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Planning your event
Running your event
Congratulations! The fact that you have reached this page means you at least have an interest in spreading the devops love to the world. Back in 2009 when we organized the first event, we were probably as excited as you are now. But we were also bit scared and full of questions: how does this work? how do we get sponsors? what is the first thing we have to do?
Years later, we can offer some advice from our experiences. Even though every event is a bit unique in its own way, we've come to a more or less standard approach for organizing these events. With this document we want to support you and make you feel at ease in organizing one yourself. Don't worry; we'll be there along the way!
We recommend that at least one person on your team attend another devopsdays first, and then get in touch with the core organizers to tell us about where you'd like to organize your own!
In the devops spirit of collaboration, find people in your region that want to help you run the next awesome event.
You're going to want a few people from different organizations on your local organizing team, so you have a broader base of support and involvement from the community.
When you have your initial team, email the global core organizers and we'll set up the @devopsdays.org mail aliases for your team. This will let you have a standard email for organizer contact and proposals.
The other thing you'll want to do as soon as possible is get your event listed on the website by submitting a pull request to https://github.com/jedi4ever/devopsdays-webby. The simplest way to do this:
Every devopsdays event is different, but there are a few rules to keep in mind if you'd like your event to be listed on devopsdays.org:
Part of organizing the event is the handling of the money, which means official invoicing. This will be needed for:
You cannot announce a date until you know you have a way to handle money. Realizing too late that you cannot process money has led to rescheduled or canceled events in the past.
The way many events have handled this is to find a local company that is willing to handle these logistics. In some countries, a local company is the only way to handle taxes.
Depending on the size of the event, you might want to give them a Silver or Gold sponsorship in return. Make sure they understand they will need to generate invoices and accept/make payments with a fast turn-around.
If a local company is not an option, we've worked with a few companies in the past that are willing to help you for a small fee in return.
If you would like to use this method, contact us to get more details.
To make invoicing smooth, it helps to use that company's paypal account for registration (on eventbrite or equivalent) and to use paypal (or equivalent) buttons generated by them for sponsor packages.
Now that you have assembled your team, the next step is choosing a date. We usually take the following into consideration to find a good date:
Your budget is going to be refined and adjusted as you determine how many attendees you think you'll get and how much you're going to commit to spending up-front. You're not going to know all these numbers immediately, but it's valuable to start thinking about them as you're choosing a venue.
Categories to consider:
When you have some idea of when you want to run and how much you want to spend, you can start talking to potential venues.
Venue space considerations:
Aside from having enough space, there are other things to consider:
A final big space differentiator is the pricing: as the price of devopsdays ranges from free to pretty low, we can't afford to pay the big bucks there. We've gotten around this in the past by:
Don't overcommit on the number of people coming and don't do a pre-payment for the venue until you must. The same goes for food: it's always easier to add a few extra plates as opposed to having too much food ordered.
If you have some legal entity created for the event, have the details at hand (legal name, contact details, business number etc.). Some venues may require this information to put in a hold for your chosen date(s).
Once you have a time and place, you can announce your event to the world! It's great if you've had a chance to open your CFP and registration, though those aren't essential to announce your dates.
Tweet with the hashtag #devopsdays and if desired, set up a city-specific Twitter account such as @devopsdaysmsp. Your tweets will be included in the Twitter feed on devopsdays.org and we'll also retweet you.
Announcements can be made on the official devopsdays googlegroup.
On your local organizing team, it's best to discuss the following tasks. Of course this is not set in stone, but it helps for people to focus on different areas.
When you're ready to open your call for proposals, you'll want to include the date it opens, the date it closes, and the date by which people will be informed of your decisions. People will usually need at least 4-6 weeks to arrange for travel or time off, and you'll want your call to be open for at least a month, and you'll want at least 2 weeks to consider proposals and fill in any gaps. This means that you should open your CFP as soon as possible, and close it at least 6-8 weeks before your event.
Set an official theme if one beyond "devops" is desired. Within the context of this theme (but other proposals can work too) we look for:
We usually have 4 conference slots/day + ignite talks. Open space sessions are scheduled during the conference, not ahead of time
For people to respond to the call for proposals we create a specific address (email@example.com). Also proposals will be published on the website, both for inspiration and commenting by others. We encourage you to remove names when posting proposals that aren't yet accepted.
