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Adventures in Joomla! Event Planning...
It all started on a hot, summer day in August, an innocent lunch, a good idea, and off we went, diving headfirst into planning the first ever JoomlaDay Boston! You may see this as a bit of shameless plugging, and you are right, please join us! But with it, I hope to pass along a few good tips on event organizing.
Organizing an event takes a lot of time, planning, blood, sweat, tears... and passion! These past few months I have been busy organizing JoomlaDay Boston to be held at The Microsoft NERD Center on Saturday, March 16. I've never organized an event before, and I have learned that there is a lot of networking involved in coordinating sponsorships, speakers, travel, hotels, swag, printed materials, catering, banners, PR, not to mention the website! I've had some great folks helping me out along the way, thank you all!!
If you would like to organize a JoomlaDay in your community, go to: http://events.joomla.org. You will find a plethora of information on getting started, as well as a great deal of support from fellow organizers!
Here are a few tips and suggestions from folks in the worldwide Joomla community who have organized a Joomla event:
Radek Suski, JoomlaDay Poland
Given my experience with getting JoomlaDay Boston sponsors, I realized a very nice thing, you have created few big packages and many small ones. I think it was really a very good idea. People are asking us many times for sponsoring and unfortunately the prices that JAB, JWC or lately, J!Day Germany expect are far too high.
The problem is, I think, that organizers are forgetting often that most of the Joomla! businesses are small companies, and they are not able to sponsor 5 or 10 J!Days when the cheapest package is about 500 EUR.
There are indeed some companies like Microsoft, SiteGround or RedComponent and they can achieve paying a lot of money for sponsoring. It's what the few big packages are for. But there are also lot of small companies like Sigsiu.NET, Akeeba and similar.
Robert Deutz, JandBeyond
- Be prepared, have always a plan C, because A fails often and B sometimes
- Don't rely on something, back to a)
- Don't start things you can't handle by yourself, back to b).
And finally... build a good, and small team!!
Brian Teeman, Joomla World Conference
Don't try and replicate another event. Especially if that one has been running for a long time and this is your first!
Sander Potjer, JoomlaDay Netherlands
Is it the first JoomlaDay in an area? Start small, for example with a Joomla User Group. This allows you to meet other people that are willing to help out in organizing a JoomlaDay. Get inspired and learn from other JoomlaDays around the world (visit them!) and try to 'translate' it to your situation, but don't simply copy it.
For example: the Dutch JoomlaDays starts on Friday with a meet & greet and ends on Sunday afternoon. Next to two days with sessions attendees can stay for diner and overnight at the venue hotel. This is working very well for our event and might sounds nice (and actually it is!), but don't forget it is our 8th edition. Our first edition was very basic and 'just' an afternoon at a school, we slowly grown over the years and the social aspect became more important.
Heidi Stanclift, JoomlaDay New England
It's important to take time to view your event from the attendee's perspective. Once your event starts, these aren't things that you can fix in the midst of the experience.
So ask yourself questions like:
- Are we offering something for different interests in each time slot?
- Are we offering clear room directions for people that have never been in the building(city, country) before?
- Do we have enough breaks scheduled so people can make connections?
- Do we have enough water, coffee/tea out at all times?
David Hurley JoomlaDay North Carolina
- Prepare for the unexpected. Whether that be a speaker not showing up, promotional materials not arriving, or problems at the venue, there will always be something that is not planned for. Be calm and carry on :)
- Prioritize. Put first things first. Some items are more important than others. Focus on those that are top priority and don't sweat the small stuff. Keep in mind #1 above.
- Be clear in defining organizer roles. Make sure everyone is aware of their individual responsibilities and that tasks are evenly distributed.
- Enjoy the event. Don't get so caught up in planning and micro-managing that the fun and benefit of the event is lost. Make connections. Learn. And always remember the purpose of the event.
Mike Carson, JoomlaDay Chicago
The best advice and tips that I can give to people who are considering hosting a JoomlaDay event is to not worry so much about “if” you should have an event in your area. If there isn’t already a JoomlaDay event in your area, and you feel that you could fill a gap for your local Joomla community, then just have it. The Joomla events team is always there for assistance and other event organizers are always happy to share advice. There is a very large support system in place for event organizers starting with the events team, OSM, and the Joomla community.
All of the items listed above by the other event organizers is very important, and you could write a book (hey, there’s an idea!) with all the experiences that other organizers have had with running their events. And, each one would have a different list of advice. But the biggest takeaway that is universal and applies to all events is to be unique in your own little way. People who go to multiple events will remember something different about each one, so make yours stand out somehow. Be creative. And most of all, HAVE FUN!
Be an attendee!
I can't say this often enough, if you have never been to a Joomla event, make the effort and GO! The networking and real time spent with the Joomla Community is worth the cost of admission! Here is a full list of upcoming events!