NIXMultiConf: How We Organize the Largest Free Tech Conference in Ukraineblog Roman Piluta April 16, 2020
NIXMultiConf is the largest free tech conference in Ukraine. It started from a small Meetup for PHP developers in 2012 and developed into the biggest gathering of IT specialists in Ukraine, representing a dozen tech and management professions. Among the reasons to do this, the most important for us, include the development of the local tech community, realization of the NIX experts’ potential and letting students and junior specialists get up-to-date knowledge based on our 25 years of practical experience. Today we are happy to reveal everything about our conferences.
How everything started
Way back in the year 2012, NIX was much smaller than it is today but already had almost 20 years of professional expertise in software development. Anton Shevchuk, a former PHP team lead (currently a Head of Ruby Department), realized that the expertise of his department was large and diverse enough to be shared with people outside the company. He noticed that the guys from his team had grown into confident experts and were ready to exchange their knowledge and skills.
At that time, Anton had taught students on the internal NIX courses, attended various conferences and educational events as a speaker himself, so he had a certain image of how a good conference for software developers could look like. It was also Anton who suggested we organize the first Meetup for PHP developers, ThinkPHP, which has gradually grown into our famous NIXMultiConf.
Why we do this?
The short answer is simple – because we like it. A longer one is pretty complicated. There are multiple reasons for us to engage in this uber demanding process. Here are a few of them.
- Exchange knowledge
We thought our knowledge and expertise can be of use not only within the company but also for other developers in the city. So why not share it?
- Develop the local IT community
The first meet up was first for both the company and the city. When we saw a hall packed full of attendees of ThinkPHP #1, we were super happy. However, after a few conversations with the visitors, we realized that even more lies ahead. They asked us whether there will be more meetups and whether we plan to extend the thematics of presentations on other tech domains. This helped us realize that our city, being the largest IT hub in the country, lacks a discussion platform for the IT community. The guys had no space to discuss relevant industry issues, share experiences, ask for advice, make new connections, and simply communicate with each other. This motivated us to create such a space.
- Let our experts grow
The NIX specialists never stop learning and, therefore, attend the most famous world tech conferences and educational events. They gain the most relevant knowledge and apply it in their projects. However, this is only one side of the coin. Another aspect of their professional growth consists in spreading this information within other specialists, and they do this at our conferences. Sharing knowledge with the audience and answering their – often unexpected and complicated – questions, the NIX experts realize their potential, develop professionally and find new directions for further development.
- Grow further
Before we started, we had many years of experience, rich expertise, a desire to organize external events and great enthusiasm. Therefore, we built the organization of our first meetup on 4 pillars:
- solid development experience;
- innovative and practically applicable presentation topics;
- a couple of personal Twitter accounts;
- high hopes for word of mouth.
And it worked both ways at once – we opened the era of IT events in the city and realized that they were developing not only the industry but also ourselves. This was our third reason to engage in this – we wanted to develop further, do more, try ourselves in new directions.
The past 6 years of organizing the meetups have helped us grow. We continued to develop new directions and accumulated solid statistics:
- 35 conferences;
- 105 presentations;
- around 315 answers to questions from the audience;
- 1 large move into a more spacious location.
All this preceded the beginning of a new era – NIXMultiConf. As time has passed, our expertise as specialists has grown, new technologies developed and we explored them, learned how to use and implemented in practice. The expertise in new domains motivated us to share our new knowledge with other people. Together with the growing professionalism grew the scale of our conferences.
- Let everyone know
In the beginning was the idea, and then – everything else. To be honest, the idea was clear – to combine 11 directions into one large conference – NIXMultiConf. However, we still had to deal with everything else, rolling up our sleeves. As practice has shown, organizing a conference for around a thousand people is like holding a meetup for hundreds of participants, only the scale of complexity is increasing.
An event of this magnitude attracts much more interest. This flattered, and at the same time, added responsibility. We did as we liked and knew how to do that. This helped us solve all the challenges:
- select and prepare speakers;
- suggest topics relevant to the industry;
- draw up and fit (!) into the budget;
- negotiate with contractors;
- check and recheck equipment a dozen times;
- work on the style and design of everything from badges to gift bags of participants.
In May 2018, the first NIXMultiConf was held. Then Kharkov developers got the opportunity to get acquainted with topics from 11 IT domains within one day. And after just 1.5 years, in October 2019, NIXMultiConf #3 gathered together 4,000 online and 2500 offline participants on one site. 99% of the registered people visited the event. For comparison, the average attendance rate for free events reaches 60% at best, and 30% at worst. Paid events (especially prepaid) attend to 95% of those registered. Ours is absolutely free of charge.
NIXMultiConf: progress in figures
NIXMultiConf is an important part of our strategy for the development of the Kharkiv and greater Ukrainian IT community. From the moment the company was launched, we help junior professionals in finding their place in IT, choosing their own direction of development, develop education curricula together with universities and share our expertise. We have already developed our own approach to training; tested by 25 years of practical experience.
Moreover, several years of experience in organizing smaller events and several months of pure effort made it possible to turn a regular conference into a multi-platform event for live communication with the leading developers of the city. We are convinced that communicating and exchanging experience, rather than teaching, is the key to the success of all our events.
Within 1.5 years, the figures continued to grow:
- we started with 1315 participants at the first event;
- enjoyed seeing 2348 people after the second;
- Jumped with joy when 4032 online participants came to the third event, and another 2533 people joined us offline.
During this time other figures have grown too:
- speakers – from 16 to 27;
- sessions – from 6 to 11;
- the duration of the event – from 1 to 2.5 days.
And of course, there are no brakes: we don’t plan to stop.
All this time we are improving: learning from our mistakes, listening to the opinions of the participants, expanding the scope of presentations, searching for fresh topics and new ways to reach the audience.
At the same time, we watched how the city’s IT community has been forming and growing. How Kharkov turned into the IT center of Ukraine, and its experts are hired by such large corporations as Amazon, Microsoft, or Twitter. Our expertise brought results – yesterday’s juniors became today’s masters and released their own projects. Over eight years of organizing small meetups and large conferences, we have fostered a stable loyal community that values our events: 9.6 out of 10 is the overall assessment of the events by the participants.
From the first ThinkPHP, we have been tracking statistics for meetups and conferences. Summing up the results of the year 2019, we were happy. In 7 years, the event team managed to do what we were just dreaming about in 2012. Now we have a large, specialized community of more than 4,000 developers, quality assurance specialists, designers, project managers, business analysts, and of course, students and junior specialists who evolve into strong professionals together with MultiConf.
There is one more reason behind our swelling pride – in every tenth CV, our applicants indicate that they became interested in the company thanks to the conference.
This year, we decided to go even further and make NIXMultiConf #4 even bigger: invite foreign speakers, expand it with Python and Data Science directions, focus on online broadcasts and add a lot of other cool features.
We’re looking forward to introducing the upgraded NIXMultiConf #4 to the world!