We (Irene and Jelle) run the EA Eindhoven university group and went to EAGxRotterdam (4-6 November 2022) with 16 of our members.

Our members told us they really enjoyed the conference and have plans for how they want to pursue their EA journeys. We are excited that almost all Dutch universities have EA groups now and felt EAGxRotterdam was the capstone of this year in which the Dutch EA community has really taken off.

These are some of the lessons we learned and best practices we discovered in our preparation for the conference as well as what we did during the conference itself. We hope other group organizers can benefit from these lessons too. We of course hope to visit many more EA conferences in the future and grow as community builders, which means this guide is a work in progress. We are also excited to learn about the best practices of other community builders and welcome their suggestions. Feel free to place comments!

Some things to keep in mind when reading this

Circumstance-specific things that were the case for us:

  • Our group is only a few months old, our members all became engaged with EA only recently (most of them through our Introduction Fellowship) and our two organizers were the only people who had ever attended an EA conference before. This is why we put quite a lot of effort into encouraging members to apply and helping them prepare.
  • Rotterdam is only a 1-hour train ride from Eindhoven, so it was relatively easy for us to convince members to attend. Some of our members stayed with friends or traveled back and forth every day.
  • The conference was on the weekend between two exam weeks at our university and a few of our members cited this as a reason for not applying. One of our members got accepted but never showed up to the conference in order to work on a class assignment. We really regret these things but do not know what we could have done about them.
  • Because this conference in the Netherlands was such a rare event, we also advised some members to apply even though we were not 100% sure if they were engaged enough in EA. We would probably be stricter with our advice to them about this for conferences that are further away.
    • For members who had not done an Introduction Fellowship (or equivalent), we made it clear that the conference was not going to be useful if they did not do some kind of preparation. We agreed with them that they would go over the EA Handbook and scheduled a 1-on-1 to discuss the preparation. In the end, all people who were interested were willing to do this preparation and carried it out. We spoke to them after to conference and they told us they found the conference interesting and returned with new ideas.
  • We had 3 people show up at our collective application night, which is not a lot, but they all applied. We had approximately 10 people in total show up at our preparation evenings (we hosted 2 in a student café on our campus).
  • We were both volunteers at EAGxRotterdam, had a lot of 1-on-1s scheduled and Jelle was also a speaker. Irene also met a community builder at the conference who was mainly there to guide his members, but in our case, that was not our only priority.

Encourage and help members to apply

  • Plan other programs (especially the Introduction Fellowship) so that they finish in time to still have space for promoting the conference and giving members the time to apply.
    • Pitch the conference during your programs and events
  • Host a collective application night
  • Focus on members you think would benefit most from the conference
    • Members who have already done at least an Introduction Fellowship (or equivalent)
    • Have 1-on-1s with these members
  • Make sure members know that the conference is free for students and that they can receive travel compensation if that is necessary for them. For some of our members, this was also not clear from the webpage of EAGxRotterdam, and they only applied after we repeated this message.

Help members prepare

  • Make a group chat.
  • Share information about claiming the conference ticket, preparation advice, what the schedule of an EA conference generally looks like (so they have some idea even if Swapcard has not been published yet), and ways to coordinate travel and accommodation options
  • Recommend the following EA Forum posts
  • Host a preparation event (or multiple)
    • We did this at Hubble Community Café, a student café on our campus where we also host our regular socials. We did not use a classroom in a university building because we were looking for a more casual (“gezellige”) setting.
    • Do this 1 or 2 weeks before the conference
      • Make sure Swapcard has already been published, so try to figure out when that will happen, and then plan the event at least a few days later to accommodate for delays.
    • Make sure members did and know everything from the information document shared earlier (e.g., claim their ticket, book their travel and accommodation)
      • Look for possibilities to connect members to book a room together or travel together.
    • Ask members what they are most excited about in EA and use that to let them define their goals for the conference. What do they want to learn and what (kind of) people do they want to meet?
    • Give them recommendations of talks and people you might know (from your personal knowledge/network)
      • Recommend the “First-timers at EAGx” session to first-timers
      • Also, recommend sessions like  “Lessons from early EA careers” to inexperienced EAs.
    • Go over Swapcard with them
      • Show how they can sign up for sessions
      • Show how they can filter for people in the Attendee tab or in the Attendee Data Sheet
      • Show how they can edit their availability for sessions
      • Explain that in the app, they cannot send a connection request to someone if they opened that person’s profile from a chat, but only if they click that person’s profile from the Attendee tab (this is a bug that sometimes confuses people into thinking other people are not available for chats).
    • Explain how they can schedule 1-on-1s.
      • Most people are afraid to do this, so give them courage, show them how and make sure they have sent some requests during the preparation event
      • Recommend them to send people a message that goes something like: “Hi [name]! I am [name] and [what they do in their daily life]. I saw that you [what they do/are interested in/knowledgeable about]. I am working on/interested in [question you have that they can help you with]. Would you be interested in having a chat about this? Feel free to send me a meeting request. I look forward to hearing from you! Kind regards, [name].”
    • Make sure the members going to the conference know each other at least somewhat so that they have people to hang out with during the conference

During the conference

  • If you meet members during the conference, ask them how they are doing and give them advice.
  • If they seem overwhelmed (which is of course totally understandable) make sure they know it is okay to rest and make sure they know where the nap room and chill areas are.
  • If you have some time off (or have a very uneventful volunteer shift), send members a message to let them know where you are: “I’ll be on a volunteer shift at the reception until [time], but I’m not that busy, so feel free to drop by for a chat about how you’re doing and what you’ve learned this weekend, or about anything else!”
  • Take a group picture (at the picture wall) to use for outreach materials
    • We found that a good moment for this is after the closing talk/somewhere during dinnertime on the last day of the event.
      • Some people are not there yet on Friday
      • During the conference itself, people are busy with their own schedules 
    • Make sure to ask the people in the picture for permission to use this picture in outreach materials (this is at least what the Dutch AVG law requires).
  • Make sure members have somewhere to go in the evenings (if they want to)
    • Direct them to the Signal channel of the conference or the list of unofficial/unaffiliated events
    • Invite them to go with you when you go out
      • This can be a bit hard if you are invited to a gathering of people you are affiliated with but your members are not (e.g., EA community builders), so then it is especially important to make sure they do not feel left out.

Follow up afterward

  • Encourage members to work out their notes and come up with actionable steps for the following weeks to pursue what they are most excited about.
  • Follow up with a 1-on-1 after a few weeks to give them advice and look at how you can support them.
  • Since people who have gone to an EA conference (hopefully) have a sense of the directions in EA they want to explore for their future careers, we feel they would most benefit from working on in-depth projects, with our coaching and advice. This is why we are exploring offering EA “development projects” to our members (or letting them choose their own), similar to what Per Ivar Friborg is doing at EA NTNU. This is a list of projects we have come up with so far for our group.

Note: This post is also available as a Google Doc here. Another resource we found helpful is this: Resource on EA Global and EAGx for EA Group Organizers 2022 [shared]

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2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:34 AM

Thanks so much for sharing this! This all seems like great advice to me (though I'm usually on the organising side, rather than the attending side).

Seconding Ollie's comment, thank you! I've shared this post with our local organisers.