This report is about the details that put together was CSSconf Nordic 2016. A lot has been published before, but it's now collected here for overview. The goal is to be transparent to the community — but also to help out other organizers by explaining how things were done for this event.
CSSconf Nordic 2016
All about the money
- What we learned
CSSconf Nordic 2016
- Wednesday 01 June 2016 in Oslo, Norway
- Community conference, not for profit
- One day, one track, 8 speakers, audience of ~200
- Venue: Dansens hus
Part of the international CSSconf family
The first week of June 2016, there were 3 conferences happening in Oslo: CSSconf, Web Rebels and NodeConf. More about the background in this post about the 5th Anniversary Edition of Web Rebels. These are separate conferences, but some things were coordinated between the events. This includes for example venue booking, accounting, and ticket sales.
- Wednesday 01 June → CSSconf Nordic
- Thursday 02 and Friday 03 June → Web Rebels
- Saturday 04 June → NodeConf Oslo
…with support from
- Website for the important basic information — cssconf.no
- Twitter for notifications and random messages — @cssconfno
- A newsletter for anyone interested in updates
- Event was also registered on Lanyrd
- Github for guide to Oslo, info to speakers and other things like this report
- …and for organizers to procrastinate from managing spreadsheets to post coffee photos instead: Instagram
All about the money
CSSconf Nordic is a not-for-profit community conference. Speaking at CSSconf Nordic was an unpaid volunteer gig for all speakers. Travel to Oslo for our speakers and accomodation was covered. This was at the top of the priority list, with venue also considered quite critical to put on the event. The rest ended up on a wish list. Coffee and lunch made the cut, while things like T-shirts, drinks or dinner for all did not. The event was organized entirely by unpaid volunteers.
A ticket cost NOK 2100, with the option of getting a discounted combo-ticket at NOK 7200 for all three conferences. We were very proud to have tickets this affordable. After deducting 25% VAT and ticketing fees, income from each ticket sold looked like this:
- NOK 1600 x 96 people with single tickets
- NOK 1450 x 55 people with discounted combo-tickets
The event was mainly financed with ticket sales. This was not the original plan, but we struggled a lot with getting sponsors. We had sponsor packages set up at 60K, 20K and 10K — but only succeeded in signing three sponsors at the lowest tier.
|Spend on what||NOK|
Who got what
- Speakers: travel, accomodation, a couple of dinners
- Crew: accomodation, a couple of dinners
- Everyone: lunch card and coffee/tea
Web Rebels organized and paid for a dinner for speakers at all three conferences. There were some leftover lunch cards that Ida and Elisabeth spent on a dinner together Saturday evening.
The conference has covered speakers’ travel to Oslo, except for one where the employer paid for the flight. All visitors were invited to stay at the hotel for at least up to 5 nights. With various travel wishes their bookings varied from 3 to 6 nights, and with a double room for those travelling with someone else. The expenses per speaker were not identical, but we did our best to be fair.
09:00 — Håkon Wium Lie: Why CSS was invented
09:45 — Aga Naplocha: A Creative Approach to SVG
11:00 — Dan Na: Transitioning to Sass at Scale
11:45 — Rachel Nabors: Alice in Web Animations API Land
13:30 — Jen Simmons: Revolutionize Your Page: Real Art Direction on the Web
14:15 — Liam Campbell: Mad Science with CSS
15:30 — Eva Ferreira: Raiders of the Lost Transforms
16:15 — Lena Reinhard: Existing in the Tech Industry
17:00 — Group photo! …and then it’s a wrap.
19:00 — Social meet and greet for CSSconf and Web Rebels attendees
Slides and links
- Aga Naplocha: A Creative Approach to SVG
- Dan Na: Transitioning to Sass at Scale
- Rachel Nabors: Alice in Web Animations API Land
- Eva Ferreira: Raiders of the Lost Transforms
- Lena Reinhard: Existing in the Tech Industry: How to cope with the pressure of a fast-paced environment
- The Experimental Layout Lab of Jen Simmons
- Website of Liam Campbell
- Sketchnotes from all the talks by @filtercake
The talk selection process
The talk selection process included a Call for Speakers (CfS) in combination with some speakers being invited directly. This is not something that was used to differentiate, or make further mention about from the organizer’s side. But speakers themselves were of course free to talk about how they ended up in the lineup any way they want to.
