Planning a WordCamp

If you have ever considered planning a WordCamp then you will want to read this post.

I was an organizer in 2011 and 2012 for WordCamp San Diego. I can honestly say they were by far one of the most interesting experiences I have had to date. They were comprised of extreme highs and lows spread over a number of months. There is no escaping the feelings you have the few days prior to the event, the days of the event and the days immediately following the event. The things that I probably overlooked when first starting off were:

  • The Organizing Team
  • The Foundation
  • Where to start?
  • The Little Things

The Organizing Team

Be mindful when setting up an organizing team. Like in anything there are multiple personalities you will have to work with.

Our first year we made the mistake of creating a large group, more than 6, in an attempt to ensure we kept it community driven and because of concerns over perception. First tip, a large organizing team is a bad idea. Keep the organizing team small; less personalities to deal with, easier to manage and in the end more effective. Leverage all those eager souls anxious to be a part of the group as volunteers, as the event approaches there will always be a need for volunteers.

The Foundation

Working with the foundation will always be an interesting experience. The biggest guidelines to watch for include:

  • Thoughts on speaker gifts;
  • GPL requirement for sponsors;
  • Guidance on “realistic” budgets for camps;
  • Preference over “venue”;
  • Preferred payment options if they manage your funds;
  • Opinions on money used to stream and record sessions;
  • Guidelines on the cost per attendee and its relationship to the number of days for the event;
  • Technical challenges updating .org with your theme.

You can find better guidance on the WordCamp planning site.

Where to Start?

Being that none of us were event planners we had to do what we can when we first started in 2011. The good thing is we learned a great deal on how to go about setting things up quickly and easily and these are the top 5 things I took away from the process:

  • SIZE. By size I mean how many attendees do you plan to have? This will help drive everything else.
  • VENUE. This is very important, everything else is fruitless without this. Can’t set your date, can’t review your budget, etc…
  • FOOD and BEVERAGES situated. In most instances check with the venue, sometimes they have partnerships that you have to comply with. In 2011 we could only use Pepsi products. In 2012 we had to use one specific caterer. Personally I liked 2012 the best, using a caterer to handle everything related to food and beverages the day of the event was a huge WIN for us. You don’t have to, but not doing so will see you making several last minute runs.
  • BUDGET. The venue and condiments are by far going to be your biggest combined expenses, they will help you determine what you’ll be looking at per person. Its going to be a guesstimate ofcourse so treat it like a work in progress. Be conservative and expect overage of 20% at a minimum. As you get true quotes update the budget to actuals.
  • SPONSORSHIPS. Never the funnest part, but a much needed necessity. Knowing your budget will let you figure out your cost per attendee and how much money you have to raise.

The Little Things

There are ofcourse a number of other things that have to be considered once these are set, they include:

  • Event Insurance
  • T-Shirts
  • Badges / Lanyards (the foundation will provide you lanyards if you like)
  • A/V – try to get a venue that offers it, always a plus for convenience

Those are the bare essentials after getting the foundation in place, here are some of the nice-to-haves that could become contentious when working with the foundation:

  • ┬áSpeaker Gifts
  • Speaker / Sponsor Social
  • Video Streaming
  • Video Recording
  • Signage – low cost, not a big issue here
  • After-Party

There are probably other things too like swag and hotel bookings and what not, but they just don’t rank that high for me personally.

Final Thoughts

Putting on an event is not for the faint of heart. It takes time, patience and commitment. The feeling you get after a successful event is indescribable. Just be mentally and emotionally prepared. You will have personality clashes with the team, recognize them, put them aside and push forward.

You will hear people complain about everything. From the smallest of things like the frequency of posts or tweets, to the quality of the food the day of the event. Look past it all and focus on the event and go with your gut.

I hope this is helpful to some and if you decide to put on a WordCamp let me know, always looking for a new one to attend.

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