Notes from the organiser – how Coronavirus is impacting Devoxx UK

Last month we made the decision to postpone Devoxx UK to later in the year, moving it from its normal May timeslot to late August. At the time this was a very difficult decision to make but felt like the sensible one. A month later reveals that it was, in fact, a glaringly obvious call to make.

With the uncertainty of our times we are in the same boat as others – staying home, keeping a watching brief, rooting for the medical scientific community and cheering on amazing folks everywhere who are continuing to provide services, support and care for everyone impacted by the crisis. 

Running a developer community conference like Devoxx UK at the best of times can be a major challenge. There is no large corporation underwriting our efforts. We have a single full-timer in myself, an occasional part-time staff member. After that rely heavily on the dedication and time donated by a movement of volunteers, who get involved in everything from choosing the program, innovating, providing insights and making the event happen on the ground.

It’s no major money spinner, but the rewards of running an event that brings so much positivity to so many people goes way beyond financial gain. It’s more a labour of love that comes with major responsibilities, both in terms of the responsibility we have to our community to deliver something outstanding each year, and the financial risk we have to take every 12 months. As we’ve grown as a community, the bill to run Devoxx UK each year has increased, so we gulp at the prospect of underwriting another £450k+ expenditure and carry on regardless. To run this thing and risk your own money each year, you need to be part masochist and part optimist. 

We are highly thankful to our venue in London, the Business Design Centre, which has gone way beyond its contractual obligations and permitted us to move dates without applying a financial penalty. 

As with any event organiser, we have to spend a great deal in advance of the event on venue fees, catering and other services. From September each year we start enlisting service providers, and this advance organisation and our projections are made financially possible by people buying tickets and companies supporting us with sponsorships. To limit some of the risk that we incur by starting to invest in Devoxx UK long before the event date, we have terms and conditions that individuals and companies agree to when registering for tickets and sponsorships. 

We recognise that any change will inconvenience some members of the community, and we’re trying our best at the moment to make sure we can continue to deliver what everyone expects from us. If we are occasionally a little slow in publishing updates or responding to emails, please don’t think it’s because we’re ignoring anyone. But please do give us a nudge too.

With the uncertainty created by the pandemic, we have made some amendments to our terms and conditions which we think make things fair to anyone unsure about attending the event this year: 

  • First, ticket holders who can no longer attend can choose to either transfer their ticket to another person, or alternatively roll the registration over to Devoxx UK 2021. 
  • If you need to cancel your ticket, we have extended the cancellation period by 16 weeks to May 29th 2020 and have reduced the cancellation fee from £150 to £96 per ticket. 
  • In addition we will offer a discount equivalent to the cancellation fee to be redeemed against ticket purchases for Devoxx UK events in 2021 or 2022. 
  • For anybody purchasing tickets since the new dates were announced, cancellation with full refund is possible before June 30th this year.

By providing a discount on future ticket registrations to the same value, nobody needs to lose money.

Next up, we continue to keep a watching brief. In my household we cling to glimmers of hope that we’ll see dramatic improvements soon, and there are at least some encouraging signs from around Europe, where so many of our community members reside, that some of the scariest curves are starting to flatten Our thoughts are with everyone as we try and radiate some positive vibes from here.

If we feel that the revised August dates become unviable, we’ll make another decision right away. In that case, we’ll have a major cash flow hole to deal with as we have paid out so much already in fees, but hope that with support from the tech community and maybe our bank too, we’ll be able to carry on making Devoxx UK simply the most fun and rewarding conference on the circuit. We keep our fingers crossed. 

Thank you for being part of this amazing community. We wish you all to please stay safe, stay healthy & stay strong.

Yours,

Mark

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