What follows is an attempt to summarize what we have learned from previous years. The GNOME Conference evolves quickly and every place/year is different, but still there are common opportunities, threats and milestones you shouldn't overlook.
Also, don't miss this Check list for GNOME.Asia Summit made by GNOME.Asia organizers.
The GNOME.Asia Summit will focus primarily on the GNOME desktop including both applications and development platform in addition to larger GNOME-related community in Asia.
- To promote GNOME technologies in Asia
- To bring together users, developers and contributors to discuss a varied range of topics related to GNOME and its community in Asia,
- To highlight new ideas and cutting edge developments,
- To get new contributors and involve current contributors in a higher level,
- To build a stronger GNOME community in Asia.
- To have fun meeting friends sharing the same passion,
- To create media awareness out of the usual circles,
- To involve corporate partners and facilitate an approach to the community,
- To spread Free and Open Source software in Asia.
Interested in hosting GNOME.Asia Summit?
If you are interested to host the GNOME.Asia Summit in your city (any city in Asia), please contact the GNOME.Asia Summit mailing list, every year the committee would announce the call for invitations to host the Summit, you can submit your proposal to the list to host the event in the specific year (not necessary to be the coming year, can be the year after :)
Submit an official proposal to the gnome-asia-committee-list(at)gnome.org before the deadline of call for invitations to host the GNOME.Asia Summit and specify the year
Proposal templates of past year can be downloaded in the "Useful Documents / Template session"
Official website of GNOME.Asia Summit is: http://gnome.asia
Getting ready to host the Summit?
Follow this sequence doing your best in every stage:
HARD PHASE -
complete it as soon as possible!
- Infrastructures in place
- Sponsors confirmed
- Dates, venue and scope of the conference
These three factors will let you plan the size of the conference and calculate a sustainable budget.
SOFT PHASE -
a chain of tasks to be completed at least 2.5 months before the Summit
- Estimated budget
- Website alive with English and local language ready
- Call for Papers + Keynotes + Broad Schedule
- Registration + Accommodation + Meals
- Sponsored Participants
- Printed Materials (Designs of stands, t-shirts and other advertising materials ready to send to the mailing list)
These taks have many dependencies between them. The most sane is to close stages and move forward.
FINAL PHASE -
The last month you WILL be extremely busy with endless small details and you want all the previous milestones already out of the way.
- Press & Marketing
- Local infos for attendees
- Social activities
- Designs of stands, t-shirts and other advertising materials ready (if you have them)
- Final preparations (signaling, office setup, equipment testing, volunteers organization...)
The day Summit starts you won't need more milestones, just a written checklist. Be The Force With You.
You need to find a sensible equation based on days, rooms, activities, participants and staff+volunteers, universities and government software zones are one of the venue that can be considered.
In normal circumstances expect 500 participants at most during the whole conference, being around no more than 300 at a same time. Promote early registration so you can fine tune your numbers as the date approaches.
2 days or 3 days should be reasonable (plus 1 day of tour visit as the Summit has guests / speakers coming from all over the world)
A conservative combination is
- a main hall (400p)
- 3 nice rooms for sessions (50p)
- 1 smaller room for hardcore/private meetings (20p)
- a big entrance hall or similar with lots of chairs, tables and plugs (free hacking zone + info desk)
- a staff office
- a secure room to keep valuable stuff Ask your sponsors if they need anything else to celebrate, meet, work or keep their things (i.e. stand materials).
- Better no more than 3 at a time.
- At least 1 plenary session (keynote) a day is recommended. Whenever there is keynote, it has to be a plenary session in the main hall
- Leave space for free-form and spontaneous activities.
- Leave space for simply free time, people get busy themselves very easily.
- Offer at least 1 official social event and think for suggestions for half of the nights or so.
- Remember that the Board and the Advisory Board are going to have long meetings, they are few people but very probably involved in the organization and sessions.
- Think of lunch as an activity and leave time for it, a lot of Summit activity happens combined with food/drinks.
- Whether lunch or coffee / snack is provided for participants or not, it should be written clearly in every schedule and announcement should be made on the spot
Language barrier / translation
In some Asian countries, English is not not popular, hence we may need to consider to have people helping to translate. The best ways to find translation volunteers are from local communities and universities. You may want to contact them and inform them the Summit intention and get enough volunteers to help out.
Make sure you get 1 coordinator, about 5 highly involved people and around 10 clearly committed contributors in the early stages of the planning process. Having board members in this list will be helpful. Make sure all of them survive until the end of the conference. Keep a balance between global and local contributors.
