RWDevCon 2016 Post-Mortem

Ray Wenderlich

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We recently finished our second annual hands-on tutorial conference: RWDevCon 2016.

This year the conference was a little bit bigger than last year. Last year was 180 attendees – this year 270. We have people from 17 countries across the world – countries like El Salvador, Poland, Indonesia, Argentina, and more – it was great to see such a nice diversity of people.

The conference was a huge hit! We received an overwhelmingly positive response on our evaluation forms, with a whopping 4.64 / 5 overall rating.

I thought you might like to see to see some pictures and feedback from the attendees, so that’s what this post is all about.

Then we’ll get into the post-mortem, with three things that went well, and three things that we can improve upon in the future. Let’s dive in!

Conference Highlights

At some conferences, you fly in the night before and feel like hanging out, but it’s hard to get a group together. To fix that, at RWDevCon we started with an optional opening reception!

ReceptionMixed

Passed appetizers, beer, and mojitos – oh my :]

The next morning, we started bright and early with an opening keynote. I discussed some of my struggles with motivation, in a speech titled “Feed Your Fire”:

FeedYourFire2

We then started moving into hands-on programming tutorials – the meat of the conference. Instead of just watching the instructor, attendees live coded along with the instructor.

HandsOn

Some of our most popular sessions were Advanced LLDB debugging, App Architecture, Protocol-Oriented Programming, and more.

After a bunch of tutorials, we switched over to what we call “inspiration talks”. These are short 18-minute talks designed to give you a new idea, share some battle-won advice, or challenge you to try something new.

Inspiration

After the day was over, we headed over to a conference party at the swanky Carlyle club across the street. We had great food, drinks, and an awesome and hilarious performance by James Dempsey and the Breakpoints:

JamesFinal

After that, we had one more day chock full of tutorials and inspiration talks. Once it was all over, we wrapped things up with a special surprise: everyone at the conference got a free pre-release copy of our upcoming new book, 3D iOS Games by Tutorials!

SideView

Note: If you weren’t at the conference, this book will be released on our site soon – stay tuned! :]

As people walked out the door, everyone got passed a glass of champagne and was welcomed to a surprise closing reception with sushi, quesadillas, and brie. It was awesome to have one last chance to toast all our hard work and to say goodbye.

ClosingReception

What Went Well

A conference like this takes a lot of work, and often makes me wonder “is this really worth it?”

But this year got such a positive response from people who came, that I can answer with a resounding yes. Here are a few comments from our conference evaluation forms this year:

“This was my first iOS dev conference. I don’t think I could have made a better decision. Thank you RW team and your amazing coordination and supplying an amazing networking and learning experience.”

“There is simply no better way to get up to speed and learn new things than this conf. Better than WWDC!”

“Great topics, great lectures, friendly people and staff. I appreciate all the hard work the RW team put forth.”

Here are three things I think went particularly well about the conference.

1) Hands-On Tutorials

Just like last year, the hands-on focus of the conference was a huge hit, and definitely something that sets us apart from other conferences. If you want to attend a conference primarily to learn new skills, this is the conference for you.

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We tweaked the format a bit this year to give more time for tutorials, and we made a push to make the advanced track more advanced, and I was happy to see that people really felt like they were learning new things and having fun.

“Brilliant tutorials. Code to take with me and use. Best practice examples, and good spirit.”

“Expert speakers. Very much challenged me to dig deeper! Speakers are definitely professionals in their fields.”

“The hands-on nature makes this a great mix of conference and training. Will certainly return each year!”

2) Team Coordination

This conference takes a huge amount of prep work. Each speaker gets their outline and sample projects reviewed by a tech editor, then goes through a round of practice with their tech editor, and then a final round of practice with me.

But the end result shows – we end up with a suite of coordinated tutorials that are to the high quality standards our site is known for.

TeamCoord

In fact, since we were prepared so far in advance, we were even able to put together all of our demo instructions and labs into a 600 page conference book, which we gave for free to all attendees!

ConferenceBook

I bet you’ve never seen that at a conference before :]

“Loved the conference book – awesome!”

“Everything was so well organized and executed. I learned so much!”

“Awesome coordination and run so professionally. Excellent material and speakers. Thank you!”

3) Friendship

We try our best to make RWDevCon a friendly and open environment where you can meet new people and make friends.

In addition to the massive amount of conference parties, one thing we do each year to encourage socializing is play board games at the conference. At lunch, we set aside a certain are as a “board game zone” where people could sit down and play games together:

BoardGamesFinal

This is a great way for introverts like me to meet new people and have fun in a low-risk environment :]

“Very inclusive feeling environment.”

“Everybody was nice and the community made it great.”

“This is the best conference to meet other people!”

What Could Be Improved

As with anything, there are always some things you can improve. Here are the top 3 in my opinion.

1) Pacing

It’s difficult to get the right pacing in a hands-on tutorial. You don’t want to go too fast, or you might end up leaving audience members behind, and you don’t want to go too slow, or you’ll bore people.

RWDevCon20160209_4186

Pacing is something that sometimes we got right, but sometimes we could have improved upon. Next year, we’re hoping to improve our speaker training in this area.

2) Technical Issues

This year we did a major upgrade of our A/V systems at the conference, including music between sessions, rear projection, recordings of all sessions, and more.

Tech

Along with this added complexity came some technical difficulties. We’ve learned from these and aim to smooth them out in the years to come :]

3) More Days

For me, this second year of RWDevCon was all about iteration. I wanted to take the format that worked so well last year, and tweak and polish it.

RyanNystrom

Now that we have a solid format, I think it would be great if we could expand to a 3 day conference. This would give a bit more time to spread things out and try some different things that wouldn’t have fit in a 2 day conference. I am excited about what we can do next year!

Where To Go From Here?

For everyone asking – yes, we are planning on having a RWDevCon 2017 next year!

The conference has sold out for two years in a row now, so you won’t want to miss your chance at getting a ticket.

We will email everyone who is on our conference newsletter first before we announce the event publicly. If you’d like to be notified if/when tickets become available, sign up here.

Also, if these tutorials sound interesting to you, you should check out our massive vault of tutorial videos from the conference – 24+ hours of video tutorials, plus a 500+ page conference book!

Thanks again for everyone who helped make the second annual RWDevCon a success – speakers, attendees, sponsors, and more!

Photo Credits: Fuad Kamal, Greg Heo, Kelvin Lau, Michael McDonald. Thanks all!
Ray Wenderlich

Ray is part of a great team - the raywenderlich.com team, a group of over 100 developers and editors from across the world. He and the rest of the team are passionate both about making apps and teaching others the techniques to make them.

When Ray’s not programming, he’s probably playing video games, role playing games, or board games.

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