Community post from the KCD Munich Organizers – Hannes Hanusch (Blueshoe/Unikube), Max Körbächer (Liquid Reply), Philipp Maier (Isovalent/Cilium), Tabea (Blueshoe/Unikube), Tom Uhlig (Liquid Reply), Vivien Pfeiffer (Liquid Reply)
> Disclaimer: Due to the highly positive feedback from the community, we got asked by the CNCF to write a blog about our experience and success factors for our Kubernetes Community Days Munich. We organized a KCD event for the first time and had no idea what we were doing.
Our story of organizing the Kubernetes Community Days (KCD) in Munich actually started in March 2020 and was then paused for almost two years. However, we wanted to finish what we had started. Our target sounded big for us: 200 people, 2 days, 2 stages. Besides Meetups, none of us had any experience organizing conferences. But dream big, go fast and just do it – our daily mantra.
By chance, the team was suited well together, as we had each planning responsibility taken care of so we could start our journey.
What went well
It would be presumptuous to say that everything went well, but there were no major impasses. When we planned the two days, for us it was important to have the space for networking in mind. We thought each day must be a balance between “I learned something new” and “I met someone new.” After two years of watching presentations online and being unable to meet people, that was a major factor. So we decided to have at least 10 minutes between every talk for moving from stage to stage, visiting sponsor booths, getting out for fresh air, having a coffee or chatting with the people around.
To our pleasant surprise, we had very comfortable areas with couches in our venue. And as we have seen, a must-have at every conference!
“The way to a person’s heart is through their stomach.” Organizing the food was a huge thing for us and we focused on having a high-quality and delicious menu. It is an insane cost factor, but also, just as the saying goes, relevant for happy attendees. Due to the limited space of our venue, we opted for a more finger food style and supporting all ranges of diets. The attendees were happy about the food and we had almost no leftovers.
Also, we didn’t have hundreds of talk proposals, we were lucky to have the exact amount of very interesting presentations which we required for these days, including currently trending and hot topics as well as super strong speakers.
The last point of our success story, which surprised us the most, was our evening event – Bowling! It provided the perfect environment for mixing the group of people and enriching the networking, having fun and challenging each other, or taking a break and sitting with others together for a burger and a drink.
What did not go well
The first two hours of the first day were super stressful: missing a table for the speaker, HDMI cable was not long enough for presenting, some Wifi settings prevented from doing the demo, and many more small things. For everyone who organizes an event, plan it in a way that you as organizer have time to firefight and not carry any other duties. To all of you awesome attendees, thank you for your understanding when we were rushing around, and for offering us your support. In the end, a community event is carried out by the community
Another miss was a silent area or dedicated room for speakers and attendees to either attend a meeting or make last adjustments to the presentations. That’s something we didn’t have in mind at all.
Overall, we didn’t receive any complaints. Except for the coffee cups which were printed with sponsor logos. Please note, the cups were made 100% from paper, no plastic, 100% recyclable, eco-friendly ink and even the transportation was off-set. If you have a great idea for that, please let us know! Handing out glasses and cups isn’t also the best option, as they break fast and consume water for cleaning. Maybe we can get KCD-branded custom metal cups and a cleaning station. We have to think that through.
The challenges during the organization
During the organization we had three main challenges:
Finding the right venue:
The main stage with up to 200 seats, a side stage with at least 80-100, an area just for food and drinks (it was for us at the side stage, so there was no talk 30 minutes before the lunch break), and space to network and place the sponsor booth. You really need to search early for it. At least a year ahead would be fantastic.
Diverse speaker lineup:
That was a hard one. Although the Kubernetes & cloud native community is very diverse, not everyone is interested in giving talks. We had to search actively and reach out to speakers on different channels, to find a well-mixed speaker lineup. What we (all) can help with, is if you are interested in giving a talk, but it is your first time, just reach out to the organizers. They can help you with your presentation and support you with your first gig.
An event planned for October like ours was very difficult to find sponsors for. Marketing budgets were already used and as we were in the two weeks between the Oktoberfest and KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America, in addition to many other minor conferences.
Lessons learned for the next year
Start early with planning and finding sponsors, encourage your speakers to promote the KCD. Create enough room for the people to network and connect.
We have already started to plan the KCD Munich 2023 and are looking forward to making it even more fun, with more people and awesome content.