Ignite Liverpool - Event Hosting For Beginners


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My slides from the first Ignite event in Liverpool held as part of Global Ignite Week on 4th March 2010, I gave some tips and pointers on how to organise your own events.

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  • Good evening. I'm Adrian McEwen and as you can see, I want to tell you a bit about organising events. I've
  • First off, why would you want to host an event? Bring a group of interesting people together Find people who share an interest. Teach people something. Have fun.
  • Whatever sort you want. Invent a whole new type of event Steal someone else's format: hackday, unconference, conference, coffee morning, jumble sale... Run under an existing banner: Barcamp, Ignite, Pecha Kucha
  • I think there are only two things that are absolutely essential for an event. One of those is people. If no-one turns up, is it still an event? Chances are you'll already know some of the people who'd come along to your event, but if you're not sure then test the water. Throw out the idea on Twitter or to a few friends and see what they think. If somebody bites then you'll know your effort won't be wasted.
  • Obviously every event needs a physical location for the people to gather. Think about the sorts of facilities you'd need Think about places that you've visited for other events Ask around, we didn't know about here when we started planning tonight but Andrew very generously got in touch with us and suggested it. Go on a pub crawl to visit possible sites, worked for Twestival last year Talk to the council about their Shops Up Front scheme?
  • Early on, and throughout the planning for your event, make lists. List things you need to remember to take on the day. List the things you need to do before the day. Lists of who is doing what... Lists are just the easiest way to keep everything organised and help things run smoothly.
  • Becoming more and more of an essential these days, and one of the things that Twitterers will complain about the most if it's not working. Venue owners will make reassuring noises that their WiFi is more than capable. Be sceptical If you're expecting a lot of attendees (especially for geek events) with laptops then try to arrange some backup or additional access points.
  • Beer/wine/coffee/... Projector? Bubblino?
  • Find some other people to help you plan and run the event. Makes organising it more fun. Shares the workload. Helps spread the word.
  • Tell people about what you're planning. Mention it on Twitter Get a hashtag Write about it on your blog Post it to relevant mailing lists See if the local press are interested Stick posters in places like the noticeboard in the FACT cafe.
  • Decide if you need tickets. For an informal gathering in a pub, you probably don't. If you need to work out what size of venue to hire, or if you're organising refreshments then it helps to get an idea of how many people are attending. The Internet has made it easier to organise ticketing now with services like Amiando and Eventbrite, which are generally free to use if you aren't charging for the tickets. Make a few more tickets available than you expect to be able to cope with, as 10-20% of the people with tickets won't show up on the day.
  • Are you going to have people speaking at your event? If you are then you'll probably need some kind of projector and maybe even a PA system, but that'll generally just limit the sorts of venues you'll choose to ones that have that sort of kit already. Think about who you'd like to speak and then just ask them. The worst is they can say no. Bear in mind that high profile speakers will probably have a fee to speak (or otherwise they'd spend all their time travelling around speaking and not earn a living) or if they're from far away then you'll at least need to offer to cover their expenses. But there are lots of interesting speakers locally, witness tonight!
  • The more preparation you can do before the event, the smoother everything will look on the day. It takes a lot of effort for things to look casual and relaxed. Think about the sorts of requests that people might make on the day, both attendees and speakers (if you've got any). The more you can sort out beforehand, the more time you'll have to deal with the things that come up on the day – and there will be something...
  • If possible, run through as much as you can before the event. Check that the WiFi works. Try showing the presentations on the projector. Run through a changeover of presenter.
  • But don't worry if you haven't gotten everything sorted out beforehand. Despite your best efforts one of your speakers won't provide their presentation beforehand (usually that's me, although I was about an hour before the deadline for this talk!), or you won't have been able to get everyone together for a run through...whatever. Don't agonise about things, do your best... but that's all you need do.
  • More promotion Find other things you can talk about rather than just repeating yourself. Do you have sponsors to announce? Or speakers confirmed? A big push in the last week or two can remind everyone that it's the must-see event in the coming days and keeps it fresh in their minds
  • Sometime in the run up to the event you'll hit that point where you worry that no-one is going to turn up and it'll all go wrong. This seems quite natural, and just shows that you want it to go well. Try to enjoy the feeling of expectation...
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