AWS Community Day DACH 2023 has concluded, and it was truly remarkable! I trust that everyone had a fantastic time, learned something new, and connected with fellow enthusiasts. But have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes to organize such an event? In this post, I’ll share my perspective.
The DACH AWS Community
DACH stands for Deutschland (Germany), Austria, and Schweiz (Switzerland), encompassing 30+ UserGroups with over 15k members.
In previous years, we initiated the planning for the Community Day only 2-3 months in advance. However, based on feedback from previous editions, we decided to start even earlier. The initial discussions took already place in November 2022 at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas.
After Community Day is before Community Day. We are already planning for 2024. If you want to help with the planning or sponsor it, reach out to us.
Location and Date
The most crucial step is to finalize the location, as it also determines the event date. Previous AWS Community Days were held in Cologne (2017), Frankfurt (2018), Hamburg (2019), and Dresden (2022). For 2023, we settled on Munich, strategically located and easily accessible from Austria, Switzerland, and most parts of Germany.
Typically, we host the Community Day in September or October, perfectly placed between the AWS Summit in Berlin (May) and re:Invent (November). In Munich, we had to consider the school holidays (ending in mid-September) and the start of Oktoberfest (end of September). This left us with only one viable week, and we secured a booking at the SmartVillage Bogenhausen in January.
Once the date was confirmed, we could move forward with the rest of the planning.
Call for Papers and Agenda
The next major step is crafting the agenda. We rely on sessionize.com to streamline everything from the call for papers to finalizing the schedule. We initiated the call for papers in mid-February and kept it open until mid-May. Once closed, we began building the agenda.
Considering our location and schedule, we had space for 28 sessions. Each organizer evaluates proposals individually, and Sessionize offers three sessions that require ordering. This process is repeated multiple times with randomly ordered sessions. After consolidating all evaluations, we established a final ranking. During this process, we ensure diversity, avoid duplicate speakers, and confirm that topics align with our expectations. Once we reach a consensus, we contact the speakers and request confirmation of their talks.
Thanks to Sessionize for providing a free plan for community events!
After receiving speaker confirmations, we invite them into a private Slack channel. This method simplifies communication, allowing us to provide additional event details, location information, and audio and video setup instructions. It also offers speakers a direct line to ask questions.
As the event is From the Community - For the Community, we do not accept talks from AWS employees. One exception is the keynote. To find keynote speakers, it’s important to have the date already defined, as they usually have demanding schedules and plan often one year in advance.
We utilize our LinkedIn and Twitter accounts for announcements. For each talk, we prepared separate posts and shared them on LinkedIn and Twitter via Buffer. These posts are generated with the assistance of ChatGPT and social banners from Sessionize.
Sessionize also provides social banners for each speaker, allowing them to download and share them with their networks. Customized logos, backgrounds, and other templates have been created with Canva.
This event could not have happened without the generous support of our sponsors. We initiated contact with potential sponsors at the beginning of the year through our network. We also utilized the AWS Summit in Berlin to engage with various companies. These activities were tracked in Notion to keep everyone informed about which companies we contacted and their responses. A sponsor deck that explained the event’s value and offered an overview of different packages (Bronze, Silver, and Gold) played a crucial role in these conversations.
To manage contracts and finances, we established the Förderverein AWS Community DACH e.V. (Booster Club) in 2022. This community-driven organization serves as a vital support system for the AWS Community in the DACH region. It is an official legal entity registered in Munich, Germany, dedicated to facilitating engagement, knowledge-sharing, and networking opportunities.
For the registration process, we developed our own platform. Why? Because we are developers 😄. The idea was to create an application using the latest AWS services that would be in real use, not just a demo. (Thanks to Thorsten and Andreas). Currently, it covers registration and allows us to print badges. There’s more in the pipeline, and you might hear about it in future talks.
During the event
VIP / Speakers Dinner
With the support of our sponsors, we organized a VIP Dinner that brought together folks from RedHat (our sponsor), AWS, the organizers, and, of course, our speakers! Almost all were able to join, and we had a lot of fun and engaging discussions. Having all these key people in one place is quite rare and a valuable opportunity for sponsors.
AWS Community Day Dahoam
For the event itself, we needed many volunteers. We required people for registration, swag distribution, track hosts, and general setup and teardown teams. We also had dedicated teams for capturing video and pictures of the event and handling social media. We used a Google Sheet to keep track of who was responsible for what.
In Bavaria, Dahoam means “at home.”
Another great idea was hosting an AWS BuilderCards game and setting up a separate room for speakers to prepare their talks.
We prepared a feedback system and encouraged the audience to share their insights during the day. This feedback is vital for both speakers and organizers to enhance future events.
The booster club holds fortnightly meetings that we used to sync for the event (but also other topics). After Community Day, we also used it as a retrospective to discuss the event and generate action items for next year.
Thank you to the Community
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the individuals involved in organizing this event: Thorsten Höger, Markus Ostertag, Johannes Koch, Linda Mohamed, Andreas Rütten, Stefan Bauer, Stefan, Tom Lorenz, Sven Seiler, Alexander Kroll, Steffen Mazanek, and also to the invaluable support from AWS: Eva Plischke, Maria Encinar, Farrah Campbell, Tayler Jacobsen, and of course, all the others I may have inadvertently omitted!
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