Virtual Conference Swag

by Josh Wulf on Nov 26 2020 in Community.

One of the things that I love about being a Developer Advocate is attending and speaking at conferences. I loved that as a developer - in fact, I first met (now, fellow-) Camunda Developer Advocate Niall Deehan at the Camunda booth when speaking at NDC Oslo, in 2017.

A essential part of the conference experience is getting some cool swag. My wardrobe is literally 70% conference and swag t-shirts.

But as a Developer Advocate, I get to be one of the people handing out cool swag (as well as still snagging some cool stuff while I’m there).

The recent move to online events has changed the world - creating some constraints, but also opening some novel possibilities:

Recently, I spoke at unStack Africa, and manned a virtual conference booth.

As we prepared for the event, we discussed in the DevRel team about what we could do about swag for our conference booth.

I mean - let’s get real: what’s a conference booth without swag?

We came up with an idea:

Virtual conference booth? Virtual conference swag.

During the conference, attendees who dropped by our booth could sign up for the beta of our SaaS offering, Camunda Cloud, and fill out a form where they uploaded a photo.

We then sent them a virtual t-shirt: a custom vector art image made from their photo, wearing a conference t-shirt with our sponsor logo on it.

We leaned into our marketing department to put together the form and help us with the follow-up process since it was a little more complex than just handing over a t-shirt at a physical booth. There, we can just ask: “What size?”, and hand it over.

However, the virtual nature of this swag allowed us to create conference swag that is unique. No more “four t-shirt sizes times n designs”; now we are generating n unique artifacts for n visitors to the booth, and we need to deliver them asynchronously to n attendees when they are ready.

This is an obvious candidate for automation, and the obvious next step after this prototype is to build this as an automated process in Camunda Cloud like this:

It’s the “Hello World” of BPMN - the order process!

That seems like a pretty simple process, but try doing that 60+ times by hand in your email client, times however many conferences, and you’ll understand the need for automating even simple processes. It’s the number of times that a process is executed, rather than its complexity, that makes it a candidate for automation.

Reception

Attendees loved the shirts, and we expanded it to make a special shirt as a speaker gift.

We got tweets thanking us for the shirt, with profile pictures wearing them!

When I got the shirts back, they looked so good, that I wanted to share them with the world. Each one is unique, and represents a person. So I extended an offer: attendees who wanted, could send me their profile links and an optional bio, and I would feature them in this blog article.

Here they are - a selection of the virtual unStack Africa t-shirts, and the people wearing them.

The Faces of unStack Africa 2020

Fatima Aruna

I am a frontend software engineer, passionate about technology, and interested in artificial intelligence.

Anthony Muonaka

I am a software engineer and techpreneur looking to solve real-world problems. I am passionate about making open-source more accessible, creating software and tools to help people, and building a community.

Abiola Farounbi

I am a Front-End Developer based in Lagos, Nigeria. I’m passionate about creating user-friendly, aesthetic and web-accessible websites, I write technical content and articles. I also contribute to open-source projects and volunteer in different programs available.

Abisoye Oladayo

Abisoye is a frontend web developer and technical writer from Lagos, Nigeria. He is passionate about accessibility and web security. He does a bit of backend coding using Node.js + Express.js and Laravel.

Besides tech, you can always find him buried in a book or with his game pad playing his favorite game, NBA 2k.

David Odohi

I’m a software engineer in Lagos, Nigeria, coding in Go and Java.

Adewale Olaoye

I am a Javascript Developer with a degree in Mathematics that focuses on Frontend technologies, React, and its ecosystem such as Apollo Graphql to build accessible web applications. I have a passion for Design systems, Web Accessibility, and Serverless technologies.

I’m interested in building Web Applications using Javascript I’m open with a growth mindset ready to learn new technologies to solve real-world problems and provide values.

Ugochukwu Okeke

I’m a Frontend web developer and aspiring Full Stack developer, with experience building websites and web applications. I believe in the possibilities in tech, and I strive to impact my world positively through it.

Oh, I also love to play the guitar :)

In Conclusion: This is just the beginning

At the end of the conference, the conference convener, Shodipo Ayomide, dropped by the booth. Shodipo is also a developer advocate, as well as a conference and community organiser in Nigeria.

We reminisced about the old days, when we used to go to conferences physically, and especially about the after-conference party (will there be a virtual one, coming soon?).

The “around the conference” activities are opportunities to get to know people. Serendipitous connections, overheard conversations that draw you in, random encounters with someone you follow on Twitter - all of these have disappeared with the move to online conferences.

The virtual t-shirts have functioned to extend the conference community further. The conversation continues, with tweets and retweets about the t-shirts, and I made one more offer:

I stream on Twitch.tv, and I invited any booth visitors who wanted to, to come on as a guest and demo something, do some pair programming on a project, or just hang out.

It’s happening, on Mondays at 7pm GMT - that’s:

West Africa: Monday 8pm Central Europe: Monday 8pm US Pacific: Monday 11am New Zealand: Tuesday 8am

The first scheduled guest is David Odohi on Dec 7 (Dec 8 in New Zealand), followed by Fatima Aruna on Dec 14 (Dec 15 in NZ).

Tune in and check it out!