We think EAGxBerkeley went really well - both from an attendee and organiser perspective.
Here's some rough figures:
- Date: December 2nd-4th, 2022
- Location: Oakland Convention Centre, Oakland, CA
- We estimate that ~550 people attended
- 600 people registered for the conference
- 900 people applied for an acceptance rate of 67%
- Feedback indicates:
- A 8.5/10 likelihood to recommend score
- An average of 8.1 new connections per person
- ~ 50 speakers
- 110 sessions of programming (talks, panels, speed friending, meetups, office hours, etc)
- 31 Orgs represented at the Career fair
What is the purpose of this post?
This post is a a mixture of advice and an overview of the conference for people interested in how EAGx events get planned, (future) event organisers, and a general community update on the success of the event. We do have a more detailed retrospective here.
Here’s some facts about EAGxBerkeley to put it into context: We formed as a team in June 2022. We started planning the conference around then, finding the venue by the end of July. We decided on the date Dec 4th, 2022 (since that was the only weekend the conference venue had space in 2022). We then seriously started investing more time into organising by mid-August – starting with save the dates, putting together a potential speaker list and programme, and planning strategy (admissions, etc). We then moved to opening admissions (by mid-Oct), finalising speakers (done by mid-Oct), the event programme (done by end Oct / Nov 1st), finalising admissions (end-Nov), and then the additional steps of having a successful conference (career fair, hotel, pre/post events, attendee/speaker communication, volunteering, venue, catering, etc).
Our mindset going into this was to do everything early. We took the standard EAGx timeline and hoped to get everything done earlier than the EAGx Handbook suggested, so that by the time the conference came around – we (the organisers) would have nothing to do. I can’t emphasise enough how important that was in saving our well-being and health in the final weeks leading up to the conference.
Our full retrospective has details on every section of the conference - including what we did, thoughts on the process, areas for improvement, and top tips. We aren't putting that on here because then this post would be 30+ minutes of reading time, but feel free to read the full retrospective here.
Things we could have done better:
- Had a firm application close date and not accept any late entry asks after that date
- Had a firm register by date and then let in people off the waitlist
- Communication with Attendees
- Communicate more about the lack of certain meals at the conference (ex. no breakfast on Saturday)
- Communicate more clearly the hotel situation and that hotel rooms were not paid for by us on Sunday night
- Event programme
- Not scheduled content over lunch and dinner hours
- Made sure that speaker's 1-1 sessions were blocked during their office hours (there were a few instances where speakers didn't come to their office hours)
- Raised the capacity for each scheduled talk to account for people registering and then not showing up
- Run more speed friending sessions and other fun activities
- Have a corner that is marked as "looking for someone to have a spontaneous 1-1 or conversation with"
- Similarly have a community guide / friendly helping person at the registration table able to help people plan their conference, figure out who to meet, etc
- We somehow missed a bunch of nametags for attendees. No idea what happened but they somehow didn't make it on the list of nametags to be made.
- Had consistent snacks out or made it clear there was spare food in the main office / volunteer room.
- Had less fake meat protein at meals and added more fresh fruit and veggies.
Feedback Form Results:
- Likelihood to Recommend: 8.5 / 10
- Average new connections per attendee: 8.1
- 34% attendees responded
Average’s to Survey Q’s
- How likely is it that you would recommend EAGx to a friend or colleague with similar interests to your own? 8.5 / 10
- How many one-on-one meetings did you have during EAGxBerkeley? 9.5 meetings
- How many *new* connections did you make at the event? 8.11 connections
- Before EAGxBerkeley, how many people in the EA community did you know well enough to ask for a favour? 15.4 or excluding outliers, 10
- EAGx is a place where I feel welcome: 4.4 / 5
- EAGx is a place where others are open to exploring ideas that are different than those they already believe: 4.1 / 5
- EAGx is a place where individuals express their beliefs with humility: 3.8 / 5
- EAGx keeps me motivated to do good 4.4 / 5
- What percentage of your interactions with other attendees did you find valuable?
