PGDay.EU 2009 - it's a wrap

I'm currently sitting on my flight home from Paris CDG, after a couple of very hectic days. It's going to be a couple of days (which in reality is going to drag out into a couple of weeks due to other work engagements and then travel for the JPUG conference) before it'll be possible to completely evaluate the conference and things around it, but here's what I have so far.

I'm going to leave the evaluation of the talks themselves to somebody else. There were many others of the "regular PostgreSQL bloggers" present at the conference and we've already seen some posts around it. Hopefully there will be more, both in French and English. If you are blogging about this and your blog isn't already up on Planet PostgreSQL, please consider adding it so that the community at large gets notification of your posts.

Let's start with the numbers. We had 192 people registered for the conference. About a dozen of those never showed up, but we also had a number of at-the-door registrations, slightly under 10. We had more people attend on the Friday with an estimated 180-185 people, and probably around 165-170 people on Saturday. (Yes, we had a slight failure with the "database keeping" during registrations, so the numbers are slightly fuzzing. No we didn't use PostgreSQL for this - we used good-old paper-and-pen, which can have some serious concurrency issues when scaling to multiple people handling registration, and when some people "self-register" by just picking up their badge due to the heavy load.

Of the attendees, 60 percent where from somewhere in France. An estimated 15 percent where from Paris itself (based on the City part of the registered address, which may well exclude a number of people living fairly close). This indicates that while the attendance of PGDay.EU is locally centered, we clearly have an impressive number of people travel from all over Europe to attend. Stating that it's a European conference rather than a French one is definitely correct.

The original plan that we have at least one complete track in French and one complete track in English held up well. In fact, we even had two complete tracks in English on the second day. The only thing not available in French was the lightning talks session, and from the turnout it looks like that was the correct thing to do - we still had a very large presence of our French attendees to this shared session. The fact that we had comments from a couple of our attendees along the line of "it was very nice that there were always talks available in French. Since it's a European conference, I expected all the talks to be in English." indicates that keeping a strong local track available is important to making this type of an event a success. In many slots the majority of the French attendees went to English language talk, which indicates that many people will choose purely based on the talk content - even if they don't speak English very good, they can still appreciate a good speaker in that language.

We had speakers from all over the world. Obviously, the most well represented conutry amongst the speakers was France, with French speakers delivering sessions in both French and English. Many other European countries were also represented, for example the UK, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Finland and Spain. We were also happy to have no less than three speakers over from the United States, two of who are very well known in the PostgreSQL global community. Finally, we had no less than four speakers come over from Japan - which becomes even more impressive when you realize that the Japanese PostgreSQL Users Group, whom these people represented, is running their large 10-anniversary international conference ust next week! A huge thanks goes out to all our speakers, both local and international. Without such a fantastic speaker lineup, this conference would have been nowhere near as attractive as it was.

The sessions spanned every possible subject related to PostgreSQL, directly or indirectly. Proportionally, we saw a big increase in GIS (particularly PostGIS of course) related talks, which also had several more talks on the reserve list that we just didn't have enough slots for. This indicates a very rapidly increasing area of PostgreSQL usage - which seems to be extra strong in the European area. Speaking to both our speakers and attendee list, we also see a lot of government agencies from around Europe who are either already using this or seriously evaluating.

While the accounting for the conference is not completely summed up yet, we can already with complete certainty say that the conference was an economical success. Our goal was to "fill the coffers" of PostgreSQL Europe and PostgreSQLFR, so that we will both have money to use for promotional activities in general and also to have a buffer for future conferences that will hopefully allow us to do things like speaker sponsorship on a broader level.

This was the first PGDay.EU to actually charge for entrance to the conference, even though the feed was only €60 (with discounts for students or single day visitors, of course). This was actually not done mainly in order to get money in, but rather aimed at being sure we had firm numbers for how many people showed up. It turned out to be very successful for this - we had a less than 10%25 difference between number of people showing up and number of people having registered. This made planning for everything from t-shirts to catering a lot easier. For example, I think we closed the conference with less than 5 extra t-shirts on the tables.

The €60 can be said to be about enough to cover the catering costs, which included lunch both days and several coffee-breaks (with pastries and cookies and many tasty things). The rest of the money coming into the conference came from our sponsors. We got significantly more and more generous sponsors than we originally thought and budgeted for, which has really helped us to get the positive result while still prividing all the things we wanted for the conference. We sincerely hope, and believe, that we were able to deliver a proper business value back to these sponsors for the money they gave us, and that they will be interested in participating in future PostgreSQL events as well.

Speaking of catering. Thank you Ivanne et Sidonie. The catering you delivered was great, both when it comes to the actual food and snacks themselves, and when it comes to the service. This was definitely one of the best conference catering I've ever experienced, and I will recommend them to anybody without hesitating a moment. The fact that they did it at a very nice price obviously helps, but I will dare anybody to find anything wrong with it. I guess the only thing could be that we had too much of the food, but I am happy to notice that a good usage for this food was found instead of just throwing it away!

Now that I'm writing about people, the final group that really needs credit for this is of course the conference organization staff. It was really a team effort! We had a long-term team who have been working on this for about half a year, initially at a slow pace and increasing to ludicrous speed towards the end, with people from across Europe (with some occasional guest-starring from the United States as well). Thankfully, a number of people from both PostgreSQLFr and other parts of Europe showed up on the day before the conference or the morning it started to offload some tasks from the main team here. Thank you so much - without that offload, there is no way that the conference had gone so smoothly.

Finally, I'd like to once again single out two people whose presence on the ground in Paris really made a huge difference. Damien Clochard and Guillaume Lelarge - without you, I doubt we could've done this. Especially since you did both the on the ground parts and at least as big a part as most of the rest of us in the stuff that didn't require people on the ground. Thanks guys - now get some sleep!

Over to the venue. Telecom ParisTech joined us as a Gold Sponsor, and in return we paid €0 for the venue. Which was really great - in fact, two of the rooms were so newly refurbished that they didn't quite finish one of them until the day before the conference! After a few changes back and forth about which rooms we were going to get, I think we ended up getting the right ones - I noticed rooms being completely full, but not overcrowded so there were no seats.

So what's next? We'll leave the feedback forms up for a while longer, and then we'll tally up the results. If you haven't already, please fill out your feedback!. The slides from all the talks are being uploaded to the PostgreSQL wiki one by one. Then we have to summarize what we've learned, and get ready for next years PGDay.EU in Amsterdam!

Photos? They're on their way from several sources!


So happy to hear about the great turnout. Very sad that I could not attend this year, but hope that I will be able to next year.

I'm very excited to see that this conference had so many representatives from around the world, and also wish to thank the conference committee!

These community conferences would not be possible without hundreds of hours of volunteer work from the committees that run them. Few, if any, of us are professional conference organizers -- so each conference tends to be a learning experience for the organizers, and requires a great deal of patience and good humor.

These conferences are created by open source advocates who really love our software and our community. And the quality of the conference talks shows that. :)


Posted on Nov 8, 2009 at 21:09 by Selena Deckelmann.

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I speak at and organize conferences around Open Source in general and PostgreSQL in particular.



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