Fireside with Voxgig for Professional Speakers

Ovidiu Matan

Published On:
Ovidiu Matan
Podcast Host
Richard Roger
Voxgig Founder
Podcast Guest
Ovidiu Matan

Ovidiu Matan, publisher of Today Software Magazine chats to Richard about the changes he made to his events and conference business due to covid, about his bespoke conference streaming platform and his upcoming calendar of events.

Ovidiu Matan creates and manages technology events and conferences, sourcing speakers and content through his successful Today Software Magazine. Based in Romania, Ovidiu and Richard chatted in Feb 2022 about the impacts of the pandemic on his business, the changes he was forced to make and which of these changes proved to be lasting pivots.

Check out Today Software Magazine.

See Show Transcripts

Richard Roger: Welcome to Fireside with Voxgig, a podcast for professional public speakers. I'm your host, Richard Roger, the founder of, which is an online community and service for speakers and event professionals. In each episode, we sit down for an intimate fireside chat with people in the public speaking community to learn how they have mastered the art of getting up on stage and speaking in front of an audience. If you're an aspiring speaker, or just want to improve your on-stage performance, this podcast will help you learn from some of the most accomplished and interesting professional conference speakers.

In this podcast, I talk to Ovidiu Matan, and I have had the pleasure of being invited to speak at a number of his conferences, especially in the pre COVID world. We talk about how COVID affected his conference business and how he moved to a successful series of online conferences, and has built up a series of wonderful tricks and tips for speakers when they're doing online events. He's now moving back into the real world and running with a hybrid model, and we talk about how COVID has affected small conferences, and how hopefully, they will come back and the small conference scene, which I absolutely love, will hopefully start to thrive again. Let's get started.

Ovidiu, hello. How are you doing? It is great to have you on the Fireside with Voxgig chat. How are you doing, sir?

Ovidiu Matan: Hi, Richard. Very well. Thanks for having me at your podcast.

Richard Roger: Awesome. Awesome. Cool. Okay, so it's hard to know where to start, Ovidiu, with all the stuff you do, because you're a publisher and you do conferences and all sorts of wonderful stuff. I guess, let's start with the conference that you have run for the last couple of years. First of all, how did it start? How did you start doing the conference?

Ovidiu Matan: Well, I think, in the beginning, I was having this Today Software Magazine, which is my main, let's say, business, and we were doing regular events like once per month, and we realized that, at some point, we need something bigger to get all the energies, so we decide, "Okay..." At least I decided, "Let's try to do a big event," and this is how IT Days was born, and this was happening nine years ago. Of course, every time, the first conference, when you start to organize conferences, you need to be really focused on what you want to do, and I can tell you for sure that probably the first two or three editions will be made more or less on your money.

Richard Roger: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Ovidiu Matan: So yeah, that's happening. After that, people start to notice you and sponsors, companies will come, but initially, it is not easy. That's why probably, we don't have so many conferences around us.

Richard Roger: Yeah. It's a problem, isn't it, for people who want to start conferences. I used to run one a couple of years ago as well. We had to borrow money from the bank to run the first version and we were lucky we didn't lose the company over it, and I know lots of people who have lost money. I would still do them. I think they're very beneficial for a business, right?

Ovidiu Matan: Yes, I think, so my ideal conference will be the conference that I enjoy myself and I like to see it as a viewer. And if this is happening, even if your money are not necessarily good in the beginning, you are pleased with yourself and say, "Okay, I'm doing good stuff." So I think this is important, to do conferences with passion instead necessarily as a business. It might become a business on the way but I think conference is a really good place to get people together, speakers, participants, probably in a nice location, but this was happening before COVID.

Richard Roger: Yeah. It's interesting, as a speaker, you end up speaking at lots of different conferences, and sometimes, the smaller ones that are more about passion, more just about the subject and the community are often not just more enjoyable but have a better result. You meet more people I think, and get to know them better than the big conferences.

Ovidiu Matan: Agree, agree. Especially if, like I can give you an example by my conference and you are I think two times at least speaker at The Developers.

Richard Roger: Sorry, we should say to the listeners, just disclaimer, I have spoken at Ovidiu's conferences, so this is a fix up. But anyway, Ovidiu, please continue.

Ovidiu Matan: Yeah. Also for an audience, Richard is a really good speaker so keep an eye on him, hopefully.

Richard Roger: Oh, thank you.

Ovidiu Matan: Well, coming back, as we got The Developers with only three or four speakers, this is really good because as an organizer, you can connect with each of the speakers and also them can enjoy better the audience, the public. Probably if it's a small conference, you will not have thousands of people in the audience, but even a few hundred, I think it's enough to send your message. And also, you'll get really interesting questions if it's a smaller conference. If it's big, you might get lost between tracks and so on.