During the conference you will need 50 people or more. You can do it with less, but you will be unproductively stressed and you will miss the best aspects of the conference. At least 50% should be locals to play safe. You might count here the contributors mentioned above, although many of them will decide that they have helped enough and will want to enjoy the conference.
Some of the volunteers will help intensively until they will decide to attend the sessions and take a rest. Some of them will pop-up from time to time and you will need to chase them sometimes. Some initial volunteers will vanish and some new volunteers will join during the conference.
You probably will have the people needed, but your problem will be the transmission of know-how about the dozens of small tasks combined with the quick responsiveness you will need during the event. Intense documentation and decentralized leadership are the only cures known. Plan all this beforehand, if only with a couple of emails and a real meeting right before the conference. Effective project management improvisation during Summit is pretty hard.
Channels of Communication
There are plenty of ways to communicate between you (and your team) and the GNOME.Asia Summit Committee:
Every email related to GNOME.Asia Summit should go to the asia-summit-list: asia-summit-list (AT) gnome.org so every member can get the latest update of the Summit and a lot of them are very helpful.
There is also a #asia-summit channel @ irc.gnome.org. We have internal weekly meeting especially starting from 3 months before the Summit. Very useful for small bits, quick responses and small decisions. It has also been used as a place for meetings, with logs that are then sent to mail list. Their effectiveness depend mainly on your capacity to make a good agenda and facilitate the meeting, plus on the attendance. Not an easy task, and it's probably better to invest the efforts organizing good local meetings. However, meeting once a month with the Committee members for status update may help a lot as well. The frequency can increase to once a week during the month of the Summit if necessary.
This is a key aspect. Start meeting at least once a month as soon as possible and keep the meetings in the agenda even if Mr X or Mrs Y can't attend the next one. Announce the meetings in your local community and make them open and friendly to newcomers.
In the toughest moments of the conference you are going to get a lot of help from people that attended these meetings. By meeting face to face you create good quality links that are not easy to match through online channels alone. Also, local volunteers are very well equipped to help in local issues/solution - which are the majority of unexpected issues and found solutions during the days of the event.
Local meetings are also a great way to get new people involved to the project. Free software enthusiasts discover one day that GNOME is meeting in the town and some of them decide to show up. If they get excited they will tell to friends and so on. Celebrating a GNOME.Asia Summit unnoticed by the locals is easier than you expect, and the difference is made mainly by the local volunteers you get in these previous meetings.
http://gnome.asia is the official website for GNOME.Asia Summit. The Committee has a website team delegated to help the local organizers. Even before the Summit, we should announce some key news in the website to update people of what's happening there. Official Website content There are three stages to update the website contents:
- Once the venue / date are ready, the Summit info should start to appear in the site
- Sponsors + descriptions
1 month before the Summit
- Full schedule
- Confirmed speakers list and bios
Right after the Summit
- Update the front page to have a press release / report of the Summit
- Upload all the presentations
Budgeting and Accounting
An estimated budget should be submitted to the GNOME.Asia Committee for confirmation at least 3 months before the Summit, then followed with an actual budget 1 month in advance together with quotations of main cost items. According to the approval budget, the GNOME Foundation will ....
Be serious with sponsors and they will be serious with you. Update and improve the Sponsors Brochure. The earlier you start contacting potential sponsors the bigger your chances are of getting more funds and early pays. Sponsors tend to budget their participation in events one year ahead. You might find exceptions if you are lucky, for instance around Advisory Board companies used to reserve some money for next Summit. Think always what would happen if you are not lucky, though.
Finding early sponsors is rewarding for everybody: they get a larger period of visibility in the GNOME community, you get a better worse case scenario having already some income in your budget, both of you can plan better good actions for the conference. Also, the machinery of invoicing, logo & blurb hunt and approval of marketing materials starts earlier and therefore can finish earlier.
With the sponsors there is a core rule: make them excited about Summit, make them happy for the fact of being part of it. GNOME sponsors are clever and they know (or can know if they want) what is going really with the conference. So your only way of getting them really excited about Summit is... organizing an exciting event.
Consider the above as a useful quality check. Almost everybody would understand that you make mistakes without having money. Almost nobody will understand that you are making mistakes when you have money.
Fix clear dates, conditions and budget for your sponsored participants program. Complete your budget sponsoring people as soon as possible, leaving some money for late additions.
