This guide strives to help organizers of all types of Drupal-related events to effectively plan and organize their event. While most Drupal events are called "DrupalCamps", there are a number of other types of Drupal events that are also covered. The terms "DrupalCamp" and "Drupal event" are used interchangeably in this document.
Table of Contents
What is a DrupalCamp?
The term "DrupalCamp" is used to describe various types of Drupal-related events usually organized by a local Drupal user group. Tradtionally, DrupalCamps have effectively been either un-planned sessions (in the spirit of unconferences like BarCamp), mini-conferences with pre-planned sessions, or some attempt to combine both formats.
There is also a growing number of more focused Drupal events that are also organized by local user groups, but that don't really fall into the "DrupalCamp" category (hackfests, clinics, etc...) While these aren't strictly "DrupalCamps", they share many of the same attributes, and the planning and execution of these events are similar to more traditional camps.
The absolute basic necessities for a DrupalCamp are sessions, a host facility, and people interested in learning about Drupal. In reality, that's all that is absolutely necessary. Most DrupalCamps have additional features including sponsors, birds-of-a-feather sessions, snacks, lunch, t-shirts, and a social/networking event among others.
Types of DrupalCamps
Many DrupalCamps are actually mini-Drupal conferences, with pre-planned tracks and sessions. The organizers decide on the various tracks (beginner, intermediate, advanced, etc...) and recruit presenters from their local community. Some DrupalCamps bring in well-known Drupal presenters from outside their local area as a way of providing more value to their attendees. The cost associated with this is often offset by a sponsor.
Fewer and fewer DrupalCamps are truly unconferences in which sessions are not planned or selected in advance. In true BarCamp fashion (such as Drupal Design Camp LA and the Charlotte Drupal Drive-in), a whiteboard is provided for attendees to claim a session block to present on any Drupal-related topic they wish. While easier to organize, unconferences are often more appealing to current Drupal users, not beginners. Some DrupalCamps use a combination of both conference-style and unconference styles sessions, where one or more session tracks are available for unconference style scheduling while the rest of the tracks are pre-planned.
Drupal Summits (pioneered by the Pacific Northwest Drupal Summit) are a relatively new type of Drupal event that is geared toward experienced Drupal users. The thinking is that at most DrupalCamps, the most experienced Drupal users in the community are often too busy teaching beginner sessions to benefit from the event. Summit bring together experience Drupal users from the local community to present on intermediate and advanced topics.
Drupal Clinics are events strictly aimed at users new to Drupal. Sessions are geared towards beginners, sometimes with multiple tracks for developers, themers, and decision makers. The goal of many Drupal Clinics is to introduce Drupal to more people in the local community.
Drupal Hackfests are events where Drupal developers and themers get together to work on various, usually community-driven, projects. There are no tracks, sessions or speakers. It is an opportunity for the community to join forces to work on various aspects of Drupal including core functionality, module development, theme development, and documentation.
Build-a-Site/Coding for a Cause/Charity Events
Charity Drupal events are where members of the local Drupal user group get together to build a site for a (usually) local organization (usually a non-profit) for no cost. These events are a way for the local Drupal community to "give back" and also provide an opportunity for users to learn new Drupal site-building skills.
What are the steps in organizing a basic camp?
The steps included in this section are meant to be a quick overview to people organizing their first camp. Many of the sections are exanded on later in this guide.
Keep it Simple
The essence of any Drupal event is a location, the people, and the content—anything additional is just a bonus. When organizing a event, it is imperative that these basics are covered before attempting to add additional features. If your local community is small, or just getting started, then start with these basics for your first camp, and work up from there. Kieran Lal (Amazon) provides some wise advice, "DrupalCamps are only as big as the community that can support it." If your local community only has 2-3 people willing to help organize a camp, then the camp will be relatively simple and small. The stronger your community is, the bigger your event can be.
How much lead time is necessary to plan a DrupalCamp? The answer to this usually depends on the venue selection. Once a venue is selected and locked-in, usually a couple of months is enough lead time to get the word out and recruit speakers for a simple camp. More time is often necessary if you're going to be recruiting sponsors, providing food and other amenities to the attendees.
Finding enough volunteers to put on a successful camp completely depends on the size and scope of your camp. A simple camp can be pulled off with just a small (2-4 people) group of volunteers. Larger camps often have over 10 dedicated volunteers, each one handling a separate task. The obvious source of volunteers is your local Drupal user group. If you're close to another location with a different user group, then this might be another source of volunteers. Finally, you can look to other local (usually technology-related) groups for support.
Examples: How do different user groups find volunteers?
- Florida: We've been lucky enough to partner with a local computer society who provides us with a group (5-10 people) of volunteers to help on the day of the event. They assist with registration, answering questions, and other general tasks. We provide them with t-shirts and free food for the day (everybody wins!)
- Hawaii: We spread the word through the existing Drupal group as well as various tech-related boards & online communities
- Asheville, NC: Our volunteers came from our local user group and companies using Drupal
- Chattanooga TN: Volunteers come from our local DUG & companies using Drupal
- Others? (please add!)
Determining a Target Attendance
How many people should you plan on having at your camp? This depends on a couple of factors, including the size of your user group as well as the population of your geographic community. There's nothing wrong with putting a limit on the number of attendees, this will help you manage costs, the venue selection process, and volunteer-power. Usually, after your first camp, you'll have a much better idea of the overall level of interest.
Examples: Approximate attendance of first camp in different locations:
- Florida (entire state): 100
- Chicago (2008): 200
- New York City: ?
- Atlanta: ?
- Colorado: 100
- Hawaii: 32
- Asheville, NC (2010): 80
- Central NJ (Princeton) - near Philadelphia and NYC (2012): 240
- Charlotte, NC (2012): 65
- Chattanooga TN (2013): 108
- Others? (please add!)
Setting a Date
When choosing a date for your DrupalCamp, usually the main factor is the availability of the desired venue and the lead time. It is also wise to factor in other local and regional events including other technology conferences, DrupalCamps, and national events. If your camp happens once a year the benefit of holding it in the same month each year helps to establish consistency in the community's memory.
Examples: What factors do different camps use when setting a date?
- Florida: we normally plan the event for the weekend between the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500 in February of each year.
- Hawaii: We choose a weekday in mid-July. If we do it on a regular basis, we'd consider doing meetup style events on a weeknight, Thursday nights seem best.
- Asheville, NC: We try and position our camp between other local events and the Atlanta camp
- Chattanooga TN: We try to be the last camp in the year in the SE (1st week of Nov). Asheville and Atlanta run Aug & Oct
- Others? (please add!)
Handling the money involved with putting on a camp is often one of the trickiest parts of the entire process. A number of different methods have been used by various camps around the world, depending on the size and complexity of the event.
For a first camp, when the amount of money flowing is (usually) at a minimum, it is often possible to have sponsors pay vendors directly. For larger camps, this is often not possible, so some type of fiscal agent must be used. Partnering with a local non-profit organization, creating a "fiscal entity" for the camp or the user group, and working with the Drupal Association are all options.
One method that is sometimes used (and usually regretted) is to funnel money through one of the organizer's personal or business bank account. This can be risky for the individual and/or organization and should be avoided.