Richard Roger: Yeah, that has definitely been my experience. I think what I'm afraid of and my kind of fear of one of the effects of COVID and that the effect that it's had on events is that it has badly affected a lot of the smaller conferences, because those were my favorite ones to go to, lots of smaller ones. And a lot of them went online, you went online, but you've survived so well done, congratulations. It must have been very difficult.

Ovidiu Matan: Yeah. It was not easy, and what I'd initially done, it was to try to do a small project. So initially, it started as an experiment but I finished up creating my own, let's say, stream website which I'm using only myself right now.

Richard Roger: Yeah. Well, we'll put a link in, don't worry. We'll get some more users. That's amazing though. I mean, you're just like, "I'm just going to build it myself."

Ovidiu Matan: Exactly, because I was not happy to do meet ups and conferences on Zoom or other stuff like this and I wanted to have more flexibility, so I just created my own based on open technology like Jitsi Meet, OBS and different other stuff. But it is working good and probably I'll open it for other people at some point too. The thing is if you want a better view, if you want to have an animated background to put people's name, all this kind of stuff, you need to build custom. And once you build custom, then you realize that you want to scale a little bit to have 1, 2, 3, 4 tracks, maybe more in parallel, and then you end up building an entire website. So this was happening.

I built this solution and then with all my magazine events, which are monthly, and my conferences, which is The Developers and IT Days, all went online with my platform. But I have to mention that, I don't know, at least here include, I realize that a lot of small events like the meetups has disappeared, so I don't see many small events as you mentioned lately around me.

Richard Roger: Yeah. And that's what I'm kind of worried about. Now, I went to my first meet up in Dublin, Ireland last week about no code automations, that was really interesting, but that was the first meetup. Everybody at that meetup, it was the first time they went in person to a meet up in two years.

Ovidiu Matan: Wow. Wow. I agree. At least myself, I didn't get this chance.

Richard Roger: Yeah. It depends. I mean, different countries are at different stages so I think it's a bit safer here.

Ovidiu Matan: Yeah, I think you are lucky. The only moment when I was able to let's say socialize with other people on this technical side was this year at IT Days. We were not allowed to have people in the conference hall but we were able to get people there, set up for stages. And we got only speakers, some of the local speakers who want to come here, but we end up, for example, during afternoon, to have like 20 or 30 people there. We got something like a nice chat and a small meet up.

Richard Roger: Yeah. Well, that's not too bad. That's something anyway.

Ovidiu Matan: Yeah.

Richard Roger: Hopefully anyway, this year, it'll all get better and we won't have to worry so much anymore. I want to ask you about speakers because a lot of the people listening, speaking is part of their job and they're going out, they're developer advocates or whatever and they're talking about products, and a lot of conferences have this tension, this issue where they don't want to have people pitching products. And I think it's an interesting topic because when I ran a meetup, my members would often be quite happy to have somebody come and talk about their product because they would learn about it. What do you think of this issue? Is it okay for speakers to come and pitch a product or how can they do it right?

Ovidiu Matan: I think if it is their own product that they build and they can talk more, not only about the product feature but also about how they built it and all the journey, what technology are they using, I think that's welcome every time. The problem that I'm seeing is some speakers come to advertise their company, which is a different thing. And I'm trying to, every time when I got the speaker, I say, okay, try to not do advertising. If you want to do advertising, we have some packages you can put there on the picture and so on, but that's different. And actually, this is happening with all my projects, in the Today Software Magazine, the same. I'm keeping it outside, all the advertising, I'm trying to keep it outside. But other than this, I think to talk about your product is great and myself, I'm happy when I can get these kind of speakers.

Richard Roger: Yeah. I think if it's done well, if it's done for the developer so that it's useful, maybe showing how to solve problems, I think that is pretty good. I have seen over the years some terrible pitch presentations where it was just marketing. That's what we don't want, right. It's like, show me the code, right?

Ovidiu Matan: Exactly. And you don't want someone to come and say, "Hey, this product is the greatest one in the planet." You want people to realize themselves this. I mean, just tell them about the product and not that it is the best one necessarily, except some of the critics.

Richard Roger: Yeah. So some speakers have already prepared talks or have given the talks elsewhere, so when you're organizing a conference, do you ask to see the slides in advance? Do you give some direction to the speakers about what to do?

Ovidiu Matan: Well, I think this make every conference particular. For my case, I'm going more on the person than on the presentation. So if I know you, if I know that you are the best guy and you are a good professional and you deliver good presentation and we have a trust relation, I'm not asking about any slides. So the platform is there, you can upload your slide just before you go live. It's up to you, I don't care. It's your slide and it's your name there. But as an organizer, I know that you will do a good thing there.

