Python/Django developer, primarily
Published May 17, 2023
As usual, this post is my own ramblings and may not be indicative of other DEFNA board members’ thoughts.
Aside from the first section below, these are mostly in the order I’m thinking of them.
I’m sure some people will dismiss this as making everything political, but it’s impossible to ignore the efforts by many on the American political right to legislate both basic bodily autonomy and reproductive rights, let alone the ability for LGBTQ+ people to just exist.
Being in a state that’s actively hostile to either of those is an automatic hard pass from me.
Further, being in a state where things are likely to get worse rather than better in the near future is also a major negative.
As a cishet white dude, I freely acknowledge that I’m the least qualified to talk about this, but it’s important that we find a venue and city that is welcoming to people of all races and genders while at the same time we don’t impose on the locals. I’m very bad at finding the right words to say here, but I’m happy to receive suggestions/thoughts/improvements.
You don’t have to be in a city like Atlanta or Los Angeles that has far more international connections than I can count, but it is helpful to be in a city with an airport with at least connections to most nearby hubs. The US doesn’t have viable regional passenger rail outside of the Northeast Corridor and scattered bits on the Pacific coast, as much as I’d like for that to be different, so let’s face it: 90%+ of attendees are going to be flying in.
Having a hotel that has its own airport shuttle is a major win. It makes things so much easier on attendees if they don’t have to immediately try to wait 30+ minutes for a taxi-type service or navigate a new city’s mass transit system.
However, if your city has a transit system that makes it convenient to get to the urban core from the airport without having to change buses, that’s also great. Examples include Chicago’s Blue Line and Washington, D.C.’s Silver Line.
It’s extremely helpful but by no means required to have the venue that hosts the conference to be either directly connected to or in the same building as the main attendee hotel. Such a connection absolutely must be ADA accessible.
Being able to have easy access to local restaurants, ice cream shops, bars, and greenspace are big benefits. Having lots of them within a mile or so of the venue without steep hills is a big plus as that enables attendees to go see things without having to hire a taxi or ride transit. While the conference itself is dry, many attendees do like to be able to go get a drink after the conference and talk about what they’ve learned. As fun as it would be to go have one at a state park in the mountains somewhere, it doesn’t fit the vibe of what this conference is.
This one is mostly me and a handful of attendees, but it’s really great to be able to leave the hotel and get a solid hour-plus bike ride in without having to go anywhere first. San Diego had the excellent San Diego River Trail that made a nice little 8 mile trip each way to the coast. Durham has a beautiful rail trail called the American Tobacco Trail that starts about half a mile from the hotel and has ~14 miles paved and then another ~8 of gravel after that. Spokane had the World’s Fair park right behind the hotel. Philadelphia had several parks and the Schuylkill River nearby.
Generally speaking, the bigger the city, the more expensive it’ll be. That includes things like direct venue costs, food/catering, A/V services, hotel rates, and more. If those costs go up, our ticket costs have to go up to match, which then drops our attendance.
Our conference can either happen in the summer (likely no earlier than late June to avoid conflicting with PyCon US) or early fall (typically late September or mid-October). When you’re proposing your venue, keep the weather in mind. Don’t suggest a conference in Orlando in July or in Boston in November, for example.
It’s extremely helpful to have a strong, local organizer crew that is eager to help out and knows the local landscape. It’s super helpful, especially for things like arranging an organizer/speaker dinner, listing fun places to go outside the conference, knowing which hotels are good for overflow attendees, etc.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’m sure I’m forgetting things, but this is what I’m thinking of right off the bat.