This summer we organised the first official Financial Independence Week Europe (FIWE) conference. After our “practice” meetup last year in Budapest it was high time for our first “proper” conference. FIWE 2017 took place in mid-September in Timişoara, Romania. We had no idea how to organise a conference. We had no idea if anyone would even want to come. But we decided to give it a go anyway and see how it turned out. I’m so glad we did!
Would Anyone Want to Come?
When we first put out the call for applications a couple of people applied right away but then there was nothing for weeks and weeks. We were worried we’d only have four participants, but then as the deadline for applications approached we were suddenly inundated. Phew, what a relief!
Our Fantastic Participants
We ended up with an amazing group of people. The group was really diverse in terms of age, nationality, career background and so on. But the thing everyone had in common was their interest in FI and in meeting like-minded people. Also, everyone was really easygoing and low maintenance. There were no whiners, no hangers-on and no show-offs. No-one took themselves too seriously. Everyone was very down-to-earth and enthusiastic about the event. Everyone was genuinely interested and had something valuable to contribute. We feel very lucky and very privileged to have had such a wonderful group of participants for our first conference.
A Busy Weekend
Right from the very first evening during the introductory round there was a great group dynamic. Conversation flowed immediately and the noise level over dinner was impressive as we all got to know each other. Me and Mr W were kept fairly busy with logistics but we still got to enjoy ourselves and fully take part in the conference, which I hadn’t expected. I’d had visions of us catching five minutes of a presentation here and there and a couple of minutes of snatched conversation before we had to go and sort out a logistical issue, but it didn’t turn out like that at all. We were constantly on the go, but not run off our feet.
A “Boutique Conference”
That’s one reason we want to keep this event small. It has the potential to turn into a monster with loads of participants, but we want to keep it small so that we get to enjoy it fully. One of the participants described the event as a “boutique conference” because of the level of personal attention she felt she was getting (individual Skype call before the conference, specific dietary requirements catered to, personal pick-up on arrival in Romania).
We liked that idea and we want to be able to give that level of attention to all our participants in the future too. I want to be able to talk at length with each and every person who comes to our event. We want each and every participant to feel that they are valued and listened to. And we want each and every participant to have the time to talk to every other participant and find common points of interest they can build on.
When we first started planning the event we assumed that only a few participants would be hardcore enough to want to stay on for the more informal part of the conference, so we decided to host it at our house. How wrong we were! Of the 25 participants at the main conference, 18 opted to stay on for FIWE Extra. It was a bit of a squeeze, but we managed to find almost everyone a place to sleep in our house. Two very hardy people even slept in a tent in our yard!
The idea behind FIWE Extra was to give everyone some downtime to process all the information and ideas from the weekend and to discuss things in more depth if they wanted to. It was also nice to just hang out with all these like-minded people with no fixed programme and no time pressure and to just see where the conversations led us. We talked about so many things; a lot of them had nothing to do with FI. It was very refreshing.
Something that surprised me was that even though I’m an introvert and normally need to spend at least a couple of hours every day alone, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by being with the others 24/7 during FIWE Extra. There were 18 people in our house. Every room was full, often we had to maneuver round each other to get to the door, but I loved it! I didn’t feel like I needed to go and sit in a room by myself. Actually, it was really weird once everyone left and I was in the house all by myself.
A New Project
One of the things that came out of FIWE Extra was the beginnings of FIREhub.eu. It’s a portal specifically for European FI enthusiasts (but that’s a whole other post). We had the idea a couple of years ago, but apart from reserving the domain we never actually had the time to start it. It really came to life on the last day of the proper conference though, and at FIWE Extra we had the time to sit out on the lawn and brainstorm about how to actually make the project happen.
The Next Event
We’ll definitely be holding the event again next year. We don’t yet know exactly where or when, but we’ll keep you posted. There are also tentative plans for a more family-friendly event called FIWE Family. Watch this space!
Organise Your Own Meetup
If you think FIWE sounds like fun but you don’t want to wait until next year’s event, why not organise your own meetup? We’re just back from the Belgium/Netherlands meetup organised by Amber Tree Leaves and Cheesy Finance and had a lot of fun. It was also nice to attend a meetup as participants without having to organise anything!
If you need any help/advice/info, just let us know, we’d be happy to help. You can also find a guide for organising a meetup over at FIREhub.eu. Let’s get active people!