More on this later in this document.
Finding and reserving a venue is often the linchpin of the camp organization effort. Most other tasks can't begin until the venue and date are set in stone. When looking for a venue, look to local businesses, universities, and other community organizations. Utilize any and all means at your disposal to find a suitable location—many camps have found free, or low-cost, venues simply by being persistent.
Examples: What kind of venues have camps used in the past?
- Florida: We've had a local business let them use their building (1 large room and 2 smaller conference rooms, along with an outside area). Once we outgrew that, we found a local university that allowed us to use their facilities for free, providing we allowed their network of local non-profit organizations access to our camp.
- D4D Boston uses a conference center on the MIT Campus.
- Hawaii DrupalCamp used the local INGDirect cafe (link to locations) which had internet access, conference space, tables & chairs, and a projector
- Asheville, NC: Our camp has been held at AB Tech the local tech community college for two years. They provided the facilities for free and we gave them platinum/venue sponsorship
- Chattanooga TN: Local community College (Chattanooga State) gave us the location for free.
- Others? (please add!)
Securing sponsors for your camp should happen as soon as the venue and date is selected. The level of sponsor support for your camp will often help you determine the overall budget of the camp as well as any possible admission fee for attendees.
Examples: Approximately how much money was raised from sponsors in your first camp?
- Florida: $3,000
- Hawaii: $100
- Asheville, NC: ~$3000
- Chicago: ~$5000
- Central NJ (2012) ~$7000
- Charlotte, NC (2012): $2400
- Chattanooga TN (2013): $4500
- Others? (please add!)
Once the venue and date are set, initial marketing for your camp can begin. Prior to any registration fee being set, usually this marketing is in the form of "save-the-date" info about your camp. Once any registration fee is determined, the full marketing push can begin. Common marketing techniques for camps include:
- Your local groups.drupal.org group (group organizers can utilize the "Broadcast" tab to send an email to all group members).
- Nearby local groups.drupal.org groups (be careful with this one, you don't want to "spam" other groups)!
- Your camp's official web site
- A blog post that goes out to Drupal Planet
- Encouraging others to add your camp's badge to their sites
- Email past attendees and groups subscribers
- Traditional marketing like press releases and news writeups
- Google and Facebook Ads
- Posts on Web design or dev blog communities
- Promotion at meetups not Drupal specific
Call for Speakers
As soon as the venue and date are set, if your camp is going to have pre-planned sessions, you can being the process of recruiting speakers. Look to your local user group, as well as other user groups within a few hours of travel-distance from your location. Camps are a great way to encourage people to try their hand at presenting as well as for more experienced presenters to work on a particular talk. Inviting someone to present at your camp is a compliment to the person; use this fact to your advantage.
Most camps also have an open call for speakers as well. Be as open and public about the process as possible, to ensure that you are including as many people as possible.
Note: many people are willing to travel large distances to your camp, especially when they are confirmed as speakers, so be sure to get the session planning started well in advance.
Everything Else (nametags, food, t-shirts, swag, parties, etc...)
Once the venue, event date, marketing, and speakers efforts are moving, then it is appropriate to start thinking about additional aspects of your camp. The first question you should ask yourself before adding additional features is, "do we have enough volunteers to support this?" First-time camp organizers tend to end up in the position of having the camp planning take over a good portion of their lives during the week or two leading up to the camp because they took on too much. If you don't have enough reliable volunteers to support the effort, then any additions can end up being a headache.
What tools are used to help organize camps?
In some cases, the most challenging part of putting on a Drupal event is the logistical organization. Being able to keep track of tasks, share documents, and ensure nothing is left behind is a difficult task regardless of the project. Different user groups have used different methods to help organize their camps. Clearly, as camps become larger, more volunteers are involved in the process and the organizational tasks become more difficult.
Regardless of the method(s) chosen, it is usually best to get everyone on-board as quickly as possible, so that potential miscommunications are minimized.
It is a safe to assume that if you're organizing a camp, then your user group already has a presence on groups.drupal.org (gdo). For smaller camps, this is often all that is needed to keep track of organizing a camp. Set up a wiki page to organize committees, tasks, and progress. Use discussion nodes for individual topics and leverage gdo's home page tabs and panels to keep important camp information easy-to-reach.
For larger camps a full-fledged case tracker, like Open Atrium (OA), can be very useful. Many Drupal shops utilize OA for their internal project tracking—asking a local shop to create a DrupalCamp group on their OA installation can save the time and expense of setting up a dedicated OA install.
Google Docs is a great way to store and share documents when planning a camp. Sponsor pitch letters, marketing lists, task assignments, budgets, and various other camp-related documents can be shared among the entire organizing committee for quick and easy access. A big advantage of using Google Docs is that it takes the file format out of the equation, freeing organizers from having to worry about if everyone is using the same word processor.
Sharing a cloud storage account (like DropBox) among camp organizers is another great way to easily share documents. One thing that cloud storage can do that Google Docs can't is store any type of file.
Another potential method for keeping camp organizers in-sync is via a simple organizer mailing list. This is usually the easiest to set up and get everybody up-and-running on, but can sometimes get a bit unwieldy.
Conference Calls/Skype calls
Periodic conference calls among camp organizers can be a great way of keeping everyone in-sync and making sure tasks are progressing and all ideas are captured and shared. In the U.S., there are a number of free conference call services (FreeConferenceCall.com is just one) to choose from. You can also just add everyone to a group Skype call.
Group chats in Skype are used for the D4D Boston planning too. Skype stores messages when people are offline, so they can read the backscroll next time they log in.
IRC - Internet Relay Chat
Creating or utilizing a regional irc room is a great way to keep people connected outside of meetings/camps. These can be a great way to have quick discussions and organize your events.
Examples: How do different user groups organize their planning?
- Florida: We use a combination of Google Docs and DropBox along with weekly conference calls.
- Colorado: irc, skype, Open Atrium on a local company server
- D4D Boston uses Google Docs, Skype (for calls and group chats) and email.
- DrupalHawaii.com put materials on our own website and handled invitations through EventBrite
- Asheville, NC: We start with a camp outline in a google doc shared with the core volunteers to get on the same page. Then we move all the planning to Atrium on the user groups server. We communicated via local meetings, skype, email, and atrium cases
- Chattanooga TN: Google Doc & Skype
- Others? (please add!)
How much do camps charge participants?
Determining an entrance fee for a camp is something that some groups struggle with. Entrance fees at Drupal events in the past have ranged from free to over 50 (USD) per person. This wide range of fees is indicative of different levels of sponsorships, amenities, and overall budgets of various camps. A July 2010 DrupalCamp Organizer survey showed that over half of all camps did not charge an admission fee. Anecdotal evidence shows that this trend is slowing, as more and more camps are adopting a nominal fee.
In the interest of attempting to make the event as attractive and open as possible, some camps have determined that offering their event for free is ideal for their community. Any event costs are then covered by sponsors, either in cash or in-kind. The downside of offering a free event is the difficulty in accurately determining how many attendees to expect. The camp can require attendees to pre-register, but without a fee, some attendees will register on the chance that they might attend. This can lead to higher registration abandonment rates (see below).
