RubyNation 2013 In Review

RubyNation 2013 is done! Outside of un-confs like BarCamp, it was the first conf I’ve presented at. I was nervous, so I kept practicing and smoothing the slides, and I think that helped a lot – everyone seemed to like the talk. Thanks again to everyone who came to hear it!

RubyNation was a smaller conference. Someone said they felt as though you could almost talk to every attendee, or at least recognize them all by face. It felt comfortable and familiar. But I think there was more to that than just being small – I think the organizers made some particular choices that made it that way.

First, rather than rows of chairs, they provided banquet-style round tables with about 10 chairs each. This is really good for getting people talking: you have a handful of neighbors, and you’re all facing each other. It’s much more social than 2 neighbors and the back of someone’s head. It does mean that half the table has to turn around to watch the talks, but in practice, it wasn’t a problem. Whatever extra floor space the round tables took up was worth it.

Second, rather than catering lunch, each conf organizer paired with a speaker to lead the way to a different nearby restaurant. Attendees got to pick which group they would go with. Splitting into so many groups meant there was a good chance you’d eat your lunch chatting with a speaker or organizer. It also meant you had much more choice over what to eat. (Remember RailsConf 2012, when they served pot pies every single day?)

Rails Girls DC was there in force. I’m not sure, but I think this was the first time RubyNation was paired with a Rails Girls DC training day. It was great to see so many people new to the community, discovering ruby and programming, and I think the variety of talks must have complemented the more-focused training day very well.

For a first-time speaker, it was a very welcoming, laid-back group – though, as Sandi Metz helpfully warned me ahead of time, they might not laugh too loudly at your jokes. If you’ve never given a talk at a conference, try starting with RubyNation.

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