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Organizing a conference: behind the scenes

4 min read ·

I’m super excited to share with you about the Kongres Next.js conference that Zaiste, Michał and I put together last week in Warsaw, Poland! We focused on web frameworks and had such a fantastic time listening to incredible speakers. Wanna know what went down behind the scenes? Here’s a quick recap!

People mingling at the conference

When Michał reached out about this conference, suggesting I join as a speaker, my first thought was, “Yeah, sure, but there’s no way you’re pulling this off in two months!” Yet, here I was, soon enough, not just pitching in but entirely on board with organizing. That also meant I could skip the speaking part 😅

December was a crazy month! We spent all our time searching for speakers and sponsors and reviewing calls for papers (CFPs). And marketing? Hadn’t even kicked off yet.

The response to our CFPs was incredible. We got a flood of amazing proposals, and suddenly, I was on the other side, having to reject some. It wasn’t a great feeling, but we needed to consider our limited slots and budget. But we managed to finalize a fantastic lineup… three weeks before the conference.

Tickets were my biggest stress. The idea of our speakers presenting in a half-empty room was haunting me. Sales were initially slow, but sign-ups started to increase as we ramped up our conference chatter. I used to bug Michał almost every day, asking him, “So, how many tickets did we sell today?”

I’m usually on the fence about speaker’s gifts since, as a speaker myself, I often find them a bit hit or miss. However, this time around, I was genuinely excited to find something nice. Despite my usual reservations about food-related gifts, I found an option that ticked all the right boxes: local, eco-friendly, and vegan. My criteria were clear:

The speaker’s gift

The day before the conference was intense. A huge shoutout to Theo for the last-minute run to the electronics store! Driving around Warsaw is a nightmare, but we got everything ready for the conference day! Later that day, I was pleased to see lively conversations at the speaker’s dinner.

MCing was another worry of mine. I was ready to step in, but then Jani Eväkallio came through as our MC at the last minute. It was a huge relief to have not just an MC but one of THE BEST MCs. I was indeed over the moon.

Michał, Jani, me, and Zaiste on the stage

We didn’t give out any conference swag because we wanted to be eco-friendly and avoid plastic. Instead, we went for recycled paper for the agenda and paper lanyards with seeds inside that can be used to grow flowers. Isn’t that so cool?

The opening went smoothly, except for one cringy moment when Michał forgot his part in the scene that was supposed to demonstrate how to be inclusive…

Of course, we had technical issues. We couldn’t have a tech check the day before; we had the AV team for just one day. Some things didn’t work, so I lent out my laptop. It went smoother than expected, though. Initial glitches turned into a unique aspect of the venue for some.

Behind the scenes: the tech setup

The venue was perfect: a movie theatre with the right vibe. After the conference, we had a lively after-party with people mingling and having vibrant conversations.

Kino Luna

By the end of the day, I was dead tired, and my bones were aching like crazy. But it felt amazing to see everything come together! Sure, I was exhausted, but organizing Kongres Next.JS felt surprisingly manageable. A lot of that was thanks to the heavy lifting by Zaiste and Michał.

Screenshot from Oura app showing a high stress level

There’s room for improvement—bigger venue, better tech setup, nicer lunch options, and maybe more for the speakers. But nothing went so wrong that it needs immediate fixing. It’s all about making next year’s conference even better ✨

We’re thinking of changing the name for next year, moving away from being Next.js-centric.

And for transparency, we’ve put together a cost report. It’s a non-profit event; we want everyone to see where the money went.

Read more here.

The best part? Hearing how much everyone enjoyed it—the lineup, the content, the venue. It’s motivating to think about how we can top this next year.