A nominal, or token, registration fee is often used instead of no registration fee in an effort by organizers to get a better handle on how many people will actually attend the event. Adding a nominal registration fee leads to additional work on the part of the organizers, as a method to collect the registration fee must be provided and managed. The addition of a nominal fee obviously also helps offsets any camp costs and provides a more accurate prediction of actual attendees.
Discounts for Students, Non-Profits
Some camps offer free, or discounted admission to students and employees of non-profit organizations as a gesture of goodwill.
Registration Abandonment Rates
Regardles of the registration fee that is used, it is safe to expect that a certain percentage of registrants will not attend the event. It is also safe to assume that there will be a small number of walk-ins (people who haven't registered, but show up at the door). For free events, the abandonment rate is usually higher, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20%. Abandonment rates for paid events are normally around 10%. This wiki page shows actual abandonment rate for various camps.
Examples: How much do different DrupalCamps charge for registration?
- Florida: $10 (2011), $5 (2010), Free (2009)
- Hawaii: Free (2011) -- very high attendance even though it was free
- Chicago: $20-$40 (depending on year)
- Asheville, NC: 2010: $15-25, 2011: $10
- Central NJ (Princeton): 2012, 2013: $20, 2014: $25
- Chattanooga TN 2013, 2014, (2015): $25
- Others? (please add!)
Like any other project, the organization of a Drupal event is often more manageable once it is broken up into distinct tasks. Each task can then be handled by a small committee. With many Drupal events, a "committee" is often just a single person. Depending on the number of volunteers willing to help, and the size and scope of your camp, this is just a sample of common Drupal event committees. In many cases, individual volunteers often take on several committees. Detailed information about each committee's possible tasks are (will be) included later in this document.
Most camps tend to have one or more volunteers who take the lead in organizing the event. This is usually not something that is the result of a vote or discussion, it usually just sort of happens. Not coincidently, it is usually this same person (or small group of people) that handle the finances of the camp. The leaders also usually have the unenviable job of making sure everyone else is doing what they agreed to. When things don't get done, it is often up to the leaders to make the decision to either complete the task themselves, or to drop it completely.
This committee is typically in charge of determining the various sponsor levels, contacting potential sponsors, arranging for payment, and making sure that everything that was promised to sponsors is actually provided. This committee can also arrange for obtaining giveaway and swag items from sponsors to be given away at the camp.
This committee is typically the treasurer for the camp, keeping track of income (registration fees, sponsorship) and expenses (venue, food, etc...) as well as helping to determine an overall budget for the camp and keeping the rest of the organizers appraised of the financial situation.
When the organizers make the decision to provide food and drink to the attendees at the event, it is often necessary to assign a committee to handle it. Common tasks for this committee include finding and negotiating with local establishments as well as arranging for transportation, setup, clean up, and payment. This task is often under-estimated in the amount of work required to be successful.
When planning a conference-style event, finding presenters and planning the schedule is often one of the most time-consuming tasks. Because of this, this committee often has multiple people working on it. Depending on the event's expected audience and number of tracks, sometimes it makes sense to have around one volunteer per track.
Examples: How do different DrupalCamps organize sessions?
- Florida: In 2011, we had 6 tracks of sessions with four volunteers coordinators: one volunteer for the beginner track, two volunteers for three Drupal-heavy tracks, and one volunteer for more generic "social media" tracks.
- Hawaii: We had 7 planned sessions in the morning, and after lunch people had networking in small groups
- Asheville, NC: We planned for 3 tracks each year with open submissions from volunteers. The first year we paid for a Drupal beginners trainer to train the entirety of the beginners track.
- Chattanooga TN; We plan for 4 tracks (Beginner, Development, Theming, Drupal for Business/Project Management) plus a full day beginners track. We get a single sponsor to pay for Doug Vann to fly into town and do his "Drupal in a Day" training for free.
- Others? (please add!)
T-shirts or other swag
When t-shirts or other swag are added as an event offering, it is usually convenient to assign a volunteer to handle the various tasks associated with it. Finding a vendor, coordinating with the other organizers on a design and the (possible) inclusion of sponsor logos, determining the number (and size breakdown) to order, payment, and pickup/delivery can make this a good-sized task.
Also, it can feel like every event gives out t-shirts, so make yours distinct by providing something different. Example include re-useable shopping bag with camp logo, knit winter hat with logo, compact notebook with logo, bottle-opener keychain with camp logo, etc.
Having a single point of contact for the venue works well in both directions. Multiple points of contact for the venue and the user group can complicate normally straight-forward issues. If the venue is providing WiFi, this committee can also be responsible for testing the WiFi and any associated login procedures so there are no surprises the day of the event.
Depending on the venue, things such as tables, chairs, WiFi equipment, drink coolers, and other items might need to be rented (or borrowed) for the event. Supplying power to attendees is often overlooked, this can be easily remedied with rented/purchased/borrowed extension cords and power strips. Sometimes it is convenient for this committee to be merged with the "Venue" committee.
While the marketing of the event can typically be accomplished by the majority of the event organizers, sometimes it is useful to have someone coordinating the effort. This person can provide a sample press release to be used, ensure that the event is posted on various event sites as well as Drupal Planet, reach out and invite nearby user groups, and encourage organizers and the local community to post information about the event on social media sites.
Highly dependent on the venue, sometimes both exterior and interior signage is necessary to ensure that attendees know where to go. This task can often be accomplished by the organizers immediately prior to the event (using posterboard and markers). If it is determined that more is needed, then having a volunteer determine the amount and location of signage prior to the event is helpful.
As Drupal events grow in size, so does the number of volunteer organizers. At some point, it might make sense to have someone in charge of the "day of" volunteers, to make sure everything is covered and there isn't any duplication of effort. "Day of" tasks typically include: registration table, runners, swag bag stuffers, setup, cleanup, and room monitors.
Depending on the complexity of the event's registration process, having a single person (or small committee) in charge of registration can cut down on "day of" issues for event organizers, particularly if there is a registration fee for the event. This committee can keep track of online registrations, handle changes and refunds, purchase and print name tags, and prepare and manage the registration table during the event.
If the event is going to have a dedicated web site, then having a small committee to design, build, and administer the web site is almost mandatory. For many events, most of the organizers will have a hand in designing and building the site, having someone in charge of the site post-launch (to ensure updates are applied, content is regularly added, etc...) can be very helpful.
As local Drupal events get larger and larger, coordinating a social activity gets more and more tricky. A suitable bar/restaurant must be found and plans must be made to handle more than (generally) 30-40 people. Having a volunteer with extensive knowledge of the local bar and restaurant scene can be extremely helpful in finding and securing a location for a social activity.
Coding for a Cause
As part of some events, a "Coding for a Cause" or "giveback" (other names?) day is held to build a site for a local organization as a way of giving back to the local community. It is important that there is at least one person in charge of finding a suitable organization, performing the necessary planning with the organization prior to the event, setting up a development server, source code control, and everything else associated with building a site. The more that can be arranged prior to the event, the smoother the event will go.
As with most aspects of event planning, it is important to make sure that the absolute necessities are covered first.
