Doug Belshaw

Web Literacy Lead for the Mozilla Foundation. Enthusiastic about all things related to education, technology and productivity.

A 10-point #MozFest survival guide

mozfest-bunting

It’s the Mozilla Festival in London this weekend. It’s sold out, so you’ll have to beg, borrow or steal a ticket! This will will be my fourth, and third as a paid contributor (i.e. Mozilla employee).

Here’s my tips for getting the most of it.

1. Attend the whole thing

There’s always the temptation with multi-day events not to go to each of the days. It’s easy to slip off into the city – especially if it’s one you haven’t been to before. However, that would a real shame as there’s so much to do and see at MozFest. Plus, you really should have booked a few days either side to chill out.

2. Sample everything

Some tracks will grab you more than others. However, with nine floors and multiple sessions happening at the same time, there’s always going to be something to keep you entertained. Feel free to vote with your feet if you’re not getting maximum value from a session – and drop into something you don’t necessarily know a lot about!

3. Drink lots

Not alcohol or coffee – although there’ll be plenty of that on offer! I mean fluids that will rehydrate you. At the Mozilla Summit at the end of last year we were all given rehydration powder along with a Camelbak refillable bottle. This was the perfect combination and I urge you to bring something similar. Pro tip: if you can’t find the powder (it’s harder to come by in the UK) just put a slice of lemon in the bottom of the bottle to keep it tasting fresh all day!

4. Introduce yourself to people

The chances are that you don’t know all 1,600 people who have tickets for MozFest. I know I don’t! You should feel encouraged to go up and introduce yourself to people who look lost, bewildered, or at a loose end. Sample phrases that seem to work well:

  • “Wow, it’s pretty crazy, eh?”
  • “Hi! Which session have you just been to?”
  • “Is this your first MozFest?”

5. Take time out

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, so feel free to find a corner, put your headphones on and zone out for a while. You’ll see plenty of people doing this – on all floors! Pace yourself – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

6. Wear comfortable shoes/clothing

There are lifts at the venue but, as you can imagine, with so many people there they get full quickly. As a result there’ll be plenty of walking up and down stairs. Wear your most comfortable pair of shoes and clothing that’ll still look good when you’re a sticky mess. ;-)

7. Expect tech fails

I’ve been to a lot of events and at every single one, whether because of a technical problem or human error, there’s been a tech fail. Expect it! Embrace it. The wifi is pretty good, but mobile phone coverage is poor. Plan accordingly and have a backup option.

8. Ask questions

With so many people coming from so many backgrounds and disciplines, it’s difficult to know the terminology involved. If someone ‘drops a jargon bomb’ then you should call them out on it. If you don’t know what they mean, then the chances are others won’t know either. And if you’re the one doing the explaining, be aware that others may not share your context.

9. Come equipped

Your mileage may vary, but I’d suggest the following:

  • Bag
  • Laptop
  • Mobile phone and/or tablet
  • Pen
  • Notepad
  • Multi-gang extension lead
  • Charging cables
  • Headphones
  • Snacks (e.g. granola bars)
  • Refillable water bottle

I’d suggest a backpack as something over one shoulder might eventually cause pain. You might also want to put a cloth bag inside the bag you’re carrying in case you pick up extra stuff.

10. Build (and network!)

MozFest is a huge opportunity to meet and co-create stuff with exceptionally talented and enthusiastic people. So get involved! Bring your skills and lend a hand in whatever’s being built. If nothing else, you can take photos and help document the festival.

The strapline of MozFest is ‘arrive with an idea, leave with a community’. Unlike some conferences that have subtitles that, frankly, bear no relation to what actually happens, this one is dead on. You’ll want to keep in touch with people, so in addition to the stuff listed above you might want to bring business cards. Far from being a 20th century thing, I’ve found them much more useful than just writing on a scrap of paper or exchanging Twitter usernames.


This isn’t meant to be comprehensive, just my top tips. But I’d be very interested to hear your advice to newbies if you’re a MozFest veteran! Leave a comment below. :-)

Image CC BY-SA Alan Levine

Update: my colleague Kay Thaney has a great list of blighty sights that you should check out too!