On the 24th and the 25th of January 2020 I was able to go to the PHPBenelux Conference in Antwerpen. It is a community-driven technology conference. As the name implies it is mostly about PHP and related topics. It was the first conference I visited besides our very own unconference at bitExpert. Therefore I was very excited and did not know at all what to expect.
On Friday morning everyone with a tutorial ticket could do some workshops. Since I did not have one, I tried to make first contacts with other developers that were already in the venue. That ended up with us being in a podcast by Stefan Koopmanschap that can be found here.
After some more conversations and first contacts, it was time for lunch. Cal Evans afterward gave the keynote talk speaking about the future of PHP and presenting the best ElePHPant joke ever told. It was a very entertaining start, creating a nice atmosphere among everyone.
The conference had three main tracks and an unconference. Each talk had a one hour slot with a ten-minute break between the talks, the unconference talks were split up to 30 minutes each. On the main tracks, most of the talks were very technologic, the unconference track was mostly about experiences and experiments. To have enough energy throughout the day, there was always some coffee and snacks in the main venue as well as some fun games to enjoy.
For the Friday night social there were two food trucks outside of the venue, one serving vegan wraps and the other serving famous dutch fries with different fried additions. Because one had to wait in line for a long time it was time to start more conversations and get to know more people. Since it was my first conference I hardly knew anyone. Still, it was really easy to get into talking with others because all of them were very open-minded and kind. So it did not take me long to make some new friends to spent the evening with, talking about experiences at work, life and play some foosball, snooker or darts.
On Saturday the procedure was pretty much the same as on the day before. Three main tracks and an unconference track with the same time slots. Time passed by really quickly and the end of the conference came far too soon. The sponsors did some raffles at the end of the conference, giving away some ElePHPants, Nerf guns, a drone and much more. The best unconference speaker got an invite to be a speaker at the next PHPBenelux conference as well. His talk was about PHP and Minecraft. Afterward followed some kind of indoor winter barbecue. It was really tasty. After some more chatting, foosball, snooker, board gaming and so forth it was time to say goodbye to everyone.
I can highly recommend the PHPBenelux conference if you are interested in PHP and meeting great people. It does not matter how much experience you have or how many people you know, you will enjoy it. It is also perfect to get some fresh view on how to solve problems and how to approach tasks at work.