When planning a budget for a event, start with the one thing that is absolutely necessary for the event to happen: the location. Determine the cost (if any) to secure the location, find out if event insurance is needed (some venues will provide it as part of their rental fee), and make sure that all the necessary equipment is available (projectors, screens, tables, chairs).
"Nice to Have"s
Once the basic budget is in-place, additional budget items can be considered. For most Drupal events, this includes drinks, snacks, and perhaps even entire meals for the event attendees.
Depending on the amount of projected revenue from sponsorships and ticket sales, Drupal events can also include any number of added benefits for attendees. Common benefits for Drupal events in the past have included:
- swag bags
- session recordings
- well-known speakers (where the event assists with travel costs)
With the outstanding sponsor support of Drupal events over the past few years, many Drupal events have often had a budget surplus. Some options for budget surpluses include:
- Donation to the Drupal Association
- Donation to the COD project (via a local sprint)
- Retain funds to be used as seed money for the next local Drupal event.
Sample Budgets from Previous DrupalCamps
- NYC 2007: http://wiredgeek.com/node/702
- Sample budget spreadsheet (GoogleDoc)
- Sample budget spreadsheet used in DC Barcelona training (GoogleDoc)
- Others? (please add!)
Having an adequate number of volunteers for a Drupal event can often make-or-break the event for a number of reasons. With more volunteers to share in the organization of the event, each task can be given the attention it deserves. When there are too few volunteers, the quality of the event can suffer, and organizers can become frustrated and burned-out.
In addition to having an adequate number of volunteers planning the event, it is also imperative to have an adequate number of volunteers helping out during the event itself. Having extra people available to help out as-needed (registration, room monitors, answering questions, setting up food and drinks) can help out tremendously. Without these types of volunteers, the event organizers are often too busy to enjoy the actual content of the camp.
Where to Find Volunteers
The most obvious place to find volunteers is your local Drupal Users Group. It is from here that most of the event organizers will be found. It also pays to ask other Drupal User Groups in your state or region for interested volunteers. Helping to organize a camp is a great way to increase one's stature in the local Drupal community.
It can also pay off to look to other, non-Drupal local organizations for volunteer help (usually in the day-of tasks). Some Drupal User Groups have found success in "trading volunteers" with other local organizations for a day of service at each other's events.
Selecting a venue for a Drupal event is normally one of the first (and most important) tasks in the overall planning process. For first-time event organizers, the basic requirements for a venue typically include:
- At least two rooms that can accomodate at least 25 people comfortably. Classrooms or conference rooms are commonly used, larger events usually have one large room that can accomodate all event attendees (for opening/closing/keynote sessions).
- Rooms that either have, or are capable of supporting, projectors and screens.
- A common area for registration, food and drinks, and networking/small discussions.
- Birds-of-a-Feather (BoF) rooms are becoming more-and-more common at Drupal events. These rooms are used for informal gatherings of people with similar interests.
Most Drupal events provide reliable wireless internet access for all attendees. Smaller events might be able to get away without it (training events, for example), but it is widely assumed by attendees that internet access will be available. When providing internet access to attendees, don't underestimate how important fast, reliable WiFi service is, and how frustrating it can be to your attendees if it doesn't work well. Poor WiFi can leave some attendees with a negative impression of the event regardless of the quality of everything else.
Not providing adequate access to power outlets can leave many attendees frustrated. It is important to examine each room at your venue and have a plan to provide as many power outlets as possible. Either ask volunteers to bring extension cords and power strips or make it an event budget item to purchase some. This is a common task that often slips through the cracks.
Audio/Visual (A/V) Equipment
Any room that is going to handle presentations should be equipped with a projector and screen. Some Drupal events also provide a projector and screen for the main common area to display the event schedule and/or social media live feed. Projectors can often be borrowed from participating companies and sponsors.
Insuring the event is often required by most venues. Sometimes, the insurance fee is part of the venue rental fee, sometimes it is an additional fee, and sometimes it is up to the organizers to purchase event insurance on their own. Be sure to find out if the venue requires a minimum-level of coverage.
Event insurance helps protects the venue and the event organizers from liability in case of accidents or other emergencies.
Event insurance can be purchased by a large number of brokers, it is advisable to find (or be referred to by the venue or someone else) a local broker to assist.
Drupal events can be held at a wide range of venues. In the past, many organizers have found success with the following types of venues:
- Universities/Colleges - these facilities are often available for free or very low-cost if there is a facutly member willing to take some level of responsibilty for the event. Universities and colleges are often ideal venues, as they will have a wide range of rooms available, often with the necessary A/V equipment. In addition, campus-wide WiFi is common, and can usually be made available to event attendees.
- Libraries - some organizers have had success holding smaller events at libraries. Conference rooms are often available, and larger libraries often have larger rooms available.
- Local Organizations - larger companies and organizations often have multiple conference rooms and common areas that can suppport small-to-medium sized events.
Venues from previous Drupal events
- Florida 2009, 2010 - a local company provided us with a large common room, two smaller conference rooms, and an outdoor patio. The total capacity was about 120 people.
- Florida, 2011 - a local university gave us free access to various auditoriums, classrooms, and common areas.
- Asheville, NC - a local tech community college gave us free access to various auditoriums, classrooms, and common areas.
- Chattanooga TN - Chattanooga State Community College gave us free access, the marketing web team thre are members of the local DUG, which helped a lot.
- Others? (please add!)
Not all Drupal-related events have sessions. Hackfests, code sprints, Coding for a Cause efforts, and training days often have no sessions at all. Traditionally, the term "DrupalCamp" refers to a Drupal event that revolves around sessions. There is no "right way" to organize an event's sessions, it often comes down to a matter of available talent and organizer motivation.
Conference-style DrupalCamps are most like mini-conferences, with a set of pre-planned tracks and sessions. These are generally the most time-consuming types of camps to organize, but are often the most valuable to its attendees. Most of the large DrupalCamps around the world are conference-style.
Finding qualified speakers/presenters is almost always a challenge for the organizers. Many camps use a combination of the following methods:
- Direct Ask - The organizers recognize and target specific individuals in their local community to present a session (usually on a specific topic). This allows organizers to quickly fill up a number of sessions with presenters that they are confident will do a good job.
- Community Submissions - Ask the local community for volunteers to offer to prepare and present a session. This is a great opportunity for people who have never presented before to gain some valuable experience. Some camps have a submission process where proposed sessions are voted on by the potential attendees before being accepted. For smaller events, it can be helpful to accept as many proposals as possible (even if it means adding additional tracks) - DrupalCamps are a great place for new presenters to get out in front of people for the first time.
Regardless of how a camp selects its presenters, it is often helpful to encourage experienced presenters to mentor new presenters. This provides a great opportunity to pass down valuable knowledge.
Encouraging presenters to prepare early and give their presentation a dry run (either to a local meetup, via a screen-sharing session, etc...) is a great way to ensure that the presentation will be ready for the camp.
Unconference-style camps are an easy way to have a community event with minimal effort on the part of the organizers. Experienced users tend to get more out of unconference-style camps than newbies, so be sure to make it clear in your marketing what type of camp it is.
