Guest post by Senthil Raja Chermapandian, Organizer, KCD Chennai 2023
Kubernetes Community Days Chennai 2023 finally concluded on 22nd July 2023; a day of learning and networking with Kubernetes and Cloud Native professionals from across India. I had the privilege of leading the organizing team of Chennai’s first in-person KCD and am here to pen down our experience with organizing this highly successful conference.
In 2022, we did an online event, primarily due to the then prevailing uncertainties around the pandemic, and also in part due to it being our inaugural event. At that time, we collectively felt an online event made the most sense for all the stakeholders.
When we kick-started the planning for the 2023 event, almost 8 months ago, I was determined the event should bring value to everyone involved: Organizers, Volunteers, Sponsors, Speakers, Attendees and CNCF. After all, everyone would be expending valuable resources: time, effort and money.
Chennai is home to several SaaS companies and has a booming population of IT professionals ranging from Developers, DevOps, Architects, Engineers, ITDMs and CxOs. There are several tech meetup communities in Chennai; some active and some not-so-active. We felt the “demand” for a KCD was right in front of our eyes and all we need to do is “supply” to this demand.
For 2023, we took an audacious decision to do a full-blown in-person event, in a spacious, world-class conferencing facility (Chennai Trade Centre). In order to deliver value, we strongly felt it was imperative to give attendees, speakers and sponsors a memorable experience with KCD Chennai. The venue was a key part of providing value and a memorable experience. Despite having no committed sponsors we went ahead and booked the venue.
After much debate within the Organizing team we settled to have this a paid event i.e. attendees need to purchase tickets. We had altogether five different ticket types: Early bird, Popular, Standard, Robust and Last minute. We kept it this way to incentivise attendees who purchased tickets early. We did 3 flash sales, offering 10% discount on prices, neatly coinciding with important dates: (i) June 7th: First commit made to Kubernetes Github repo, (ii) June 20th: Agenda was published, (iii) July 13th: Kubernetes v1.0.0 was released.
We witnessed registrations from Chennai and several adjoining cities. 100 early bird tickets got sold out in just 5 days. Our original target was 400 registrations, but we ended up getting sold-out with 500 registrations. Altogether 424 persons attended the event on 22-July, a healthy turn-out ratio of 85%.
We conducted 11 pre-event workshops (both on-line and in-person) that served the dual purpose of community learning and spreading the word across. We roped in altogether 9 community partners and set expectations with the community leads on their roles and responsibilities. Every community partner received 2 complimentary tickets to the conference. One person from our organizing team came forward to lead the community collaboration and that helped us actively interface and work together with the community partners to drive registrations.
We conducted a pre-event Blogathon contest that resulted in a whopping 25 blog posts published in kcdchennai.in/blogs. The winner’s blog post was accepted for publishing in CNCF blogs. The winner was rewarded with a CKA exam voucher provided by CNCF for supporting KCD events.
We received 79 CFP submissions from India, Sri Lanka and SF. The event agenda had 1 panel discussion, 2 keynotes, 9 presentations (30 minutes) and 4 Lightning talks (15 minutes). Though initially sponsors were reluctant to come forward, we ended up having five sponsors supporting the event (Tata communications, Nginx F5, SnappyFlow, Zoho & Talentship). Three sponsors had booths setup in the reception area of the venue.
We ordered a customized memento for every speaker, with their name engraved on it. Mementos are an integral part of Chennai’s deep-rooted culture of thanking guests of honor. And we chose a design that was an amalgamation of traditional wood work and contemporary trophy-like styling. A few attendees at the event provided valuable feedback on things to improve in the next event. Those feedback will be carefully considered for KCD Chennai 2024.
Admittedly, a sizable amount of credit should go to Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) itself. Over the years, the foundation has painstakingly built an enormous eco-system of open source projects, maintainers, mentors, mentees, users, enthusiasts etc. Organizations, Developers and DevOps professionals are more-or-less locked-in into Containers, Kubernetes and all the other CNCF projects that augment Kubernetes. So naturally a CNCF-backed, community-organized Kubernetes and Cloud Native conference is something many would want to attend, speak at and sponsor.
Organizing high-stakes events like KCDs is tough and arduous. It requires determination and courage within the organizers to navigate the ups and downs and keep progressing towards the end goal. Gaining the trust of CNCF, sponsors, speakers and attendees was crucial for the success of the event. And there were plenty of activities to be thought-out, discussed, debated, detailed-out and executed. I believe KCD Chennai 2023 brought value to everyone involved and provided a memorable experience.
See you in KCD Chennai 2024. Meanwhile, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn!