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Floor Drees
Floor Drees

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What 3rd party events are interesting for my DevRel organisation?

What's when you're tasked to create a list of 3rd party events you want (your DevRel organization) to engage with - to sponsor, attend, and/or speak at. What's when that list you're creating is a net new knowledge base?

The investigation commences

You might want to start with asking the people who'd go to events before you joined the organization. Certainly, in smaller / startup companies, that might have been the founders, or a community-active engineer. Maybe there's information in a wiki somewhere. In emails, if you're unlucky.

Establish what space you're in. Say you're in developer tools, who else is in your space? What conferences do they list on their community page / write about on their blog? Is it interesting to show up as well, or would you rather double down on alternatives, if there are any?

Look at what events / parties advertise or get promoted in your industry's newsletters and podcasts. What events are the champions of your community speaking at? Reach out to community members who frequently speak at events. Ask them what events they consider submitting a proposal to. Close the loop by providing them with your list once it's finished - maybe there are events in there they hadn't thought of yet and you scale your efforts!

Map your stack. Find the conferences for your frontend and backend languages at confs.tech and other listicles (like Sessionize or Papercall for CfPs). If you're looking at the year next, and it's not December yet, it's definitely worthwhile to dive into the confs.tech repo and check the entries for years past. The last couple of years were weird, what with COVID-19 and online events - but also many cancelled events. You might want to go a couple years back to find events that might just come back when stuff's in-person again.

Ask partners and customers what events they're looking at or organizing. Considering again that you're in the developer tools space, partners might have flagship events they look for speakers and case studies for.

Look at your more popular integrations, find our if you can engage with the events the party at the other end of the API organizes.

Are you the decision-maker?

Can you decide what event to sponsor, or will you need to provide data to someone else for making a decision? Is it all about sponsoring, or would you contribute with time, or even ask others to contribute their time to an event. You’ll most likely need to show them value.

Consider sponsor packages carefully, and consider what type of engagement will have most effect. A speaking slot? A booth? Read more about getting the most out of your sponsorship (excuse the shameless plug). Request sponsorship prospecti (plural) for all the conferences on your list, and see how you can get the most bang for your proverbial buck.

You will want to consider other factors as well, like diversity in the line-up of speakers, whether or not the event has a Code of Conduct, or made arrangements for accessibility (such as closed captioning, or sign language interpretation, a conference buddy, wheelchair accessible facilities, etc).

The format then. Whatever. This could be a spreadsheet. Or a fancy Airtable. Whatever works for you. Nevertheless, you can see there's quite a bit of manual labor involved in all of this.

The magic then

I did however speak to my dear friend Jan Schenk about all this. Turns out he was asked to create a prioritized list of industry and community events by his new employer, Postman. He created a decision table (using Whimsical if you must know), with some non-negotiables - like: CoC and fair representation of URMs, but I can imagine for smaller companies budget restrains might show up here as well - to then proceed to calculate a rating. Starting with 100 points, points would be subtracted or added based on how well events met the criteria.

A spreadsheet wasn't fit for the kind of magic he expected, so he went over to Airtable. Wrangling the Airtable API with Postman, he built his first collection, called 'sponsoring viability', put in variables like the Airtable ID, and collected all event IDs from the table specified. When run, what returns is a JSON array, and from there on you can calculate the rating per event and have Postman write the outcome to a column in Airtable that you the specified.

Jan went even further. Using runner, he can iterate through the entire array and define viability for each and every event on the list. With rating fields populated, once a certain threshold (rating) is reached, events that qualify are marked with a simple 'yes'.

I especially love what he did afterwards, creating a Typeform event organizers can fill out when they request sponsoring from Postman, that feeds into Airtable, further reducing the work on his side.

So what?

I think Jan's solution is great, especially when you're in a large space, with a lot of players. I'll definitely try and get it to work for me, to get a short list of events I can then work with.

I invest a lot of my personal time organizing conferences and meetups, and helping other event organizers do better in terms of diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. Sometimes I might help a conference qualify because it's in my employers interest when they succeed - and because it's the right thing to do. But the one thing (automation) doesn't exclude the other (community work), and I'm excited about the focus a little automation can bring.

Jan wrote a step-by-step tutorial on the Postman blog.

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