The session organization for an unconference can be as simple as providing a large whiteboard separated into a grid with available rooms on one axis and timeslots on the other. Camp attendees can then sign up to present in slots the day of the event (first come, first served). Some unconference camps have different length time-slots throughout the day, usually ranging from 30-60 minutes.
Like conference-style camps, unconferences are a great opportunity for rookie presenters to participate, and it is often encouraged. The informal nature of an unconference often encourages spur-of-the-moment as well as fringe-topic presentations, usually with surprising results.
Conference-style DrupalCamps are generally broken down into a number of tracks, based on the number of rooms available and the expected attendance. Below is just a sample of some of the various types of tracks that have been used in various DrupalCamps. Information on keynote presentation, remote presentations, and installation parties are include for completeness as well.
Many camps have a beginner track, designed to introduce Drupal to newbies and/or to provide a strong foundation to people who are just getting started. Be sure to make it clear what your beginner track will provide: will it be geared toward users who have never installed Drupal before, or will it be geared toward people who are familiar with Drupal, but don't feel they understand it very well? Being absolutely clear about the expected audience can will set expectations properly.
With many camps having a beginner track, there is some talk about sharing session materials between camps. If you're interested in this effort, consider reaching out to nearby camp organizers or starting a discussion on groups.drupal.org/drupal-event-organization.
Intermediate-level tracks have tended to focus on some of the features that site developers use in their everyday work. Views, Content Types and Fields, Taxonomy, Image handling, Feed handling, Ecommerce, Search Engine Optimization, and basic theming and module development sessions are common.
Typically, advanced tracks have been fairly code-heavy - both in theming and module development. Sessions about specific APIs (Forms, Views, Panels, CCK, etc...) as well as topics like Drush and Features are usually well attended.
Theming tracks are often very popular, especially if your camp marketing made an effort to reach out to local design and marketing firms. Sessions about basic theme anatomy, creating a new theme from a mockup, sub-theming, CSS, overriding theme functions, theming CCK and Views, are all often well-attended. UX topics fall outside of the Drupal-focus, but user experience design knowledge is just as valuable as part of a successful Drupal project.
Social media tracks have recently been showing up at various DrupalCamps, mainly focusing on social media integration with Drupal. Sessions about how to leverage social media from a business standpoint also tend to be well-received.
Business tracks are becoming more and more popular at DrupalCamps around the world. Possible topics include back-office integration, project/client management, case studies, design processes, creating estimates, and training.
Other Track Options
There are a number of additional possible tracks that have been used at Drupal events in the past. Here's just a few of them:
- Implementation and Configuration
- Performance and Scalability
- Case Studies
- Site Building
Many camps are starting to include a Keynote Session as an opportunity to bring in a well-known speaker for a single large session to speak about a topic that will appeal to the majority of attendees. In general, keynote speakers tend to be someone of prominence in the Drupal community. Other options for keynote sessions include a speaker of local prominence (but not necessarily from within the Drupal community) or a panel of local business-people who are using Drupal.
Camps with sufficient budget (to help offset travel costs) are increasingly looking outside the local area for a well-know Drupal Rockstar for their keynote.
Most Drupal Camps have an opening session at the beginning of the day for all attendees. This is usually to introduce the day's program, provide useful information about tracks, sessions, WiFi, sprints as well as to introduce sponsors. Many camps are also using this time for a short slide presentation with information about the camps numbers, financials, and post-camp activities.
Some camps have experimented with remote presenters using different "virtual meeting" technologies that incorporate screen sharing. Depending on available bandwidth, this is a cost-effective way to have more prominent presenters (virtually) at your camp.
More commonly a session (rather than a track), an installation party is a great opportunity to help newbies get Drupal up-and-running on their local machine. These sessions are usually held early in the day, sometimes in-conjunction with the registration period. Past experience has found that it works best when there are a large number of volunteers available to help out—one-on-one works best.
Usually, the primary marketing vehicle for a Drupal event is its web site. In the past, most events built custom sites, sometimes integrated with a 3rd-party registration service. Some events didn't create a dedicated site at all, instead opting to use their local groups.drupal.org presence. Recently, many camps have utilized the Conference Organizing Distribution (COD) of Drupal.
Event organizers who decide that a dedicated web site isn't necessary—or lack the volunteers to build one—sometimes use their local groups.drupal.org (GDO) site as the "official" site for their camp. Using GDO's available integration (actually its OG Panels) makes it relatively easy to set up a separate area of their GDO site with information dedicated to the event.
In the pre-COD days, many event organizers opted to build a custom site for their event. While a few events were equipped to handle registrations (with or without payments), many integrated with 3rd-party event registration systems like Eventbrite (others?)
Conference Organizing Distribution (COD)
COD is rapidly being adopted by more and more Drupal events (including DrupalCons as well as many non-Drupal events) for a quick and reliable way to launch a full-featured event web site. COD's integration with Ubercart, excellent session scheduling tools and displays, and flexible room and time-slot functionality makes it extremely attractive to event organizers.
Built using Features and a number of custom modules, COD can also handle session proposal workflows, allowing members of the community to submit proposals for review and/or voting. Its integration with Drupal's Date and Calendar modules provides great session schedule displays. COD also ships with an entire "sponsors" feature to help manage and display sponsor ads on the site.
Since most Drupal user groups are ad-hoc, obtaining hosting for the event web site is usually accomplished by bartering or via a generous sponsor. If the site is built using COD, Pantheon hosting is free-of-charge (contact them for full details).
Most Drupal events have some type of online registration available, most often to help organizers plan for the appropriate number of people planning on attending the event. Previous sections of this document have covered some of the various ways to handle online registration, they will not be repeated here. This section will attempt to cover additional registration activities such as checking people in at the event, providing name tags, and other (sometimes) labor-intensive tasks.
A common ongoing task for event organizers is the monitoring of online registrations. Often there are issues that present themselves that require human intervention such as refunds, ticket swaps, questions, and requested discounts.
Many Drupal events have a simple check-in process for attendees when they arrive at the event. Usually, it is limited to having your name crossed off a master list and given event materials. There are always special cases that need to be handled (walk-ins, incorrect materials, sponsor registrations, etc...), so having multiple people work the registration area is helpful.
Providing nametags to all attendees is a great way to encourage people to introduce themselves to each other. Adding additional information to each person's nametag (hometown, Drupal.org username, job status, free tags, etc...) can be extremely helpful as a catalyst for introductions. Many Drupal events just provide nametag stickers and markers for people to create their own nametag when they arrive, saving a lot of additional work (creating pre-printed nametags) in the process.
Many events, specifically larger camps, often provide additional materials (swag) to attendees. This often includes sponsor marketing materials, trinkets, and t-shirts. Having additional people on-hand during registration to help with this process can be very helpful. It can also be helpful to organize the swag prior to the day of the camp. If the event has lots of swag, finding a sponsor to provide branded swag-bags works well.
Handling finances is often one of the tricker aspects of running a Drupal event. Depending on the complexity of the event, there are a number of options available to most user groups.
There are a number of ways in which sponsors and attendees can provide income to events. Typically, sponsors pay via checks (U.S.) or bank transfers (Europe). If the fiscal agent supports it, sponsors sometimes also pay via credit card. Since attendees are often paying any registration fees online, a merchant account or PayPal account is used when the event has a web site that supports it. Third-party registration services are often tied to a PayPal or credit card account as well.
