Organizing a conference effectively

And how Droidcon Boston did it brilliantly

Kunal Bhatia
Published in
4 min readMar 29, 2018

Conferences are under attack. There’s no alternative to face-to-face meetings, but many argue you can tap into the best thinkers online. Consequently, there’s more pressure than ever before to put on a great event that can cross-pollinate diverse ideas. It takes a lot of work to craft the agenda, speakers and attendees. The logistics of putting on a conference can be a distraction that overshadows the people and content (which is the main reason anybody even goes to such events!).

At SlidesUp, we believe that conference organizers need to focus on the content. That’s why we’ve built tools for people who organize conferences like Droidcon Boston, an Android app development conference. Curating the list of talks and speakers was a challenge for the Droidcon Boston organizers. Once finalized, they had to quickly share this list with their attendees in a digestable way. SlidesUp partnered with Droidcon Boston to tackle common problems conference organizers face: collaboration, publishing an agenda, and speaker management.

Stop crippling collaboration with too many tools

It takes a team to put on a great event. While there are few tools built specifically for organizing conferences, what do organizers do? They currently use a smorgasbord of tools to capture information about the events they’re putting together including Excel, Evernote, Asana, and Google Drive. Managing many tools slows down efforts to stay in sync with your team and speakers.

None of the tools listed above are built for conference organizers. Organizers need tools that, e.g., help them vote on speakers to accept into the program. What’s the best way then to get the right tools?

Tip: Pick tools that simplify your conference’s major activities like sharing agendas or organizing the speaker selection process.

Tool selection has serious implications that can make the difference between needing a large team vs. getting more done with a small team. SlidesUp served as a hub for Droidcon Boston’s planning, keeping the latest agenda in a central place. Everybody on the team gets a login and voila — it’s like Google Drive specifically for conference agendas!

Publish your speaker list as early as possible

Your speakers help you sell tickets and get the community excited. However, how do you select the right speakers and talks quickly after you close your call for submissions? Every member from your team needs to apply raw brute force to thoroughly review submissions. This review is fatiguing and ironically, not thorough.

Once you select all your speakers, it’d be helpful for your attendees to put together a page for each speaker. SlidesUp removes the headache of doing this manually. Out of the box, it simply aggregates all talks by a speaker and puts them on one easy-to-follow page. Droidcon Boston used SlidesUp Speaker Embeds, which required no extra effort on their part:

I started by promoting the first few speakers we brought on, and added more information about them as it came in. It’s challenging enough to get to that point, but the greater challenge is handling last-minute drop-outs and changes. SlidesUp made it easy for us to move things around quickly and not worry about syncing changes with our internal team, the website, and the mobile app.

Giorgio Natili, Organizer, Droidcon Boston 2018

Speaker Embeds from SlidesUp fit seamlessly into your conference website.

Maintain an up-to-date agenda

The conference agenda is the centerpiece of any conference. As such, it’s also the toughest thing to put together. Organizers often have many sessions running simultaneously. They’re also making last minute changes they need to sync across all channels, including web, mobile, and sometimes print.

Tip: use tools that let you automatically lay out your agenda like a calendar. You’ll be able to see conflicts visually and fix problems with your agenda much faster.

SlidesUp Agenda is a syncing wiz — it keeps your master agenda in one place that’s accessible to the whole organizing team. Once you’re ready to publish, there’s very little work to put the agenda on your website and mobile app. Need to make changes because a speaker dropped out or a scheduling conflict causes a swap? No problem — make the change once and see it instantly sync to the web and mobile.

The Droidcon Boston team powered their agenda with SlidesUp, which freed their team to think more about the content:

We saved a crazy amount of time using SlidesUp. Instead of needing a team to help me build our agenda from scratch and manage changes, I could do everything myself. SlidesUp did the heavy lifting.

Garima Jain, Co-organizer, Droidcon Boston 2018

Agendas Embeds from SlidesUp are laid out optimally for your agenda so you don’t have to worry about designing it to work on every device.

These are a few things we learned while partnering with Droidcon Boston to make a great event for Android developers. As you’ve put together your own conferences, what made you successful? How did you collaborate across your team, keep your agenda in sync and manage your speakers?

👉 Want to simplify your conference planning? Get SlidesUp here.



Kunal Bhatia

Product Designer • @SlidesUp (@ycombinator SUS'17) to help you at conferences