When we think about conferences, it’s often images of vast crowds moving, almost anonymously, across a nondescript venue that come to mind. But what if things could be different? More intimate, connected, and altogether laid-back?
That was the question on Adrian Marin’s mind as he set about designing a conference that put ‘cosiness’ at the fore. That was, to its very core, as friendly and welcoming as it was enlightening. So friendly, in fact, that the word even informed the conference's distinct name. Enter: Friendly.rb, a developer conference held in Bucharest, featuring some of the best European industry speakers with a very deliberate guestlist size of only around a hundred or so.
The conference delves deep into all things ‘Ruby’ (as in programming language, not the precious gem!). And its first ever iteration, held this year, saw an incredible line-up of truly top-tier speakers take to the stage. A whole range of topics were covered expertly, from ‘Crafting Elegant Code with Ruby DSLs’ to ‘Making It as an Indie Developer’ and ‘Getting the Most Out of ChatGPT’.
Read on for our interview with Adrian to learn all about this highly successful conference – and the things that make it stand way out from the usual conferencing crowd.
✅ Key takeaways
📣 Securing one or two incredible speakers as early as possible can be an invaluable move in conference planning, as it can open the gateway for other brilliant speakers to sign up. It also means you can start getting the word out about your amazing line-up to potential attendees in plenty of time to sell those tickets!
🎟️ Using a low-cost ticketing platform (like Ticket Tailor! 👋) helps keep your budget in-check – which can be reassuring when organising your first ever event.
👏 Being generally great at what you do – and friendly 😌 – can be enough to secure good sponsors for your conference… without the need for tons of bells and whistles.
Ticket Tailor: Tell us the basics – what’s your conference all about?
Adrian: Friendly.rb is a Ruby conference that focuses on learning, community, and creating connections in a way that you can only really do in real life.
Our main aims for the conference are to:
Bring newcomers to the stage and empower them with a voice
Invite well-known speakers to meet the community
Enable the community to meet their online friends in real life, as well as to make new ones
Ticket Tailor: What have been some of your biggest milestones so far? And on the flipside, some of your biggest challenges?
Adrian: Our first biggest win came from securing our keynote speakers, which are very well-known in the community. The fact that they agreed to speak at the event without hesitation was a major milestone for us.
Next, it was a great feeling to secure our sponsors, some of which supported us simply because we seemed to be “very friendly” and to be “doing a good job with the event”.
Our third big win came in the form of having sold all our tickets with two months still to go until the event. We owe all of that to the awesome Ruby community.
Outside of the common conference challenges of finding the perfect venue, hiring the best team to record and shoot the event, and all the tiny things you can’t really anticipate, we’ve been pretty lucky and we can’t speak of any big challenges. We take things as they come and deal with challenges as and when they arise. We just like the good vibes! 🤙
Ticket Tailor: That’s a great attitude to have! We love the focus on friendliness and community (‘keeping it cosy’ 😀) expressed on your website – tell us a bit more about that:
Adrian: We like to call Friendly.rb a ‘cosy boutique international conference’. We wanted to keep our number of attendees to around a hundred people for a reason. We think that this makes it so much easier and more likely that people will get the chance to genuinely connect with one another. If, on the other hand, you run a conference with 150-200 or even more attendees, individual groups start to form and then they don’t tend to separate and get to know other people. In a nutshell: the size of Friendly.rb is a feature, not a bug!
Ticket Tailor: Love that! Your venue and, of course, Bucharest sound super cool. Tell us a bit about how you decided upon a location for your conference:
Adrian: I live in Bucharest and so, first and foremost, I wanted things to be as manageable and low-effort as possible from a logistics point of view. Especially considering that Friendly.rb is the first event of this size that I’ve organised.
But also, Bucharest is generally a great city to host a conference. There are plenty of good flight connections, tons of beautiful architecture (Bucharest used to be called ‘Little Paris’!), and the city is safe and quite cheap to live and travel in.