Some sponsors request a "tax exempt receipt" (depending on the fiscal agent and event location), the fiscal agent should be familiar with the process for providing these.
Vendors are often paid via credit card, check, or cash. Regardless of the method, obtaining receipts is often necessary for accounting purposes.
Establishing a method for handling finances is one of the first hurdles that organizers often face. Options include:
Have Sponsors Pay Vendors Directly
For simple events with a minimum of income and expenses, many events simply have sponsors pay vendors directly. For example, if the event is going to purchase coffee for all attendees at a cost of $150 then a sponsor would pay the coffee vendor directly, eliminating the event organizers as middlemen. This is easy to accomplish with adequate planning and frees the organizers from having to directly handle any money. Understanding and flexible sponsors are very important when using this method.
Funnel Through Local Individual(s)
If one or more of the organizers are willing to accept the responsibility, then event finances can be funneled through one (or various) trusted individual(s). In this scenario, sponsors and/or attendees would pay the individual(s), then the individual(s) would pay the vendors. While this works well for small events, the risks (financial and liability) increase with the size of the budget. In addition, some sponsors feel more comfortable submitting payment to an organization than to an individual.
Funnel Through Local Organization/Company
Events of all sizes sometime utilize a local organization or company (often associated with someone active in the local user group) to act at the fiscal agent. This scenario looks much like the previous example but with an organization in the place of an individual. The advantages of this include a higher comfort level for sponsors as well as the potential opportunity for accounting assistance from the organization. The organization/company does accept some risk in this case, both financial and liability, but these can often be mitigated with agreements between the organizers and the organization/company.
Dedicated Legal Entity
Some large events (and user groups) have decided to form their own organization to act as both the legal and/or fiscal agent. Depending on your local laws, there are various types of legal organizations that can be formed; the methods to create one are varied. While the initial hurdles may be high, once established, banking and other services can be associated with it. Most legal entities require some type of periodic reporting to local agencies, so keep in mind that there may be some on-going maintenance required. Some examples of legal entities created by Drupal user groups include:
- DrupalCon, Inc. - a U.S.-based non-profit organization that acts as the legal and fiscal agent for U.S.-based DrupalCon events.
- Asheville, NC - Our goal was to create an LLC with local members however time constraints prevented us from doing that. We instead registered the group as a business in the local courthouse which let us get a bank account in the name of the group.
- Others? (please add!)
There has been some discussion for the Drupal Association to act as a fiscal and legal agent for Drupal events when requested by local user groups. As of now, there is no official policy.
Sponsorships are a vital part of many Drupal events mainly because they allow organizers to be able to offer more value for less (or sometimes zero) money from attendees. At virtually all medium-to-large Drupal events, some form of sponsorships are involved. Being able to reduce the cost of admission to a small amount encourages newbies to take a chance on learning about Drupal while making it easier for everyone to attend. At the same time, it provides a very cost-effective method for sponsors to share their message with an extremely targeted audience, while gaining valuable karma points in the process.
Single Point of Contact
When organizers decide to pursue sponsorships, having a single point of contact is usually the best method. This helps to ensure that each sponsor is given the proper amount of personal attention. This does not mean that the sponsorship "committee" should only be one person. Having additional organizers or community members provide introductions between the sponsorship coordinator and potential sponsors is extremely valuable.
Tiered Sponsorship Levels
Many events that involve sponsorships utilize tiered sponsorship levels; if a sponsor gives more, they receive more benefits. For example:
Gold - $1,000
- Room naming rights
- Sponsor page on event web site
- Banner on all pages of event web site
- Introduction during opening session
- Logo on event t-shirt
- Mention of event twitter feed
Silver - $500
- Sponsor page on event web site
- Mention during opening session
- Logo on event t-shirt
- Mention of event twitter feed
Bronze - $250
- Sponsor page on event web site
- Mention during opening session
Providing potential sponsors with a document showing the various tiers accomplishes several things. First, it provides potential sponsors with a list of benefits that they will receive during the event. Second, it helps the organizers to ask for a specific amount. Third, it makes it much easier to "up-sell" potential sponsors to a higher tier if they can see exactly what the benefits will be.
It is also advisable to sometimes place a limit on the number of upper-tier "slots" available. Sponsors will usually pay a bit more if they know that they will be the only "Gold" sponsor.
Some examples of Drupal event sponsorship tiers include:
Finding sponsors is usually not as difficult as first expected. Leveraging the local Drupal User Group is often a great first step. Ask other organizers and members for referrals to local organizations. Often all that is necessary is an email introduction.
A little bit of marketing also helps in finding potential sponsors. Posting a "call for sponsors" on the event web site, twitter feed, or email list is usually an effective way to spread the word about sponsorship opportunities. Creating a blog post that is displayed on Drupal Planet gets word about your event and sponsorship opportunities out to a world-wide audience.
Expanding outside the local geographical area will usually bring in additional potential sponsors. There are more than a few large Drupal-related companies that are always looking to spread the word about their products and services.
Finally, don't forget to think about potential local sponsors that aren't directly related to the Drupal community. Staffing and design firms, virtually any internet-based organization, and local merchants sometimes jump at the chance to get their name in front a large group of well-educated, technology-savvy individuals.
Making initial contact with a potential sponsor is usually the biggest hurdle to developing a professional relationship. While cold-calling (or cold-emailing) can be utilized, it is often much better to have some type of introduction prior to asking someone for a sponsorship.
Local meetups (Drupal or otherwise) can be a great place to network with potential sponsors. Find out where people work, and ask them if they and/or their organization might be interested in learning about sponsorship opportunities.
Having a 3rd party make an introduction (via email or in-person) is always a great way to start the conversation as well. By having someone who is known to both you and the potential sponsor make the introduction, a certain level of trust is immediately granted.
Sponsor Payment and Follow-Through
Perhaps the most critical part of obtaining sponsorships is the follow-through. Once the organization has agreed to a sponsorship, it is important to keep the lines of communication open and ensure the process is completed.
It is a good practice to followup a verbal sponsorship commitment with a written "thank you" as well as an invoice for sponsorship payment. Be sure to be very clear about the sponsorship payment deadline (usually 30 days from invoice and at least a week or two prior to the event) - if the organization doesn't provide the sponsorship by a certain date, follow-up must be done to ensure that payment is coming.
With enough leadtime, it can also be a good idea to not do any promoting of a sponsor by the event organizers until payment is received. This includes anything on the Sponsorship Tiers document. If there are t-shirt (or other pre-printed materials) production deadlines, be sure to make it perfectly clear to potential sponsors that if payment isn't received in time, they will not be listed.
In addition to payment follow-up, it is often important to gather additional sponsor information. Things like logo image files, organization descriptions, and product information needs to be captured as soon as possible so that Sponsorship Tier agreements can be honored.
Also, if as part of a sponsorship, an organization is allowed to distribute material to event attendees, be sure to set a deadline for having those materials on-hand.
