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Recap of PyCon 2020 Converting to Online

In early March the final steps of planning, scheduling, ordering, counts, rooming lists, shipping, and signage had just begun for PyCon 2020. Our team was working diligently to pull all the final pieces together when we began to fully realize the impact that could be expected of COVID-19. The new words in planning quickly became stop, wait, change…..what? We went from finalizing the event to evaluating contracts to determining cancellation options and potential losses.

When the final decision to cancel was announced, PyCon 2020 was only weeks away. We now had a short time to figure out what could be done to provide PyCon in a new and different way, online. The planning took on a 3 step process, here is what we did:


The first step was to decide what content we could provide and to invite the community to subscribe to PyCon 2020 Online. A timeline was developed based on volunteer input, and communications began with speakers, presenters and sponsors on what the plan would be for submitting content. We worked with the Summit committees, as well as the selected hatchery programs, to determine if a virtual event would work for their plans. We decided on utilizing Zoom, YouTube, and the PyCon 2020 website to provide the content.

What would we could have done differently:
  • Provide a more detailed set of guidelines and suggested tools to speakers and participating sponsors
  • Offer AV support to speakers to assist with recordings if needed
  • Set up a communication channel for speakers (Slack, Discord, etc)
  • Create a more interactive way for sponsors and attendees to connect

Planning and Organizing

Next, we determined what the PyCon 2020 Online website would look like. We worked with the designer to provide new logos, and our tech team to create multiple new website pages for online content, virtual expo hall, and poster presentations. The speakers were provided a platform to upload their recordings and the AV team formatted the recordings and began uploading to PyCon 2020’s YouTube channel.

The summit committees and hatchery programs converted their programs to virtual live events and registration for the events was launched. A schedule for staff was created to participate in each live event and to review each recorded talk or tutorial for Code of Conduct monitoring.

What would we could have done differently:
  • Set clearer timelines for submitting and scheduling content
  • Research and provide an interactive platform for Q&A sessions with speakers
  • Provide a schedule and categories of the online content
  • Create a sponsor portal page for content submission deadlines
  • Consider platforms for sponsor communications and interactions     


We then felt ready to launch PyCon 2020 Online. The first email was sent to all subscribers and the first content was launched on the same day it would have been if we were in Pittsburgh. The timeframe to receive online content was spread out over a few weeks since there was little time for planning and converting to online format. We felt providing this time to speakers and sponsors to reconfigure their content to provide it virtually was important. In the end there were 5 weeks of new recordings, sponsor content, poster presentations and live events provided to the community.

What would we could have done differently:
  • Reduce the number of weekly content releases
  • Send the attendee survey out with the final week of content

The biggest take away from converting PyCon 2020 from in-person to online is that a virtual conference takes just as much planning and time to pull together. A successful virtual event requires more communication with sponsors and presenters to produce a cohesive look. As a team we are pleased with the outcome of PyCon 2020 Online.

Now that some time has passed and we have been able to regroup, the planning for PyCon 2021 has begun and we will be sure to keep the community informed as plans are finalized.

Be sure to check out resources for virtual events, put together by the PSF grants program to assist in planning a virtual event.