Reactive Conf is a three-day conference focused on modern frontend and mobile development. I attended the last year for the first time and was impressed, so going this year again was a no-brainer, especially as it moved from Bratislava to Prague, my home city.
There were two stages with parallel talks. In addition to the main stage, there was also Discovery Stage, which was focused not only on presentations, but also on Ask Me Anything sessions with many of the speakers. This was a nice opportunity to ask questions, which in many cases, in my opinion, was even more interesting than the original talks. The questions were managed by sli.do - everyone could submit a question. Then people could vote for their favorite one. Questions with the most votes were then asked.
Each talk was roughly 30 minutes long including some time for questions. The talks were also publicly streamed, so even people not attending the conference could watch. Thirty minutes is a good length in the sense that you get to see more talks and it is easy to stay focused. On the other hand, speakers cannot really go into much detail. It is ok for many talks, but some of them could use more time.
Same as the last year, I didn't come as a regular attendee, but as a volunteer instead. The conference offers a number of "volunteer tickets", which you can apply for. The idea is simple - you get your ticket for free, but you help with running the conference. Of course, not for the whole time. Each day, you dedicate 1/3 of your time for working. The rest of the time, you are free to visit the talks, participate in workshops, attend the parties - anything you want.
The volunteer duties are diverse - registering visitors, helping speakers, dispensing gifts, navigating people around, moderation of questions, and much more. It does not really matter much that you don't get to see every talk. They are recorded and available after the conference.
However, the best part about participating as a volunteer is not about saving money. If it was the case, you could just wait for the youtube videos and watch them from the comfort of your sofa for free. Being there is an excellent opportunity to see the conference from the organizer's point of view. But most of all it is about meeting interesting like-minded people. Sure, you're supposed to network on a conference as an attendee, but I've always found it rather difficult with complete strangers as an introvert. For a volunteer, this is much easier and much more natural. You spend a lot of time with other volunteers from all over the world working together and get to talk to many people during your duties. You get a better chance to approach the speakers and access the VIP zone.
The beginning of the conference was the busiest period for us volunteers. We had to register more than 1000 visitors. I spent most of the time providing various goodies to the attendees in exchange for their "Reactive Gift" vouchers.
After the talks finished, there was still a lot more to do. You could stay for a "Discover Czech" event, which was basically a party with a selection of classic Czech delicacies such as nakládaný hermelín (pickled cheese), utopenec (pickled sausages), various Czech pies or traditional plum spirit slivovice. Alternatively, you could join separate parties held by the conference's sponsors in their offices - STRV, MEWS, Kiwi or Socialbakers. For those not interested in partying, there was an opportunity to join a sightseeing tour of Prague.
My duties changed on the second day. Now it was mostly about the Discovery Stage - showing the way, letting people in and so on. Then some basic cleanup after the conference.
After the talks, there was a closing ceremony. Then you could choose from a bunch of "Hangouts" with various companies such as Aragon, HackPrague or Green Fox Academy. Alternatively, you could continue in discovering Prague like the day before, which would end with a tasting of local wines, beers and spirits.
The last day of the conference was different from the first two days. So-called "Festival day" was not at the same venue. Instead, it was hosted in the Prague Microsoft building. Unlike the first two days, this one was focused mainly on various workshops with limited capacity. It was necessary to register and pay a fee of 20 € in addition to the conference ticket. There were 14 workshops available in total ranging from 2 to 6 hours. Here is the list:
In addition to workshops, there was one small stage. In the morning, there were just some recorded talks from the previous year. After that, there were regular talks for the rest of the day.
My duty for the last day of volunteering was moderating questions from attendees to speakers on sli.do for all the talks of the day. This was probably the best of my assignments as I got to see all the talks and it was interesting and kept me occupied.
After the talks and the final panel discussions with some of the speakers, there was an afterparty, still in the Microsoft building.
Overall my impression of the conference was very good. Everything was professional and well organized. The event felt world-class, very international, which is not always the case in the Czech Republic. Compared to my last year's experience as a volunteer, everything was even smoother.
The selection of speakers was impressive with interesting and well-known presenters. Except for one questionable talk about "How I met Elon Musk", there was nothing bad.
While 30 minutes (or more like 25) per talk was sufficient in many cases, I was wondering whether it would be better to have some presentations longer. For some topics, it is just not enough time and the talk is more shallow that it could be. I liked that there were lightning talks as a short alternative to the regular presentations. Maybe it would also be good to introduce a longer alternative as well. Then again, some topics were covered in much detail during the workshops on the third day.
While the topics were interesting, I felt that there was too much focus on React neglecting other technologies, frameworks and subjects. At least in my opinion.
I really appreciated that there was a public live-stream and videos published after the conference, so I had a chance to watch the talks I missed because of my volunteering duties.
It was nice that there was a lot to do after the talks - Czech delicacies tasting, after-parties with various companies, discovering the city or Czech traditional live music.
Overall my experience was very positive, I'm sure I'll visit also the next year.
If you are interested in talks, which were at Reactive Conf, you can watch them all online.
You can check all the photos from the event or just watch the following 40-second video for a brief overview.
I had a great time volunteering at Reactive Conf 2018. It was really interesting to see a conference from the organizer's perspective and a great opportunity to meet many interesting people from all over the world - the organizers, the volunteers and the speakers. I definitely recommend this as an interesting alternative to just attending a conference.
UPDATE: To see volunteering at ReactiveConf from another point of view, check Prabash Seneviratne's blog post.