Perhaps most important part of the follow-through is to ensure that each and every sponsor receives everything that is promised to them on the Sponsorship Tiers document. Having a sponsorship single-point-of-contact is crucial to making sure that all sponsors stay happy; it makes it much easier when you ask them for future sponsorship if they had a good experience the first time.
Finally, once the event is over, be sure to personally contact each and every sponsor and thank them for their participation. Ask them what the event could have done better to help them. Be sure to capture this valuable information for the next Drupal event in your community.
While most sponsorships will (and should) be financial, in-kind sponsorships can also greatly benefit Drupal events. Being able to give away books, DVDs, trial software and/or services is a great way to get more people involved in the local community.
Many software book publishers will be more than happy to provide books that can be used as giveaways during Drupal events. Drupal-related training and media companies often give away DVDs or free accounts to their online materials just for asking. Local social media companies are always happy to participate as a way of reaching out to more techies, and often will provide giveaways in exchange for access to the attendees.
Sample Sponsor Pitch Letters
- Florida - 2011
- Others? (please add!)
Food and Drinks
What's a sure-fire way to keep attendees happy? Keep their stomachs full and their brains caffeinated! Campers will go crazy if there is no coffee… "I had one guy climb over a barrier of chairs to get to empty coffee urns to drain the dregs for a half cup of cold coffee."
The most cost-effective solution, if the venue will permit, is to make your own coffee. Be careful to check that urns will not overload the circuit, know how to contact the personal responsible for re-setting breakers. Check the urns are in good working condition - no leaks, stem, basket and lids all present. Make test amounts - document, number of scoops and amount of water etc. Know where the water source is...
Have a back up plan - know where the local coffee shop is, if you have to emergency order , it will take time to brew large quantities of coffee.
After ensuring that the event has a location and presenters, the next thing that most organizers turn their attention to is food and drink. Before planning anything, be sure to check to make sure it is okay for attendees to eat/drink at the facility. In addition, some facilities require that food and drink be purchased from the facility or approved vendors.
Sponsorships are commonly sold to provide food and drink to attendees. These may be cash sponsorships to purchase food and drink, or they can be in-kind sponsorships by local stores, resturants, or coffee houses.
One of the more challenging tasks when providing food and drinks to attendees is estimating how much will be required. This is often especially tricky for items bought in bulk, such as coffee and buffet meals. Having an accurate estimate of attendees (based on registrations) a week or two prior to the event can make all the difference in the world when making estimates.
Individual drinks (cans/bottles) are definitely easier to provide, and extras can sometimes be returned to the vendor (be sure to arrange this with the vendor first!). Boxed lunches are easier (and much faster) to serve, giving attendees the opportunity to spend more time networking.
Common drinks often provided in the morning at Drupal events include coffee, tea juice, water, and soda (especially caffeinated). Some events provide a limited selection of breakfast foods including bagels, donuts, and other pastries. Be sure to have any breakfast food and drink (especially the coffee!) available first thing.
Do not underestimate the value of lunchtime networking among attendees. This is often one of the only times during the day when attendees are not in a session or rushing between sessions. Having an organized plan for getting food into attendee hands as quickly as possible is very important. Nobody likes to spend time waiting in a food line.
The decision to provide lunch to attendees is often a financial/sponsorship one. Providing a full meal can sometimes be the single most expensive item of an event. If the event location is close (walking distance) to multiple dining options, then having attendees travel off-site to purchase lunch on their own can be a viable alternative.
When it is financially possible, many Drupal events choose to provide an on-site lunch to all attendees. This encourages additional networking and may be utilized to shorten the amount of time needed for the lunch break (by removing travel time). This extra time can be used for additional sessions or longer/more breaks between sessions. Some Drupal events have even fully included the cost of the lunch into the event registration fee.
Afternoon drinks and snacks are another common perk found at many Drupal events. Keeping attendee energy levels up with both healthy and caffeinated options has the ability to keep spirits high. Many events provide afternoon snacks (cookies, fruit, etc...) starting right after lunch and continuing through the end of the event. It is important to ensure that a variety of drinks are available to attendees throughout the afternoon. If it is not financially possible to provide them for free, then be sure to arrange for a vendor to sell drinks and snacks nearby.
As a method to spread the word about the local community - as well as a nice takeaway for attendees - many Drupal events are providing t-shirts to attendees. While some events charge a nominal fee, many events bake the cost of t-shirts in the registration fee or recover the costs from sponsorships.
As a way for a local community to create an identity, many events have custom designs for their t-shirts. Usually, the design is tied into the overall graphic design for other event materials (web site, bags, badges, posters, etc...) Keeping a consistent design across all types of materials aids in branding the event as well as projecting a sense of professionalism.
Some events order a limited number of shirts of a slightly different design (usually a different shirt color) that are only available to event volunteers. This encourages people to volunteer and gives them a sense of ownership of the event - something that cannot be underestimated.
While there is no official DrupalCamp logo - some events have used this image as a starting point.
Once the design is set, determining the size of the order and the breakdown of the various t-shirt sizes is often very challenging. Some events ask for a t-shirt size during the registration process - which can obviously help when ordering specific sizes. Depending on the registration deadline (for most events, there usually isn't one) there is usually still some guesswork involved.
Some examples of size breakdowns from previous Drupal events include:
- 2011 DrupalCon Chicago
- Others? (please add!)
Getting the word out about the event is always a group effort. It is usually best when there is one person organizing the effort in order to avoid duplication and ensuring a consistent marketing message is used. There are some tried-and-true methods for spreading the word, as well as some less obvious ones that have varying levels of success depending on your local community and type of event.
First and foremost, groups.drupal.org (g.d.o) should be used to spread the initial word about your event. This is often the core audience for the event, so the sooner information is posted here, the more time attendees have to spread the word. Posting to your event's local geographic group is obvious. Don't forget that by adding it as an "event" content type on g.d.o. automatically posts it on the g.d.o. "Events, Meetups, Camps, & Training" calendar.
Don't forget to also notify other nearby geographic Drupal user groups on g.d.o. Be careful not to go overboard and cross-post to too many groups - this practice can be considered a form of spam.
Once your event is posted on g.d.o., you can ask to have it promoted to the g.d.o. home page. As a rule, local events are not promoted to the Drupal.org home page.
Group organizers have access to the "Broadcast" tab within their group. This allows them to email all group members directly.
Setting up a Twitter account for your event (or your local group) is a great way to keep people informed about your event as well as a way to encourage and solicit volunteers. Daily tweets leading up to the event are a great way to keep it at the front of people's minds. Short, frequent reminders can go a long way toward spreading the word about your event.
Setting up an "official" hash tag for your event is also a great way to tag social media posts across multiple platforms. The hash tag should be determined early in the process and would, ideally, appear on all forms of marketing materials.
Having well-timed blog posts appear on Drupal Planet is a good way to spreading the word about your event to the worldwide Drupal community. The Planet is an aggregation of curated feeds from Drupal bloggers around the world. Finding someone within your local community who is already part of the Planet to write a blog post about your event can help spread the word not only to potential attendees, but also to potential sponsors.
Do not abuse this privilege. Spam-ish type posts on the Planet are frowned upon, it is best to limit your event to just a few well-written, action-oriented posts. Many camps post event announcements, calls for sponsors, and maybe one or two other posts with new information (keynote speakers, code sprints, etc...)
