Richard Fichtner is the CEO of XDEV Software, a German software development company that focuses on Java development and is highly committed to the open-source community. XDEV Software is the organizer of the developer conference XDEVCON and co-organizer of the Java conference JCON. With over 150 sessions and even more speakers to manage for those events, XDEVCON was looking for a robust and intuitive event content management platform and ultimately found it in Sessionize.
What attracted me to Sessionize
Richard first joined Sessionize almost three years ago, making him one of the most experienced users on the entire platform.
“I originally started using Sessionize as a speaker. I submitted my talks to calls for speakers for other conferences. What I liked at first was the very clean design, it looked very sleek.”
Armed with insight into the concept and overall user experience of Sessionize, Richard soon realized Sessionize could be the solution to various woes he faced when using generic form builders to organize his company's events.
“Google Forms, Microsoft Forms and similar don't offer a very good experience because you don't have many options in terms of how you can limit input for fields, validate fields, and so on. When we took a look at Sessionize, we learned that you can have fields with a selected set of values that you can provide for your call for papers, giving us everything that we need to get very clear results from our call for papers.”
The more Richard explored various features offered by Sessionize, the more he was excited to find out that Sessionize could greatly help him in other aspects of event content organization.
One such area was session evaluations. Previously, his team would use Excel tables and complicated formulas to calculate ratings for sessions – which meant they first had to waste time on coming up with a robust rating system. Another challenge with such an approach was to conduct blind evaluations, where an evaluator wouldn't be able to see who the speakers were and how other evaluators rated sessions.
“People like to align with other people, and that causes issues with session ratings. Still we see conferences sharing Google Sheets between evaluators, and having everybody simply put in their ratings. This is definitely something Sessionize helped us with.”
Richard is referring to the powerful session evaluation system, deeply integrated into Sessionize, consisting of three different evaluation modes. Each mode supports blind evaluations, activated by a single toggle.
As Richard's organizational team grew from five to 15 members, it became increasingly difficult to coordinate who was evaluating what. A basic content board, which they used at first, was no longer sufficient. Richard notes, “This became easy after switching to Sessionize. It allowed us to split our team into smaller groups of specialists for certain topics, who then only evaluate the sessions that are related to them.”
Using existing submissions to apply for other events
He went on to praise a feature he became aware of as soon as he started using Sessionize as a speaker. If you ever submitted a talk to any event organized through Sessionize, you can apply to a different event with the same talk, substantially cutting down on the time it takes for you to (re)apply. “There are calls for papers where it takes me half an hour to an hour to fill out the forms, and you never know when you're finished. With Sessionize, it's click-click-done. It takes seconds.”, Richard remarks.
Immediately he recognized the benefits that such an approach would have for his own events, JCON and XDEVCON. Enabling speakers to quickly apply their existing sessions for multiple events, without having to fill out the entire call for papers form from scratch, automatically increases the number of submissions for events organized through Sessionize.
Informing speakers and getting their confirmation
“There are many small features that just help. For example, you can accept sessions and then the speaker will get an email with a link they can click to confirm that they're ready to do the session. You see, calls for papers are usually open for a long time, so sometimes it takes months from your initial submission until you receive the acceptance email. The big challenge here is that people often change jobs. We have a lot of very technical talks by speakers from IBM, Oracle, AWS, Netflix, and other companies where jobs and job positions change regularly. By the time we accept their session, they could already be working elsewhere, so being able to get their confirmation is incredibly helpful.”
Richard noticed various upsides of Sessionize becoming an industry standard platform for event content management. “A big thing for us is that Sessionize has a large presence on the market and everyone knows how to use it. We also get very good response rates on our calls for papers.”, he adds.
Benefits for tech conference organizers
Software developers are among the most demanding users of any digital platform, giving Richard's remarks on Sessionize's technical aspect and API that much more weight.
“It's a technically good product. For example, you get very clear URLs for your calls for papers. The CSS is very good, too, as is the API. As a tech conference, we need to have a very good product from a technical standpoint, and Sessionize is exactly that.
The people behind it are software developers themselves and fully understand our needs. When I email them, they immediately get what we're asking; we don't have to wait for months to get a reasonable response regarding any aspect of their product. Also, I don't have to worry that the platform is running on some code base that won't work next year and that there won't be anyone to fix it.
You really feel that these people are very connected to their product, and they know what they're doing. That's amazing.", Richard concludes.
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