Be prepared and leave small room for improvisation. Saying "NO, sorry" to people is difficult, you better leave the response to a set of rules agreed in advanced. Dealing with sponsored participants is time-consuming. You want their travel and accommodation booked in advanced (cheaper, better).
You want them to take care of their own asses, following a clear procedure that includes requesting proper invoices from travel agents and finding themselves the cheapest options.
Sponsored participants should be a natural source of volunteers: help them to help you.
Once call for papers completed, we should announce the call for subsidy and inform speakers who would like to get the subsidy to access the application form. Subsidy application form can be downloaded here.
Make available a template that participants can fill with their own data. Limit yourselves to send the documents provided to the corresponding embassies by fax or mail.
Be careful with people from unusual countries nobody has heard before. If they follow the steps send the fax anyway to the embassy, they are prepared to decide on visa requests better than you. But don't waste your time with unknown people getting rejected, people making changes in their "team" and requesting new faxes to be sent etc. This is a problem you can't solve either.
It is a good idea to have someone in your team dedicated to deal with visa & travel & accommodation, since they are very common tasks affecting to very similar people.
Template Invitation letter can be downloaded in the "Useful Documents / Template session"
Call for Papers and Schedule
An advice keep the call for papers as open and flexible as before, but put more structure in the call for papers and the selection process:
- Build a committee inviting experienced people from inside and outside GNOME. If you make a good selection they will help you focusing the topics of the conference and assuring good standards in the paper selection. Besides, your hands will be clean and it will be clear to accepted/rejected proposals that you were not involved in the selection.
- Are there main topics you want to be discussed in Summit? Make this clear, so people with potential sessions apply.
- Encourage submitters to give all kinds of activities including talks, exhibitions, workshop, panel discussion, lightning talks and so on. * Have a hardcoded and public calendar of deadlines and accomplish them.
- Answer clearly to all the submitters, telling them if their paper has been accepted or not, and why.
- Launch an early call for papers and close most part of the schedule as soon as possible. This will attract real attention to the event. Speakers and participants will be able to decide before what to do and book tickets & hotels.
- Leave slots empty for late additions, although it will be good to have the main sessions (invited keynotes and community rock stars) clearly scheduled as soon as possible. This will help the press & marketing team getting focused on promotion and press releases.
- Again, only 3 activities should be hosted at the same time. We are hosting a GNOME.Asia Summit, prioritize GNOME topics first, While having a keynote it shouldn't have any other activity hosted at the same time.
- Call for paper template can be downloaded in the "Useful Documents / Template session"
Call for participants
- Call for participants should be sent out early enough, at least 2 months before the Summit.
- Destinations can be LUGs and other Open Source communities all over Asia and other continents.
- Select one or two volunteers to be responsible for that in order to avoid spaming people :)
- Call for participants template can be downloaded in the "Useful Documents / Template session"
If you have connection with local press of your country / city, approach them, either send them a press release to build awareness of the Summit before and after the Summit or host an interview if possible. Otherwise, you can always approach local technology / IT related journalists to do so. We should also contact them to make them come to Summit (keynotes and highlights are crucial). We need to give them what they are looking for during the event (i.e. interviews). The Press/VIP room is a complex space we are failing at.
For International / Asian oriented press, the whole Committee would definitely give a helping hand and promote the summit all together.
This section would require a whole book... Let's point the most important aspects and let's try to complete it before the next Summit comes.
- Volunteering revisited - most of what you saw before the conference will change during the event, expect new people and build new leadership.
- Room management / speakers - if you are methodical with this the rest can't be too bad...
- Internet / Sound / Video - ... except the core equipment, that needs to be properly working (specially if you are not dealing well with rooms / speakers)
- Transport - Same thing
- Internal communication + Crisis management - You will soon realize that it was easier and quicker to get responses from people in a mailing list before the conference than from people in the same building during the event. Your capacity to communicate and make good decisions will be also lower due to... well, you'll see. ;)
- Have written notice in every schedule that how would Lunch be arranged for every participants / speakers and so on and announce it loudly right before lunch time
- Have signs to tell participants how to tag, twitter, etc
- Have a board to allow participants to write down what they feel about the Summit
- Send reminder to the mailing list of registered members to encourage them to blog about the Submit
- Send a press release to different local / international press
- Send thank you letter and report summary to sponsors, speakers and supporting organizations
- Summarize the Summit experience and put them into this How-to to make it more complete :)