If you are doing a conference, you are talking with some senior people so at least myself, I'm not expecting to go into someone else slides other than myself and say, "Okay, this is not good. You need to change it." I think if you got to this point, you should not get him or her as a speaker.

Richard Roger: Yeah. This is true.

Ovidiu Matan: You need to believe and to trust the speaker. If you don't do this, then you should settle for another speaker.

Richard Roger: The challenge, I think, from the event organizer perspective, conference organizer perspective, you can understand that you want to pick people that are proven, that can do the job. I always get, especially at meetups, people who want to start speaking. They have this challenge that they have no track record, they've never done any talks. I always say to them to start at meetups. You have a monthly event as well. Do you let new people speak at those or how does that work?

Ovidiu Matan: Well, for my monthly events, then it's easier because they have only 10 minutes, and I'm there so if they talk something different that I want to hear, I can intervene and say, "Hey, let's go back to the topic." And that's-

Richard Roger: OK. I've got to ask, have you had to intervene? What was the worst-

Ovidiu Matan: Well, usually not. I'm trying to not do this, but my advantage is that they're also presenting their article so I somehow know about what they are doing.

Richard Roger: Oh, of course.

Ovidiu Matan: But on the other hand, it might happen. You might get a speaker who really wants to advertise their company and so on when it's not a place. For this is, okay, he finish his talk, that's it, but you not ask him to come back next time.

Richard Roger: Yeah. Yeah. So that's a black mark. So your secret weapon, Ovidiu, is the magazine, right?

Ovidiu Matan: Somehow, yes. Yes, this is the secret weapon because from the magazine, I got some great speakers. I discover actually new speakers, and the best ones, I inviting them to IT Days or other conferences.

Richard Roger: Yeah. Yeah. Tell me about the magazine. So how did the magazine start? Because I know about conferences, I've done that myself, but magazines? I don't know anything about magazines.

Ovidiu Matan: Well, yeah, it started some time ago. Well, as a base, I'm a Java developer, at least I was, and I still am. But the thing that, at some point, I got to a position as a product manager, started doing some product things like synchronization server, doing features, business cases, so on, and I started to get the taste to create your own product. The thing is that the next step, I had to go to a company that was doing great stuff, great project for Silicon Valley, but they were doing just outsourcing and nobody cared about your thought and things like this.

And then I decided, okay, I need my own product and this is how I got to the software magazine. Initially, as any new product, I build it on my own money, print the magazine from my own money, without any... That is funny because it was only passion, I didn't think that it might be a business. And the funny thing is that companies came to me and say, "Okay, Ovidiu, we want an offering for your magazine. We want to be there." And somehow, more company came and at some point, I decide, okay, let me stay only with the magazine and quit my job.

Richard Roger: Wow. That's a great story. Wow. So now you're a publisher.

Ovidiu Matan: Yes. And one interesting thing, everything happened in 2012 this month, in February, so this month, we are having 10 years of activity.

Richard Roger: Congratulations. Wow. I mean, that's to live the dream, right? So many people want to be their own boss.

Ovidiu Matan: Yeah. It's not easy.

Richard Roger: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ovidiu Matan: For sure, it's easier to just work for the others, but being your own boss means a lot of freedom.

Richard Roger: Yeah. I know, I know. So the business model for the magazine, is it a traditional advertising based model?

Ovidiu Matan: Somehow. I mean, we have companies. All the partners, they got some advertising inside of the magazine, their logo, and usually, we are doing contracts for one year. So I'm not usually accepting companies that want advertising only for one month or two months because this is somehow disrupting. So I'm preferring long term partners, and in this way, they appear inside of the technical article, their advertisement, and that's it.

Richard Roger: Okay. And most of the advertising, is it to sell software products or is it to recruit the [inaudible 00:19:30].

Ovidiu Matan: Well, the companies are local from here, from close, Transylvania, Romania. And usually, they are trying to hire people, or it's just the logo as an advertisement or they have a message trying to get some people hired.

Richard Roger: Interesting. Okay. Yeah, because of course, finding developers, it gets very hard.

Ovidiu Matan: Yes. So usually, that's the marketing for... So if you have like a website where developers are coming, probably you will end up having advertising for some companies, not necessarily jobs, but saying, okay, we are a good company, something like this.

Richard Roger: Yeah. Yeah. Wow. Would you do it again? If you could go back in time, would you do it again?

Ovidiu Matan: Yes, definitely. Yes.

Richard Roger: Okay, cool.

Ovidiu Matan: Yes. And the nice thing is that you can build products. So I have the magazine, then I start the conferences. You can try to do different businesses, so I try at some point some website with tests but that didn't went well. Now, I have the streaming platform. Maybe the next project will be, and actually I'm working on this, I'm trying to get more on the video part of the thing, like cinematic videos, things like this. Because what's happening right now, people are reading but they are usually preferring the video materials.

