That Was SmashingConf Toronto 2019

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Rachel Andrew is a web developer, writer and speaker. She is the author of a number of books, including The New CSS Layout. She is one of the people behind the … More about Rachel ↬

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Now that some time has passed since the team returned from SmashingConf Toronto, we’ve had time to think about the event and wrap up some of the things we all learned. Take a look.

We all enjoyed returning to Toronto for the second Smashing conference, and in this post, I am sharing some of the things that took place as well as the resources that were shared over the course of the two conference and two workshop days. Look out for the videos of all the presentations which will be released very soon.

The team worked hard to create a friendly welcoming space for everyone at the conference. We all know how it can be a little overwhelming to walk into a room of a few hundred strangers, knowing that you would love to make friends and have interesting discussions, but finding it hard to get started.

In order to avoid that, we asked everyone to read and follow our Code Of Conduct, try to create a range of spaces and activities where people can meet like-minded people, and also encourage everyone to follow “The Pac-Man Rule” when standing in a group.

Slide showing a graphic of the pacman rule
Pac-Man rule for conversations (Large preview)
“It’s a genuine friendliness that the Smashing team possesses, and that serves as the foundation for an inclusive, approachable event. It turns out that little things like launching balloons to kick off the event and advocating for the Pac-Man Rule go a long way towards making everyone feel welcome.”

Dan Rose

The Presentations

The first thing you think about when attending a conference is to wonder who is speaking, and what they will be talking about. At SmashingConf Toronto, we had an amazing lineup of speakers, with people you might know quite well plus some new faces. As many of our speakers presented without slides, we don’t have a huge number of slide decks to share. However, the list below links to some of the resources our speakers shared. We will also have videos available very soon!

Stage with people throwing candy into the audience
Vitaly and Phil throw candy to audience members (Photo credit: Marc Thiele)

Day One

The Day One Collaborative Doc created by attendees is full of takeaways from day one of the conference.

Speaker NameTalk Title
Brad FrostLet’s Build a Design System
Sarah DrasnerLet’s Write a Vue App From Scratch
Phil HawksworthJAMStack: Silly Name. Serious Stuff.
Chris GannonMake It Move! Create a Web Animation From Scratch
Kristina PodnarHelp! I’m Your Ailing Website. The Digital Policy & Standards Rehab Hour
Steven HooberAuthentic Digital Design By The Numbers
Sarah onstage coding
Sarah Drasner writes a Vue app on stage. (Photo credit: Marc Thiele)

Day Two

Check out the Day Two Collaborative Doc for more resources and thoughts from our attendees and speakers.

Our mystery speaker was Seb Lester, and many of you were thrilled to get to hear his talk.

We then enjoyed talks covering a wide range of topics from our day two speakers.

Speaker NameTalk Title
Phil NashDiving Into Service Workers, Live
Jules ForrestFor The Love Of The Grid
Dan RoseSeeing The Pages For The Components
Diana MounterThe Secret Lives of Color Systems
Scott JehlMove Fast & Don’t Break Things

We found a few blog posts sharing takeaways from these talks. Arshabhi Rai recapped Day 1 and Day 2, and Qihuan Piao shared his takeaways in “What A Lovely SmashingConf!


Auditorium style lecture room with people working on laptops
Vitaly shares responsive design knowledge with his workshop group (Photo credit: Marc Thiele)

Our workshops are a big part of each of our Smashing conferences. In Toronto, we had two days of full-day workshops, with some attendees choosing to do a workshop day before and after the conference. Workshops this time round were as follows:

NameTalk Title
Rachel AndrewNext Steps With CSS Layout
Chris GannonDesigning Delightful Animations For The Web
The Deque TeamHow To Translate Wireframes Into Accessible HTML/CSS
Vitaly FriedmanSmart Responsive UX Design Patterns
Scott JehlLightning Fast Web Performance
Sarah DrasnerIntro To Vue.js
Brad FrostThe Design System Process
Vitaly FriedmanNew Front-end Adventures, 2019 Edition
CloudinaryHacking Lizard Brain: Improving Visual Experience On The Web

Side Activities

A conference isn’t just about the talks and speakers. We want to make spaces where attendees and speakers can learn from each other and share experiences in a more informal setting. To help with that, we ran various other things over the conference. At lunchtime, we had lunch sessions run by Deque on Day 1, and Netlify on Day 2, attendees could grab a plate of lunch and settle down in a more cozy environment to take part in those sessions.

We had a great lounge area, with the talks live-streamed for folks who wanted to step out of the movie theater for a while.

People on sofas watching a presentation via a live stream
Our lounge area (Photo credit: Marc Thiele)

Morning Run

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’m a keen runner, and it’s always nice to have some company on an early morning run. For a few conferences now, we’ve been organizing pre-conference runs — Toronto was no exception. We had 12 runners on Day 1, and 6 hardy souls on Day 2 joining us despite having attended the party. We only got slightly off-track once, and got a nice view of Toronto to take our photos.

Jam Session

On the evening before the conference, we had a Jam Session at Shopify hosted by Tiffany Tse (and her lovely assistant Walnut). There was a speaker panel featuring Steven Hoober, Scott Jehl, Kristina Podnar, Brad Frost, Jules Forrest, Phil Hawksworth and myself, plus lightning talks from Tiffany Tse, Kelly Harrop, April Ellsey, Steve Pereira, and Christine Fowler.

Graffiti And Photo Walks

On the day before and last evening of the conference, walks took place to explore graffiti around Toronto and take photos of the city. A great way to meet people and explore the location for those coming from out of town.

People in a street taking photos of graffiti
On the graffiti walk (Photo credit: Scott Whitehead)

Conference Party

There has to be a party, and we always try to do something fun and perhaps a little unusual for our conference parties. This time, we went bowling — courtesy of sponsorship by SpeedCurve.

Focus On The Local Community

Between sessions on stage, we invited organizers of community groups in the Toronto area on stage to share information about their groups. We hope that local attendess found some new meetups to go to. The groups that we featured were:

Women Who Code TorontoTwitter: @WomenWhoCode,
Introduced by Stephanie
DevHub Toronto & VancouverTwitter: @devhubTO
Events, educational programs, collaboration, and co-working
Introduced by Emma
The DevOps Toronto meetupTwitter: @devopsto
Introduced by Steve
Designers & CoffeeTwitter: @Doriganic
Meetups, hands-on design challenges and feedback sessions, to casual networking nights.
Introduced by Dorsa
DevTOTwitter: @DevTO
Coding stories, eats and drinks. Join us on the last Monday of every month!
Introduced by Nael.
Serverless Toronto meetupIntroduced by Daniel Zivkovic
Toronto Web Performance GroupTwitter: @towebperf
Introduced by Henri Helvetica

Want To Join In The Fun?

We packed a lot into those few days! If you were there, we hope that you enjoyed it as much as we did. It was great to meet so many of you.

Audience members throwing balloons
SmashingConf Toronto opened with balloons (Photo credit: Marc Thiele)

If you would like to be part of the SmashingConf fun next year, we already have tickets on sale for SmashingConf San Francisco and you can leave your email to be the first to know when SmashingConf Toronto 2020 goes on sale. The rest of the 2019 events (New York and Freiburg) are already sold out! There are a few workshop-only tickets available for New York 2019, but be quick!

Smashing Editorial (il)