month of Feb 2020.

The planning phase

While we were organising the meetups, we started working on establishing social media presence for the user group. I helped manage LinkedIn for a few months and later managed the Twitter handle as well for a couple months. Planning the effective use of social media was the first thing we thought we should do. Later we onboarded Divya in our core team and she took over the social media.

Planning for an event where we expected 500+ participants is not at all easy. Below are the important things that we had work on –

Figure out a place which could be a good fit for technical conferences and would be able to accommodate 500+ people Select a ticketing partner for the event tickets Arranging of food at the day of conference. [ Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks for 500+ people is a daunting task] Opening call for papers for the conference Looking out for sponsors for the event Figuring out the logistics for things like LED screens, audio setup for multi-track event. We ended up deciding to hire an event management team to get it done for us. Designing social media banners, Goodies for participants, T-shirts for volunteers, memento for speakers etc. As it generally happens that community driven events have one person who takes the lead and others build around him/her. In our case it was Jayesh. He handled majority of finance, ticketing , sponsorship tasks leveraging his existing connections in this space [he is a well known personality in AI/ML space, check out his Twitter/LinkedIn profile]. The Call for papers were live on Papercall.io and we started our hunt for the venue.

Pre-event execution

Venue

It was a difficult task to find a venue that could accommodate these many people and would have good facility to be able to feed so many people. The only choice we had was to lookout at huge hotels which have Banquet halls and could provide the catering service as well. We visited 6-8 hotels in the entire area of Pune trying to find the venue which would suit the requirements. The loop of visits, quotation, negotiations started. We shortlisted 2 hotels that suited our requirements and ended up selecting Hyatt Regency as they gave us the best deal and were a very well known and respectable brand in Pune. Food cost was bundled in the rent of banquet halls.

Selecting ticketing partner

This was a no brainer. All other community events were done in partnership with Konfhub and community had a great experience of using their platform. We ended up using the same. We started selling tickets to the event from Dec 2019.

Call for papers

We started accepting proposals for talk in December 2019 via PaperCall.io. The response was huge. We had 30+ people speaking at our conference from diverse geographies.

Looking out for sponsors

This is the most difficult part. We created a standard deck of PPT with help from AWS design team and used our connections to reach out to corporates, startups that could benefit by sponsoring our event. This was the most difficult part and we were still trying to get the sponsors until two weeks to the event. Fortunately we got the anticipated number of sponsors and hence our costs to the conference were covered without troubles.

Getting an event manager

Tech event needs things like LED screens or projectors, collar microphones for speakers, Handheld microphones for anchors, stage lightening, banners of sponsors and tons of other stuff. We are general IT folks like you and it made sense to hire the experts who do this thing for a living. We made some calls, got some recommendations and started our conversations with event management companies. We zeroed in on one after an intense negotiation round which lasted over 10 days.

Procuring things required for event

The last thing remaining was to procure things like lanyards, name cards, T-shirts, Memento’s etc. These small things suck most of the time and energy [ Jayesh would agree here wholeheartedly]. These things were all work in progress until the night before the event.

Conclusion

There are a lot of thing which I have not yet addressed and would do it the an upcoming blog where I share the details of event day. Also there are many thing that could not be covered in this blog post. There are so many moving parts in arranging the conference. People like me, Jayesh, Toshal, Amey etc. do it totally out our passion for the community and are not compensated in any ways by anyone involved in the event [AWS, Sponsors etc]. Hence a request, the next time you see a volunteer driven event and if something goes wrong, be a little kind to the organisers and defer from giving them shit (this was the best way I could put it).

I hope you had a great time at AWS Community day Pune. The intention of the post is to highlight the hard work people do behind the curtain. To all the unsung hero’s !

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