Richard Roger: Yeah. Yeah.

Ovidiu Matan: So I'm trying to get into this part, and I don't know, we'll see what the next project will be.

Richard Roger: Yeah. I think it's a challenge. I looked into it a little bit myself and during COVID, we were helping people do some kind of online video courses, but you have to learn OBS, that kind of software, and then you need a powerful computer. And then the big challenge I find, even for Zoom calls for business meetings, is lighting. So not looking like you're a zombie in the meeting room, especially in winter. I don't know, I'm still trying to figure out how to do lighting.

Ovidiu Matan: Well, yes. When I'm asking people to join the conference, you cannot control everything but you can just at least say, okay, don't stay with your camera to the window, get the light on you. If it's not enough light, try to start something there. Yeah, agree. Lighting is one of the thing. The other problem with an online meeting is the internet connection.

Richard Roger: Yes.

Ovidiu Matan: Which might break, might not break, or people are talking but their image disappear, so yeah, a lot of stuff. But well, as trying to organizing meetings, I think from my perspective, the main issue might be the sound. At least this is where my issues start usually because usually, the image you can see it and you can fix it, but what's happened to me a few times, you might get some echo or things like this, or some background noise and you cannot fix it live. You need to stop, look on your tools and see, okay, what's causing this?

Richard Roger: Yeah. And the human ear I think is much more sensitive to bad sound.

Ovidiu Matan: Yes.

Richard Roger: It's always a challenge. It's always a challenge. On this podcast, I guess we're kind of lucky in the sense that the guests tend to have pretty good setups, especially now that people are working from home. But I've done this podcast where I'm sitting in a hotel room trying to interview somebody, hotel wifi.

Ovidiu Matan: Yeah. Yeah. It's happening.

Richard Roger: Yeah. So I think make life difficult for yourself. Ovidiu, I think we'll finish up. Just before we go, 2022 is going to be hopefully a good year for you guys. Tell us a little bit about the events you're planning for this year, as much as you know of course.

Ovidiu Matan: Well, yes. We'll have monthly events for the Today Software Magazine. Unfortunately, since we are locally here, I'm keeping them in Romanian. From time to time, they are in English too but that's usually an exception. I hope to have, as soon as possible, real life events with more people in the room and not sitting at home. What will change there is that even if we will be there in a room with a bunch of people and talking about technology, we'll still have from now on this online connection so everyone can connect to it. And then we'll have, of course, the conferences, we have The Developers, 14th June. Yeah, Richard, you might be there too, right?

Richard Roger: Indeed. I told you it was [inaudible 00:25:05].

Ovidiu Matan: Yeah, that's a small conference with just, usually, four speakers, and what we are doing here, we are trying to have one hour of presentation or 50 minutes, something like this, and then half an hour of Q and A, because I think Q and A is one of the most important things for the audience. They can ask and they can interact with you really good.

Richard Roger: This is true, because in a lot of conferences, what happens is there's always a little bit of a delay. You only have time for one or two questions and it's very frustrating for the audience.

Ovidiu Matan: Agree, agree, agree. So this is at The Developers, then we'll have in 9 and 10 November, we'll have IT Days. This is a bigger conference with a lot of audience. We have like 60 speakers, two days, four tracks. Hopefully, we'll be in person, we'll see. And yeah, this is a different kind of conference, and I continue to work on my streaming event platform. And I've just recently starting to look at the NFT, you know, the tokens?

Richard Roger: Yeah.

Ovidiu Matan: And I might look in to build this kind of platform for some local artists to sell their stuff there.

Richard Roger: Interesting. Interesting. Yeah. It's not an area I've taken much of a look at, so yeah, you can tell me all about it, hopefully in person. Ovidiu, thank you.

Ovidiu Matan: Yeah. We'll see, we'll see. Yeah.

Richard Roger: Thank you so much. It has been awesome, and best of luck for this year and I hope everything happens in person.

Ovidiu Matan: Yep. Thank you Richard, and of course, next time, I will love to see your plans for 2020.

Richard Roger: Absolutely. When I figure it out, I will let you know. Alrighty. Take care. Bye-bye.

Ovidiu Matan: Thank you. Thank you. Bye.

Richard Roger: Thank you so much for listening. Just a few things before the embers fade and we wrap up another episode of Fireside with Voxgig. You can find notes and links from this podcast at We also publish a weekly newsletter on public speaking, selecting the best advice and techniques from some of the world's greatest speakers, both ancient and modern. Rhetoric is an old and revered art, not especially easy to master, but a skill like any other, one you can also learn. Visit to subscribe.

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