If your event is attempting to draw in people new to the Drupal community, then local event sites are a fine option. Meetup.com is perhaps the most well-known of these types of sites. There is an organizer fee that starts at $12/month (USD) in order to post information about your "group". The organizer fee covers all events for your group, so the account can also be utilized for monthly meetups and other local user group events.
Technology-Related Local Groups
Reaching out to other technology-related local groups is also a good way to introduce people to Drupal and its community. Members of local PHP, MySql, WordPress, Linux, and similar groups are often interested in expanding their knowledge. It's a great way to strengthen the overall tech community in your local area.
Additionally - assuming your event has sessions that cater to them - local associations for designers, marketing and advertising professionals, non-profit organizations, and business development groups are also great places to spread the word about your event in order to introduce new people to Drupal.
If the event isn't the first in the area, then be sure to email attendees of previous events. For example, if you're putting on the third year of your annual DrupalCamp, don't forget to email all the attendees from the previous years.
Depending on the size of the event and venue, both interior and exterior signage may be necessary. While event organizers can raise money for professional produced signs, many events simply make their own using paper, posterboard, or portable whiteboards.
Outdoor lawn signs are useful for directing people to parking areas, as well as directing people from parking areas to the actual event venue. Professionally printed political campaign-style signs are weatherproof and can be used over and over again.
Inside the venue, directional and identification signs for the various rooms can be useful to help attendees quickly find their way around. Also, if room naming rights are of a sponsorship package, pre-printed signs with sponsor names/logos will go a long way in keeping sponsors happy.
If the location of restrooms isn't obvious or well marked, some directional signs can save event volunteers from answering the same question over-and-over again.
Finally, a large map of the entire venue with the event-specfic areas can be really helpful for getting people oriented. This map can be provided in numerous ways including online, as a handout, as well as a large version in the registration area.
Depending on the venue, it can be helpful to have a volunteer do a walkthrough to pre-plan the number and location of the various types of signage that may be necessary. Also, it can be very helpful to have blank posterboard, markers, and tape available during the event in order to create last-minute signage as needed.
After the official event activities are done for the day, most Drupal events have some sort of social/networking activity. Usually, this is in the form of a dinner and/or pub night.
Having a local volunteer with knowledge of the local restaurant and bar scene can be really helpful. Ideally, the event organizers will work with establishments to provide adequate space for the anticipated number of people as well as food and/or drink specials. Having a location that can comfortably handle the anticipated number of people in an environment that encourages talking is a great way for attendees to network (anecdotal evidence suggests that networking is one of the top reasons people attend Drupal events). Finding an establishment within walking distance of the venue will usually encourage all but the most introverted attendees to stop by at least for a few minutes.
Some events utilize sponsors for lowering the attendee cost of post-event gatherings, often providing free or discounted food and beverages for event attendees. Keep in mind that using "official" event funds for alcoholic beverages may not be allowed by some fiscal partners or insurance policies.
Despite all the planning and organizing that goes into putting on a Drupal event, there are always things that could be improved. This section will cover a variety of tasks that can sneak up on organizers during an event.
Providing an adequate number of extension cords and power strips for the event attendees is sometimes something that organizers assume the venue will handle. In many cases, this is not the case. Since a majority of Drupal event attendees bring a laptop, having a place for them to recharge is important. For some events, it may make sense to have a volunteer position for "power supply" to ensure that enough power outlets are available.
During a Drupal event, it can be helpful to have a small number of additional rooms for impromptu break-out sessions or birds-of-a-feather (BoF) talks. An area for drinks and snacks where people can talk without disturbing other aspects of the event is also helpful. Some events provide a secure storage area for people to leave their jackets, computer bags, and other personal items so they don't have to carry them around all day.
Paper and Pens
It can be very helpful to keep a small supply of blank paper and pens available during the event for both organizers and attendees. Some events make an attempt to find a sponsor to provide these items to all attendees. It can be really helpful for people to exchange contact information and to take notes.
Social Media Wall
Some larger Drupal events have an area to display a "social media wall". Using a spare computer and projector, this can display realtime tweets, pictures, and other types of status updates tagged with the event's official hashtag. This can encourage people to post about the event, thereby spreading the word about the event.
Everybody likes free stuff. Finding sponsors who are willing to provide free (or discounted) products or services is a great way to add some fun and excitement to your event. Once the financial aspects of fundraising are met, make it a point to ask sponsors for items that organizers can giveaway during the event.
Some common methods of giving away items includes raffles, quizzes, and random giveaways. Examples include:
- Florida DrupalCamp 2009, 2010, 2011 - books and DVDs were given away by session presenters. At the beginning of the camp, we asked all session presenters to pick a book or DVD from those provided by our sponsors to giveaway during their session. The presenters were allowed to give the item away in any way they desired, many gave the item away to someone who asked a really good question during their session. - Drupal Camp Asheville 2010 & 2011 did this as well.
- Colorado DrupalCamp 2011 - there were books, ebooks, free hosting, and learning DVDs given away at the Saturday night party (conference was Saturday and Sunday), free hosting was also randomly given at the closing session to a couple people who had filled out a session evaluation survey
- Chattanooga TN: Raffle for PHPStorm licenses
- Others? (please add!)
At the conclusion of the event there are several tasks that can be completed to wrap things up, gain some knowledge, and pass the knowledge on to others.
Once the event is complete, it can be extremely valuable to learn what attendees thought of the event so that future events can be improved. Providing a post-camp survey is a great way to capture this information.
It is important to have the survey ready for attendees to fill out at the completion of the event. Most events have a closing session, being able to provide the URL for the survey during this session is key. Following up the next day with an email asking for their participation (as well as the URL) is just as important.
A great way to encourage attendees to complete post-event surveys is to offer a random giveaway (or multiple giveaways) for lucky post-event survey completers.
- Florida DrupalCamp 2011
- Others? (please add!)
Thanking Sponsors and Volunteers
At the completion of the event, a concerted effort should be made by the event organizers to thank both the sponsors as well as the volunteers who participated in the event. These thank yous should be a combination of both personal (phone calls, emails) and public (blog posts, tweets) in order to ensure that everyone knows how much they were appreciated. This can go a long way in building community spirit and encourage people and organizations to be involved in future events.
Case Studies and Knowledge Transfer
Organizers should write and publish some form of a case study about their event so that other groups can learn from their experiences. Furthermore, an effort should be made by organizers to update this document (it is a wiki, after all!) with new and/or updated information and examples in order to transfer knowledge to future organizers.
If you've written a case study for your Drupal event, please add it to the list (chronologically descending by the date of your event) below.
- Drupal Dev Days Europe 2014
- Florida DrupalCamp 2011
- DrupalCamp Atlanta 2010
- DrupalCamp LA 2010
- Florida DrupalCamp 2010
- DrupalCamp LA 2009
- Victoria BC DrupalCamp 2009
- Drupal Design Camp Boston 2009
- DrupalCamp Atlanta 2009
- Others? (please add!)
- Drupal Organizer Kit for Conferences, Camps, Meetups, and Unconferences by Acquia
- Others? (please add!)