- What did you think of the "Anything but EA" hour? 7.3 / 10
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy were you with the food? 7.2 / 10
Some rough demographics
- Mainly from the U.S. / living in the U.S. - makes sense with our target group (North America)
- Average age = 25.6 yrs old
- Race/ethnicity - Predominantly white
- Gender - Predominantly male (50-60%)
Our Top Advice
Key advice for the start of the planning process:
- Get an all in one venue if possible
- The idea behind this is reducing your involvement in coordination. If the people who manage your space, food, A/V are coordinating because it's already their job, then it doesn't have to be yours.
- Talk to previous organisers
- The feedback loops on decision making can be 3-5 months long which is a long time to know if you made the right call or not. Talking to previous organisers gives you a leg up as you can synthesise learning from the people who have already made those 3-5 month long decisions and cut a lot of noise out of your decision process.
- Set team expectations, communication, and deadlines: Elika thinks the biggest failure mode comes from the team working dynamics and expectations. It’s often the case that something will happen (someone being upset, etc) - so it’s not a big deal, but having clear expectations and communication and a shared understanding can help minimise conflict. We suggest everyone write and share a ‘how to work with me’ document to understand everyone’s communication styles, everyone write down their expectations and needs (ex. how many hours can you commit, what do you want to work on, what do you absolutely not want to do, what are non-negotiables for you, etc), clarify team roles (in Elika's opinion, someone should take charge.)
- Start with a shared vision and goals: There’s a tough challenge where someone needs to own something but when someone owns it, it unfortunately often means it’s that person’s implementation – even when there’s a strong attempt to make it shared. For example, if you write an admissions strategy document, ultimately, as much as you ask for feedback and additions, it’s most likely going to be your admissions strategy that you invited the other team members to add to. Which means that the admissions process and strategy is yours – not the team's. That might be unavoidable (and at times could be preferable), so a key thing to do is set meeting times and work on strategy and goals together so that if someone is to take ownership, everyone can trust that the product will be aligned with the strategy you have all set.
- EAGx's carry momentum; a lot of people are going to your location to meet people, get engaged in the community, do fun things in a new town. You should work with this put together social activities / hang outs for people to do exactly that. These events will naturally be much smaller which leads to a couple of advantages:
- The attendees are having more opportunities to interact with other EA's (what was your reason for hosting an EAGx in the first place?)
- Since these are smaller, these are perfect to delegate and especially to people who are curious in trying out event ops. As an organiser who is handing this task off, it's not very much overhead to give advice if they get stuck planning a party / event / etc.
- On top of that, these pre / post events being smaller means that it's low stakes for the person who wants to try out event ops, but also relatively low time / cost to set up and because of that relatively impactful for bringing new people together and the friendships that are made.
- To wrap this up: the above two reasons show that pre / post events are relatively easy and (in Mat's opinion) worthwhile to make happen. A couple of things that would be helpful for the EAGx organiser:
- Template to send to the organiser of each of these events with things like: Community Health policy, funding constraints, etc. (A more or less standardised version of this wouldn't be the worst for CEA to pass along OR have one that's communally given from one to another.
- Have a single list of all these events that are happening for ease of sharing with your participants. (This also is handy for checking in on the leader of each event.)
- There’s going to be a bunch of stuff that isn’t on the key list of things to do list that just comes up. When it comes up, decide who's doing it and what the process is.
There's lots more detailed information and reflections in our full retrospective. Thanks to Ollie Base and the CEA EAGx team for all their help supporting us, the conference, and providing feedback on this post.
This was an hour where scheduling 1-1s on Swapcard were blocked and there was no educational content was scheduled. We had activities like meditation, games, art, tag, etc scheduled and on Swapcard. This happened on Saturday and Sunday. The point of this was to encourage attendees to take a break, hangout with other attendees, and have fun outside of talking about EA.