Between October 2nd and 3rd, Romania’s IT capital, Cluj-Napoca hosted one of the most significant Magento events in Eastern Europe – Meet Magento Romania. With over 450 Magento developers, marketers, business owners and eCommerce professionals in attendance, the 25 talks and 10 workshops planned for the Business and Development tracks have made Meet Magento one of the most anticipated conferences this year.
My good friend, Katerina Counta and I had the pleasure of representing Busteco Global Brain, one of this year’s event sponsors and, in that capacity, had a very exciting peek behind the curtain of this year’s conference. Chiming in on the development side is our very own, Magento-certified Sensei, Tibi Barkoczi. Before we dive into it – quick disclaimer. While we attended the conference thanks to and on behalf of Busteco Global Brain, our thoughts are our own and do not reflect the position of the agency.
Because no self-respecting Romanian can start anything without a nice, strong cup off coffee, Meet Magento Romania 2015 kicked off with a meet-and-greet coffee and snack break. The venue itself is beautiful, the snacks were delicious and the coffee was great, we just wished there was more of it. It was interesting to see everyone so excited and curious not just about the speakers and talks but about each other as well.
Feeling curious? Visit our booth at #mm15ro and get your bag of goodies plus an old school surprise.
Representing a sponsor at a conference was a novel experience for Katerina and I, not to mention the fact that neither of us had ever even laid eyes on the venue so, in that sense, Meet Magento Romania was a challenge. We came up with a concept and a presentation and pretty much went #YOLO. That’s not to say the first two steps were in any way easy but there’s only so much you can accomplish with trying to anticipate how things might go. Here’s what we’ve learned.
You need a good sidekick
Forget prepping, guessing and resources. The single most valuable asset in a setting like this is a good sidekick. Many of the things you think will happen, won’t and those you’re sure won’t, will. 99% of the effort is put into interacting with people and people are so unpredictable. Some will be interested in what you have to say, others will be curious about certain bits only and others will talk over you and ask you questions. What’s more, people don’t tend to queue properly in this kind of setting so you’ll have to handle several people at once, hence the need for someone reliable with whom you can effortlessly divvy up the workload.
Depending on what you’ve planned, you might find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having no battery left, the WiFi crapping out in the middle of your presentation, running out of water – or worse – coffee, a device breaking down or any other iteration of Murphy’s law. The point is, when things inevitably go off script, your most important resource is someone quick on their feet with whom you can solve the problem without too much inconvenience for your guests.
You don’t need a speech
Most of the recommendations I’ve read insisted on preparing a verbal presentation of sorts so we decided to listen to people smarter than us and had a version or two handy. We didn’t use any of them. Not even once and here’s why. While I’d like to say there was some plan that lead to dropping them, it was a decision we made on the spot because it just didn’t feel right.
When being authentic is important to you, using rehearsed presentations won’t just make you sound like the nice lady from the Skype Call Testing Service but people are more likely to become disengaged and, even though they might be interested, they’ll listen to you much like you’d listen to the radio.
I know this isn’t the most actionable advice but wing it. Look at the person in front of you and figure out what’s attracted their attention. Was it the colours, the gift bags, the images on the computer, the tablet, the banner? Whatever it was, that’s your ice breaker. Tell them who you are, what you do but do it very briefly and try to ask them questions in return. Yes, it takes effort and it’s not the easiest thing to do but it’s worth it.
Your best audience is your own team
If anyone in your team is attending the event, they are the perfect audience for you to test your presentation/ approach on. While doing it beforehand might afford you plenty of time to change things, it won’t necessary offer you an accurate response so I recommend you test on the day of the event.
We had the benefit of an objective and painfully-honest team of people and, even though we work together every day, we kept it all a secret until the morning of the event when we tried to gage their reactions to what we’d prepared and asked them for feedback. Probably one of the most satisfying moments was seeing their surprise and excitement.
Learn to adapt
Whether we’re talking about communication between the team, attendees, organizers, guests or speakers, proactive communication is absolutely essential. In the fast-paced environment of a conference, unexpected things will happen and you have to quickly adapt to your surroundings and whatever changes might take place.
There are a lot of domino pieces that have to fall in a very precise way for things to go exactly as you’ve planned and that just doesn’t happen. When communicated effectively, any last-minute adjustments won’t have a negative impact on you or your presentation so if anything unexpected happens, just relax and deal with it. If you need to, ask the organizers for help and you’ll do just fine.
If you think managing a stand is going to keep you busy only during the breaks, you’re in for a massive surprise. People come and go all the time, switching from one track to another, getting food or drinks, going out for a breath of fresh air and so on. You’d be surprised how many of them are interested in sponsor stands especially if there aren’t that many people around so it’s safe to say you’ve got your hands full pretty much all the time, which is why we entrusted Tibi with the very important task of learning and passing on the techniques and information presented during the sessions.
One of the most exciting and anticipated talks of the day belonged to Marius Strajeru, who held a great workshop on Magento 2 and, according to Tibi, is a real voice for the community itself, reaching out to Magento Inc on many of the issues faced by developers. You can go through Marius’ presentations here. No, really, you should!
Magento evangelist Ben Marks got Tibi really hyped up about the perspective of verifying modules in Magento 2’s Connect, offering developers a more secure environment to deploy them, ensuring that, much like the Apple App Store, they’d have an almost theft-proof product. It seems that Magento isn’t the only thing these two have in common, though. They both play the drums, who’d have thought!
SO FREAKING AWESOME that Meet Magento România 2015 and Meet Magento Association set up a jam session at a local… http://t.co/9s19NzY8WY
— Ben Marks (@benmarks) October 4, 2015
Another favourite of the day was Radu Chelariu‘s talk on the evolution of trends and best practices in web design, as well as, the imperative of a factual, data-oriented approach and throwing unfounded decisions down the drain, where they belong.
— Mihai MATEI (@mihaimatei) October 2, 2015
Meet Magento Romania 2015 was an exciting multi-faceted experience not just in terms of what Magento 2 means for our developers’ workflow and performance but, thanks to the business track and marketing workshops, we’ve gained a more holistic view of the Magento-powered eCommerce ecosystem.
Will we be attending Meet Magento Romania 2016? Definitely! Would we like to see some added goodies? Yes!
For a full event recap, check out my SEMrush post. If you’ve attended Meet Magento Romania 2015 and we haven’t had a chance to connect or if you just happen to like us to bits, connect with us here, here and here.