Keep in mind that under-represented people in tech are much less likely to respond to your CFP. If you would like to encourage diverse viewpoints from voices other than those you hear the most often, you will need to reach out into those communities and encourage participation.
Talk selection doesn't have to be finished when you announce a schedule; it's ok to leave to space until the end. Still, we found that a finished schedule helps for attendees to make the case for them to attend. Remember that announcing only a few speakers can lead to unwarranted assumptions about your demographics.
If people qualify as a speaker (either talk or ignite):
Don't be surprised if proposals don't flow in quickly at first. People usually wait a bit before sending them in and need some extra calls. It's good to have a backup plan and contact individual speakers as well. You're not required to create your schedule solely from responses to your CFP.
It works best if you dedicate a person/pair to respond to proposals/speakers and handling communication. This is best for both ignite and conference talks. While your local team is going to select your event's talks, the core organizers may weigh in to help you make a more balanced schedule having less overlap with other devopsdays.
Sponsor packages are decided upon by the local organizing team for a city. The global core team does not offer sponsor packages, so any sponsors will work directly with the devopsdays event(s) they'd like to sponsor. You can use the examples in the template to help you make your decisions. Here are some typical offerings:
We want to avoid the traditional high-priced model for sponsors. We believe that the more companies that sponsor, the better: it amplifies the ideas and shows that many companies subscribe to the devops idea.
We believe the pricing is low compared to the value sponsors get compared to what other conferences are charging. Also, you may want to refrain from deviations from the standard package. Exceptions take extra CPU cycles. Best to be avoided.
Other offerings might be:
As a reminder:
Sponsors pay the bills. You rely on them. So what can you do to find them and keep them satisfied?
Sponsors will usually ask you the following; best to have this information ready.
From experience, we found that it helps to have a single local organizer act as the contact with the sponsors to track prospects, payment, and giving them discount codes.
When they sponsor they need to supply:
In return you'll :
On the registration page, have them select the special sponsor ticket with their discount. Many of the sponsor contacts are traveling from event to event, you'll have to follow up with them a bit so they sign up their crew in time for your badge printing. Make sure you make the invoices "due on receipt" so sponsors don't wait months to pay you. Make sure they sponsor directly by check or by paypal; do not make it a special ticket type in eventbrite, or you'll have to wait for eventbrite to disperse funds after your event.
We want to ensure that anyone who's interested in attending a devopsdays is able to, and that price is not a barrier. So, you'll want to keep your prices relatively low compared to many industry conferences.
Free registration Experience has taught us that 'free' events come with a cost:
Minimal Cost Asking a minimal fee (covering about food cost for two days - about 100USD or 100 Euro) gives us the best of both worlds:
The downside is that this will require 'official' invoices:
Bottom line: if you want to charge a fee (which gives you better financial protection), make sure you have considered that in your handling of the money.
To encourage people to register early it's advised to offer discounted early-bird registration.
Once pricing has been decided you're ready to set up registration. We've had good experiences with http://www.eventbrite.com integrated with http://paypal.com payments. The paypal account for payment needs to be linked directly to the company that does the invoicing.
The core organizers will not run registration for you, but we can suggest things that will be useful to you in your registration process.
Specifically on eventbrite we usually:
ask if they are interested in attending the evening event on the first night
disable the facebook integration
some events choose to allow people to see who is coming (name, company - not email!)
set up a sponsor/helper ticket which has a high price ($9999)
Attendee email or direct-contact information should never be visible on the website or given out to vendors. We value privacy and anti-spam a lot!
We recommend a two day single-track program with the following structure:
We provide a sample schedule in the event template.
You can usually draw on different sources to get speakers:
A few words of advice:
Printing shirts is entirely optional. Some events choose to donate to charity instead, while others go with a different kind of swag. If you decide to do shirts, bear in mind that at registration time, attendees can help you know what their body shapes and sizes mean for their preferences. Ask! Do not just guess, or you will find you've inadvertently made some attendees feel excluded.
While some shirt styles only go to 2XL, there will be attendees who (given the option) will choose 3XL or 4XL. Women will sometimes be happier with a fitted shirt (which is not the same as a "girl" shirt - those are typically a "junior" size). Avoid making your extended sizes and your fitted shirts significantly different from the "main" shirt in color or design.
