Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Music City Code Conference - How it All Began

Conception
I started contemplating starting a new technical conference in January of 2013 a couple years after DevLink moved from Nashville to Chattanooga. I noticed relatively few Nashville area developers who had previously attended DevLink were unable to afford attending so far from home.

As I pondered the reasons for starting a new conference, I realized it had very little to do with attending training sessions. The most valuable aspect of technical conferences seemed to be people I met and interaction that took place. I started floating around the idea of creating a conference centered around interaction and registered the domain name DevInteraction.

Initiation
The most important aspects of planning a conference are the date and location so I started investigating venues and creating a calendar of regional conferences. I quickly realized that hotels and convention centers were not only costly to rent, but often implement vendor restrictions which drive the cost up further. There were also very few breaks in the conference schedule where a new event wouldn't compete with an established one for speakers. I decided to focus on work and put conference planning on the back burner.

Analysis
Over the next couple years the conference concept continued to evolved. While presenting at Code on the Beach, I mentioned the idea to the president, Paul Irwin. He pointed out that Nashville is the "Music City" and would make a great location for a destination conference. That got me thinking about all the music related gatherings that take place in the Nashville IT community and how we might include these types of events in a conference.

Fast forward to February of 2015 when John Kellar announced that he had decided to retire DevLink. All of the sudden there was a giant gap in the conference schedule, but we were in the midst of repairing major damage to our house from a water leak and planning an April wedding, so I had no bandwidth to take on a new project.

Design
As luck had it, I found myself with extra free time after the wedding and decided it was now or never to get this new conference off the ground. The previous month I had served as a mentor and judge for an event at Lipscomb, which had given me the opportunity to start a conversation about hosting the conference there. From there the pieces started to fall into place.

DevLink had been held at the end of August and it just happened that Saturday, August 29th was available. I asked for advice from all the conference organizers I knew and most of them suggested starting small for the first year and focusing on quality over quantity, so we decided to limit registration. By the time we hammered out a budget, timeline and other major aspects we were already into late June with just over two months to recruit volunteers, set up social media, gather speaker submissions, solicit sponsors, create a schedule, launch a website, market the event, design shirts and order printed material such as signs and programs.

Development
So that's where we're at now. We have been fortunate to receive guidance from many regional conference organizers (see board members below), but we still need quite a few volunteers and are working on recruiting both sponsors and speakers, but I'm optimistic that we can pull this together and put on a great first year!

Want to help out? Here are some easy ways everyone can help:
Follow @MusicCityCode on Twitter and retweet our announcements!
We also post updates to LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.

Interested in speaking? Submit a session!
If speaking isn't your thing, we could certainly use your help as a volunteer.
Maybe your company would be interested in sponsoring.

A special thanks to our board members for their invaluable advice:
John Kellar (DevLink Founder & Executive Director)
Chad Green (Code PaLOUsa Conference Chair)
Chuck Bryant (Plugged In Board Member & BarCamp Organizer)
Jonathan Mills (Kansas City Developer Conference Director)
Lee Brandt (Kansas City Developer Conference Director)
Phil Japikse (Cincinnati Day of Agile Founder)
Jeffrey Strauss (St. Louis Days of .NET Principal Organizer)

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