Ticket Tailor: Sounds awesome. How did you go about securing your great line-up of speakers for the conference?
Adrian: This is one of the things we’re most proud of. We believe our lineup is one of the best of any similar conference this year. It’s balanced, diverse, and the talks are incredible. I don’t know how we’ll manage to match it next year.
What was great was that our keynote speakers said yes before we actually announced the event. They were Xavier Noria – an industry author who opened RailsConf (the largest conference in our niche) last year and countless others – and Elena Tanasoiu, a Senior Developer at GitHub.
Having set the stage with such great speakers from the offset, others soon followed. Half of the speakers we secured are quite well-known and the other half are just getting started. We even had two great speakers from the US who wanted to come over and present.
In short, I couldn’t have been happier with the lineup! I believe we were able to secure such a great one because we just showed potential speakers that we really mean business – that we want to put on a great experience for speakers and attendees alike.
Ticket Tailor: Do you have any words of advice for others looking to design their first ever conference?
Adrian: First, definitely talk to past organisers. Don’t be daunted in reaching out to them to ask for advice – you’ll probably find they’re happy to share their secrets and tell you how they do what they do! This can be a great way to gather all the information you need.
Secondly… just do it! If you think you’ll enjoy the process, go for it.
Ticket Tailor: Great advice! How did you go about marketing your conference?
Adrian: We are developers and start-up founders – not sales people. So we just focused on keeping people informed of our progress, of ticket releases, and about our speakers, venue, and plans for the conference. I guess, people just wanted to be a part of that.
Ticket Tailor: Now let’s talk ticketing. You ran ‘early bird’, ‘general’ and ‘supporter’ tickets for your event – tell us a bit about why you designed your ticketing strategy this way, and how successful you feel it’s been:
Adrian: We looked at what other conferences were doing, but at the same time tried to keep things simple. We know that you can do all sorts of tickets, like ‘blind bird’, ‘early bird’, and ‘almost there’ etc. We didn’t have the time and resources to do all of that. So we simply released 30 early bird tickets, thinking that this seemed like a good amount. Then, of course, we have our regular tickets, and we also wanted to give folks the ability to help out and support the event, so we added a ‘Supporter’ ticket type, too. We had quite a bit of success with those, selling about 14 in total.
Ticket Tailor: We’re thrilled you chose Ticket Tailor as your ticketing partner. What made you decide to use our platform?
Adrian: When we were looking through all the various ticketing platforms out there, pricing was something that definitely kept Ticket Tailor on our shortlist. I don’t want to seem like price is everything to us, but with this being the first event this size we’ve ever done, we wanted to make sure we weren’t paying too much out of our own pockets.
As well as its low cost, we were also impressed by Ticket Tailor’s features – the platform had (almost) everything we needed. The only thing we needed to do manually was to send invoices to companies that wanted to have their company data on their invoice.
Sidebar: Since Adrian pointed this missing feature out to us, we’ve updated our platform, so you now *can* add customer information from your check out forms to your invoices 👌.
Another major deciding factor was the fact you can set up your event and all of your ticket types, – and basically test every scenario out – before entering any credit card details, unlike with other ticketing platforms.
Tip: Find out more about listing your events on Ticket Tailor for free 😌>
Ticket Tailor: Finally, what does the future hold for Friendly.rb?
Adrian: We’re probably going to run it again next year. I think we’ll stick with the same venue to test out and improve all of the things we learned and struggled with this year. We’ll definitely still aim to keep things as low-effort as possible.
We’ve also been thinking about how we can create more out-of-the box events like these. Maybe a Friendly.camp, maybe taking the conference to different locations, and maybe including other activities… we’ll just have to wait and see!
Ticket Tailor: Sounds like the future is bright for you guys! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, Adrian.
👉Head here to find out more about Friendly.rb >
👉 And head over here to find out how Ticket Tailor can help you with seamless, feature-rich conference ticketing >