Saturday, February 01, 2014

PHPBenelux Conference 2014 Review

Past weekend was the 5th anniversary of PHPBenelux Conference and people have known it! With close to 50 speakers, 400 attendees and a massive number of sponsors made this conference a true "epic" event. Not because of the numbers, but because of the social events after each conference day.

The theme of the conference was "Carnaval" and like you would expect from any big fair, there were arcade games, money slots and even a huge bumper car stand.

Speakers dinner

Speakers were invited to arrive on Thursday before 6pm because the crew of PHPBenelux had something "special" in mind: a speakers dinner in the national symbol of Belgium: Atomium. Due to a traffic jam I wasn't able to attend the dinner, but as I needed to try the location to see if it met our standards, I already experienced the good dinner in an awesome setting.

Tutorial sessions

On Friday morning we had no less than 7 tutorial tracks and it felt great to see the majority of our attendees were attending these tutorial sessions. Twitter was not lying, the content delivered by these speakers were of high quality and everyone enjoyed it a lot.

Conference day 1

Friday afternoon was the start of PHPBenelux Conference. An epic keynote presented by Elizabeth Marie Smith officially kicked of this 5th edition of the conference. After the keynote 3 simultaneous tracks with great speakers and contents was making it hard for our attendees to choose which track to attend.
Elizabeth Marie Smith keynoting on Mentoring Developers

Socials

The social events of PHPBenelux have always been "rememberable" and "epic", but since we lost the bowling alley, we needed to come up with something new: Bumper cars! And little did we know it was such a huge success. People walked away from it with bruises and pain in their backs, and still yelled "awesome".

Bumper cars ready to entertain
We haven't forgotten our signature "Belgian fries" and "Belgian beer" and even though people were waiting a long time in the cold, they all agreed it was all worth it.

Conference day 2

Saturday morning was the second conference day where everyone had time to recover from all the bruises and hangovers and again 3 tracks filled with great sessions was offered to our attendees. Of course the event was closed by our appreciation of speakers, staff, hotel and of course the attendees. In the evening we've provided again a social event for everyone left at the conference.

Behind the scenes

When you attend a conference, everything magically runs smoothly. But from an organiser point of view it's a whole other ballgame. To organise an event like this, you need to prepare everything months in advance. Sending out sponsor package details to companies, negotiating sponsor deals, open up the Call for Papers, selecting a selection of talks from all proposals, decide on the artwork, negotiate with suppliers, follow up on additional requests and so much more.

Picture taken by Brett Gaasbeek
PHPBenelux is a 7-man team with each person having a specific role: finance (Leon), logistics (Paul), communication (Jeroen), sponsorships (Thijs & Richard), website & mobile app (Martin) and last but not least suppliers (me). This team is truly awesome and we weren't able to set up an event like PHPBenelux Conference 2014 if it wasn't for these guys. And don't forget, all was done voluntarily after working hours in our free time, only using Skype, Google Drive and Asana.
Goodie bags and blankets
In preparation and during the event we also worked with volunteers to help us picking up and dropping of speakers at the airport and train station, at the registration desk, in the rooms and on the venue floor. So a big gratitude goes out to Lineke, Steffi, John, Michelle, Tobias, Peter, Tom & Stijn.

Even my five year old son Xander helped out a little.

Xander in charge of the flags
For 5 years we've been working closely with the staff of Ter Elst which allows us to be flexible in our food and drinks offerings, set up and tear down rooms as we need them and be very flexible when it comes down to people's requests. We can say that after 5 years we've grown towards each other becoming a well-oiled machine for organising a conference of this magnitude. So, a big "thank you" to the crew at Ter Elst.

Closing remarks

This event goes in the history books as "epic", "awesome" and "painful" (due to bumper cars). Yes, we've raised the bar for ourselves and it will be challenging to give you all a similar experience next year without repeating what we did this year. Knowing our team, we will come up with something crazy. Follow @PHPBenelux and keep an eye out for our announcements.

One piece of advice

Since we sold out the past 2 editions, be sure you buy your tickets early! If later you cannot make it to the conference, you can always cancel it up to 2 weeks before the conference. But don't wait until we have sold out…

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.