Volunteering with YOW!

By Hayden Warmington

Thinking about being a volunteer at the next YOW! event, but are unsure what you’re in for? You’ve come to the right place.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with YOW! twice now and will definitely be back for more. In this post I’lll be talking mostly about my experience at YOW! Conference 2016, so your mileage may vary, but the other event I volunteered at was essentially a scaled down version.

Conference preparation

On the evening before the conference begins you’ll meet with your organiser and fellow volunteers (who will mostly be uni students). This is when you’ll set up for the event, get a rundown of the timings and organise who is assigned to what job, and it is an opportunity to chat with your peers.

Setting up consists of folding and sorting the YOW! Shirts as well as packing the bags. You’ll then be given a tour of the venue and all the rooms. Next you’ll be organising into teams and assigning jobs. If you’ve struck up early conversation with another volunteer, be the first to ask them if they want to team up. However, it doesn’t matter that much who you’re in a team with because everyone is friendly. The volunteer organiser will run through the program and you’ll shout out if you wish to be allocated to a certain talk for each time slot. Be sure to check out the program on the YOW! Site before this in case any talks tickle your fancy.

Be sure to go to bed early – you’ll need the energy to blast out the next two days!

Conference time

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First thing on day one, you’ll be handing out lanyards, bags and t-shirts as attendees register. Once everyone has arrived, the keynote will begin.

Essentially, for each talk your job is simply to keep track of three metrics: the number of attendees, the number that leave early, and votes for each talk.

Apart from those jobs you can pretty much consider yourself an attendee with a different shirt so you can sit in and listen to each talk. I’d definitely encourage it (especially if you’re a student) as it will expose you to current problems and topics that are being discussed in industry (many topics you just don’t learn from uni).

You’ll be given a ticker to count the attendees but sometimes it can be too loud so most of us ended up using an app. You’ll be given an iPad to take votes after the talk as the guests come out of the room.

The first day is generally more hectic as the attendees are getting a feel for the venue. Questions you might be asked are, “where are the toilets?” or “where is the blue room?”; come the second day, most of the guests won’t need much assistance.

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What’s in it for you?

Firstly, the information. Being new to the field, I found that a lot of the information went over my head. However, I found a lot of value in the talks that I did understand, and I found that talking to my team about the concepts discussed by the presenters helped me understand them more. If you don’t get any of it, better to know what you don’t know, right? And if you can understand everything, all the power to you.

Secondly, the opportunities. In your time at YOW! you are surrounded by developers, seniors, recruiters, and a plethora of companies. Do yourself a favour and take advantage of it.

The YOW! food is great, so if all else fails you still get a free lunch. Can’t complain with that!

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YOW! provided a glimpse into the industry that I couldn’t get anywhere else. I would do it all again, and will. I hope this helped and I hope to see you at YOW! in 2017.