How 250 volunteers helped make TNW2018 memorable for 15,000 attendees

How 250 volunteers helped make TNW2018 memorable for 15,000 attendees
Credit: Janus van den Eijnden

Attending a large conference is undoubtedly awesome. When you walk inside for the first time, you marvel at how it all came together. TNW Conference 2018 was no different. It’s grown from a 200 attendee event to one of the largest tech festivals in Europe — it attracted 15,000 visitors each day this year. In case you’ve ever wondered how we do it, here’s a little behind-the-scenes.

One of the secrets to pulling off a conference of this scale is volunteers. We recruited 250 this year, all of them playing a crucial role. I spoke to Myriam Koning, our volunteer coordinator, to learn exactly how this worked.

How integral are volunteers for TNW2018?

We simply wouldn’t be able to pull it off without them. The current scale of the conference is so large that there’s so many different jobs that need to be done, and each position requires multiple people to cover the amount of work over the two days of the conference. We also already have volunteers at work in the days leading up to the conference to do the necessary preparations.

So how do we recruit and manage so many volunteers?

Almost right after last year’s event we started recruiting volunteers for this year. From February on, veteran volunteers from earlier editions were asked if they would like to help out again. We’ve noticed that volunteering at TNW Conference had become really popular — this year it was easier to fill all the spots than ever before.

Managing them is a whole different thing and it’s close to impossible without a system like VolunteerLocal. Three years ago, we managed around 80 volunteers in a spreadsheet; it was a nightmare. Not only do people have to sign up for a specific tasks, but different positions need to receive different briefings, people can’t make it and spots become vacant, new jobs open up and have to be filled… Doing this by hand is a very frustrating job, so I can safely say that an automated system was indispensable for the last two editions of the conference.

Credit: Janus van den Eijnden
One of our volunteers at the ticket registration booth during TNW2018

Can you explain the automated system?

In VolunteerLocal it’s possible to create volunteering jobs and shifts, to which people can register by themselves through a specific webpage. They can also change their shift if desired without any intervention from the TNW team. With adding a password to certain shifts, it’s possible to ask specific people to do specific jobs, so only people you know and that are qualified can register to become a team leader. It’s also possible to send separate briefing emails for each job that has been created in VolunteerLocal, so it’s easy to tailor information to everyone’s need.

Which feature has been the most useful for TNW2018?

The ability to communicate directly with different groups is incredible handy as it saves so much work compared to emailing all the different positions individually. We also issued a volunteering certificate for some years, now this can be created within VolunteerLocal which saves a lot of time.

Volunteering at TNW2019

If you want to join next year’s growing group of volunteers, you can already sign up right here. We’re really looking forward to planning an even bigger and better tech festival, so we hope to see you there!

This post is brought to you by VolunteerLocal