Keep in mind that you want your design to be appealing on a wide range of humans, not just those who happen to have smaller torsos without many curves. If you want soft, comfortable shirts that can fit many people, consider something like a tri-blend instead of a 100% cotton shirt.
If you're ordering shirts a few weeks before your event, consider padding the counts by up to 30% of each size/style. Having a few extra shirts is way better than anyone going home sad.
You may also want to order stickers or other items. Give yourself plenty of lead time.
There will almost certainly be a few speakers and sponsors who will travel to your event and will appreciate having a discounted rate at the most conveniently located affordable hotel you can manage.
If you're holding your event in a hotel, they will likely give you a "courtesy" room block that guarantees a discounted rate for your attendees.
If you're not using the hotel's meeting rooms and catering, they may want you to guarantee at least 80% or so of the room nights you block off for your group will be used. This isn't as risky as it sounds if you want to start with a very small block (5 rooms or so, for the night before day one and the night between day one and day two - don't expect people to stay overnight the evening of day two). Usually the hotel will also let you add more rooms to the block as it fills.
If you make your group rate code available on your website, keep on eye on who registers with it (the hotel should be able to provide this info), and ensure that you have enough space for all the out-of-town people you expect. You may have to remind some people to register, as the group rate usually expires a month or so before an event.
You will want a local organizer acting as the primary contact person with the venue. You will need to arrange things like the chair layout, table arrangement, audio-visual needs, etc. The catering deadline (by which time you'll need to provide numbers) is usually a couple weeks or so before your event.
Make sure you ask the venue how soon sponsors can start shipping items there, get the correct address/routing info, and ask what fees they might incur. Find out exact times you'll have access to your space, and find out whether you'll have secure overnight storage (because both you and definitely the sponsors will need that).
Your venue may require some form of insurance. See what they require, and look into something like TULIP event insurance depending on what's available for your local area.
You will want some members of your local organizing team to be tasked with...
Most devopsdays host a social gathering the evening after the first day of the two-day event. This is a great place for attendees to get to know one another better. There's some sort of food and drink, but usually a full dinner is not provided. Having fun activities to participate in (bowling, trivia, other games, etc) is recommended. While alcohol is enjoyable, it should not be the only activity, and it's important to remember the needs of attendees who aren't choosing to drink alcohol.
Usually the evening event will be at a different location than the venue for the talks. It's a good idea to make it within walking distance or provide transportation if possible.
You are going to want a place where people can check in and get their badges when they arrive. They may also pick up T-shirts there. If you use Eventbrite, there is an app which makes check-in much easier than using paper. Sort the badges ahead of time alphabetical by last, then first name. If you separate out the sponsor ones, keep in mind that some people might not realize if they fell into the 2, 4, or 6 "sponsor" tickets or a "regular attendee" ticket according to how their company registered them.
Sort shirts by style and size, and then let attendees pick out their own. If you built in enough margin of error, this won't cause any problems and will be the most efficient way to deal with it.
You may want to staff the registration desk at all times if you want to be able to help attendees with their questions. As the conference organizers may want to attend talks, it's wise to call in favors from friends and family who aren't interested in the subject matter of the talks and won't mind missing them all. Make sure any such staff have a way of getting ahold of the organizer on duty for any questions they can't answer on their own.
Whether or not you're able to livestream, it's important to record all the talks. This is invaluable for your speakers, and it's great for the community. Your audiovisual company should be able to provide a camera or cameras and record the feed off the board into a computer.
If you're going to livestream, rehearse ahead of time, and then assign at least one person to run it during the event.
Running Ignites can be a challenge: people tend to submit them last minute, or they didn't understand the format too well. Here are few tips on making this process run more smoothly:
Be prepared to run around with a USB stick to get the 'on the spot' deciders.
PDF is the easiest format to collect all presentations
Use a dedicated laptop (avoid any popups etc...)
Mention again on the day itself.
"Just so you know, your slides will auto advance every 15 seconds; you can't advance them yourself"
Have Ignite presenters queue next to the stage and either:
There is a wealth of detail on the Open Space format page. Consider both a physical schedule grid and an easily-updated shared spreadsheet you can link from your event page. Also consider posting the open space choices for a specific room outside that room.