RuLu 2011: “Yes we did it, now it’s your turn !!”
Or “How to organize an international Ruby Conf in 4 months ?”
4 months ago, in february, so impressed by the massive coming success of Euruko Berlin, we decided with few friends of Lyon.rb to organize an other international Ruby event in Lyon. The idea behind was to gather french community on a classic international event in France and prepare the french application for Euruko 2013. Simple.
13 best practices to organize a Ruby Conf:
Here are some lessons I learnt from RuLu 2011 organization that can help you when you’ll plan one:
- Build a solid team: Your team-mates are usually working during the week and have all a private and selfish life. Planning a Conf is a long road project and it’s sometime a real pain in the ass to stick to a weekly planned meeting. Some people might forget their responsibilities, miss too much meetings or not deliver what they should . You need people you can trust 100%.
- Be agile; we did during 4 months two 15’ standup and one 1h debrief per week. Handling a distributed team (only half of them is leaving in Lyon) is a bet. So you need to coordinate them tightly and use lot of online tools.
- Use online tools: To synchronize, store, share easily use online tools. We used Pivotal Tracker for project management, Google Doc for main docs writing, Google wiki to centralized all links. Dropbox for files, a dedicated google email,Weezevent for event and ticket selling, Skype for daily chat and weekly meeting calls… That’s a lot. That’s too much. May be an idea for a SaaS project here? #pj
- Split responsibilities: building a living website, event logistic, project management, sponsor and speakers hunt, goodies ordering, accountancy are all long-term topics. You cant have team members jumping from one to one. They have to be informed and responsible of them and stick to them for months.
- Communicate dates ASAP : The RuLu con idea has been launched in february. One month later we decided and published the final date. It’s important to communicate soon the final date. Gathering 110 people for a week-end tech Conf imply much more inertia than for a single working day. You don’t need a confirmed location so far (eg: Euruko 2011 in Berlin).
- Network, network, network: don’t be afraid to contact rockstars. They are rockstars because they love their public, they are passionated and deserve to be known. Contact them and expose your vision of your event. If your selection match the spirit of your event they will accept.
- Find cheap venue: Schools and Universities are always happy to welcome technical Conf in their empty amphitheaters. That’s always a big saving on your budget. For example a 200 places amphitheater in Lyon for 2 days cost around 4000€. Alternative location must also be considered and could be really attractive (boat, castle, barn etc … ).
- Take special care of the Conf content: attendees will have to buy a ticket, find a place to stay, buy plane tickets. The only initial reason for them to do so is they trust you to teach them something, help them meet interesting people and have a really good time. If the speakers crew is well known and has already delivered well rated talks, you cant worry too much about content. Then don’t forget details. A party for example cant be forgotten.
- There is no little details: Help all attendees to find a place to stay, provide them some information about the city, places to be. Think about toilet, accessibility of the venue. ( Joseph Wilk was really disappointed and we are deeply sorry for that mistake). Think about water, tea and milk for those not drinking coffee. Think about attendees feedback, speaker reputation, twitter animation… no limit for details coverage.
- Backup everything: In case of dead mic, if a speaker cancel at the last minute or if the food can’t be delivered you need a B plan. Nothing can be forgotten when 100 people are waiting for a smooth happening.
- Look around for help: we have contacted other experienced local groups from the Agile or Java community to help us. They have done that many times and gave us logistical support, advises, provider references.
- Journalists are busy people: you cant contact them 2 weeks before and hope they will cover your event. As soon as the event date is defined, contact them. Simple.
- Party must be awesome: A Conf is a social event. Better is the socialization and social spaces (coffee break, food, party … ) better is the Conf. I would have loved to make a BBQ and invite a DJ for a private outside party. But you know, a team is a small democracy :)
How much cost RuLu Ruby Conf:
Now you might need real figures. For a 2 days Conf in Lyon with 10 speakers and a total of 110 attendees we had a budget of 10500€ with the following incomes:
- 3 Gold sponsors: 4500€
- 7 Silver sponsors: 3500€
- 50 sold tickets: 2500€
And the following expenses:
- Food: 3500€ including breakfast and coffee break
- Speakers accommodation: 1700€ in a standard 3 stars hotel
- Speakers transportation: 1800€ for train and plane tickets
- Goodies: 900€
- Printing: 120€
- Welcome diner: 830€
- Video making: 500€
- Domain name and hosting: 28€
- Misc expenses: 80€
You can see that we made a profit of 1050€. Be sure we’ll use them for the next event planned in coming months. What about an Open Source Hacking Camp on Sinatra or Travis CI ?