Call for Speakers
- Opened on: 23 December 2015
- Closed on: 31 January 2016
- Notification date: 15 Febuary 2016
- Call for Speakers information page
- Submission form with Wufoo
We put a lot of thought into the CfS and were proud of the result. We got 104 submissions from 85 people. Over 30% of those were women. But we saw afterwards, that we should have done more work to increase the number of proposals from outside Northern America / Europe.
Anonymized first round
We all have biases and the best we can do at times, is to make them conscious. Inspired by the talk selection process at CSSconf EU, we voted on the titles without looking at any names for the first round. We also waited until the Cfs was closed before looking at any entry to give everyone the same chance regardless of when they submitted.
Input from others
We enlisted help from 8 others to review 40 shortlisted talks. Our group rated talks anonymously — only seeing title & summary of submissions. This feedback from different people was a huge help. Sometimes confirming our own anonymized rating, sometimes making us reconsider. Perhaps we could’ve had a bigger group, but our 8 reviewers had very varied opinions, so it felt like we got a solid foundation.
The talk selection process covers all the details, and was published while the CfP was open, in an attempt to be transparent about the process for people considering to submit.
- 50 tickets sold 26.02. (1st drop)
- 80 tickets sold 04.03. (2nd drop)
- 104 tickets sold 11.03. (3rd drop)
- 120 tickets sold by 23.03.
- 130 tickets sold by 21.04.
- 151 tickets sold by 30.05.
48 additional conference passes were made for speakers, crew and guests from Web Rebels & NodeConf. Total head count: 199.
It would have been interesting to know more about the audience, but unfortunately we sort of forgot to ask the attendees about those details at signup. We know that most were from Oslo, but also that people came from other cities and outside Norway.
Looking just at ticket holders’ names, our guesstimate is that we had ~15% women who bought tickets to CSSconf Nordic. Speakers and crew increased the percentage for the audience overall to ~20% women.
We sent out a feedback form after the conference. We received a lot of useful comments from these questions:
- How did you find the program overall? Topics, length, balance of narrow/broad, technical level, usefulness etc.
- Is there anything the speakers talked about that you are still thinking about?
- What worked and what should be fixed? Ticket sales, information, coffee, lunch, venue etc.
- Is there anything else you want to tell us?
We got 43 replies. Mostly very positive from happy attendees, and a lot of general constructive feedback. It’s really fun for us to see that all the eight talks were mentioned several times. We interpret this to mean that for the majority: the program was balanced and there was something for everyone. For a couple of people, talks didn’t live up to their expectations on technical level or variety of topics. One person reported the event as being a negative experience for them. Everyone agreed that the room was too hot.
- Would you recommend CSSConf Nordic to a friend?
- Absolutely – 30
- Maybe – 11
- Not really – 2
What we learned
Slack is awesome. We can’t remember how anyone ever got anything done before. If you are a limited number of people involved and have good communication going, you can plan an entire conference on Slack with a distributed team. Ida and Elisabeth met up one weekend in Stockholm in December, and one weekend in Oslo in February.
Co-ordinating with other events is difficult. If you are 10+ people organizing multiple conferences, there will be stuff that is hard to deal with. With organizing happening on everyone’s spare time, on left-over energy and between everything else going on in their lives… it’s not an easy feat to land on the same page.
Get a volunteer for the website. It worked great to have a volunteer in charge of the website and design. Steph did a wonderful job, and it sounds like she was super happy with being involved in this way.
Getting sponsors is hard. For global companies, it helps to write excellent applications.
Getting women to submit talks is easy. We originally thought that this must be super hard, given other conf lineups. Turns out you just need to put some proper effort into an awesome Call for Speakers. You need to be informative and encouraging, clear about your expectations and transparent about the talk selection process. And you must pay for travel and accomodation.
Get a top notch MC. Not a “professional entertainer”, but someone from within the community. They know the audience, can ask better questions and make funnier jokes — and they can handle any issues that arise. H/t to Bodil for suggesting Jenn, who was a champ on stage the whole day, and made it possible for us as organizers to enjoy the day.
Organizing a conference is more work than you expect, even when you take that into account. It’s also a lot of fun, very rewarding and we totally recommend it. Hopefully this report can help new organizers get started with their events.
Thanks again to attendees, speakers and sponsors for joining us in Oslo for CSSconf Nordic 2016.
All the best, Elisabeth & Ida November 2016