What follows is a pretty comprehensive post-mortem about BarcampLA. From the feedback I've received, it was pretty successful. It certainly surpassed my expectations. If there is something that wasn't covered here, or if you have more questions, please leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer. Thanks!
Pre-BarcampOne evening at dinner, Ian Rogers and I decided to do a BarcampLA. I emailed Chris Messina, who added it to the Barcamp wiki. Ian pinged Sean Bonner of Metroblogging, who agreed to help out.
Within a few days of having it up on the wiki, Jason Roberts got in touch and offered to help out. It ended up with the four of us planning BarcampLA. Ian, Jason, myself, and Lucas Gonze all went to dinner one night (Sean couldn't make it), and it was good to meet face-to-face to better understand the personalities involved.
Four is a good number, but it was difficult coordinating four schedules to meet up in person or on conference calls to talk through a lot of this, so much of it was done via email. We tried productivity tools like Basecamp, Writeboard, etc, but it ended up being much easier to coordinate over email and occasional phone calls.
Ian knows Dave, who runs the excellent Little Radio warehouse, and asked Dave if we could use LR as a venue for Barcamp. Dave was game, and he and his crew were absolutely awesome in arranging the space to be even better suited to host Barcamp.
We had several conference calls before Barcamp in order to tie up loose ends. About two weeks in advance, Jason came up with a list of things we'd need to take care of. On a conference call about 10 days before Barcamp, we split up responsibilities based on the items on the list.
Also, Amit Gupta's BarcampNYC write up was invaluable in planning this.
SponsorshipsEverybody reached out to companies they knew about sponsoring BarcampLA. We definitely slacked on it a bit, starting in mid-to-late January and continuing on through the week before Barcamp.
Here's a rough template that I used to pitch companies (thanks Amit!). Once a company said they'd sponsor, they passed them to me so I could send them the mailing address / Paypal address. I think this system worked quite well, because it enabled a concrete view of how much money we could spend. I also dealt with all the receipts, which made it easier to see cash inflow vs. outflow and thus know approximately how much we had to spend.
We asked sponsors to send a check or Paypal the money to us in advance, and none of them had any problems with that.
Some sponsors supplied goods or paid for services directly, which was great... i.e. Buzznet ordered a keg, Belkin sent a slew of hardware, Metroblogging paid for parking directly.
Getting sponsors was pretty easy. Some companies approached us directly without any of us reaching out. And all the others contributed after receiving an email from one of us. One thing I want to improve on for next time around (and will be posting about soon) is ways to improve sponsoring companies' bang for the buck.
AttendeesJason emailed folks at random tech companies in the area letting them know that Barcamp was coming and to send people, if they were interested.
We also spread the word through our various networks.
Since we didn't require email addresses on the wiki, I ended up going through all the websites of everybody who was listed on the wiki to get their email address. Some people don't list their email address on their website, so I guessed on some, and checked out the list of Barcamp wiki changes for others. This was a pain in the ass. Next time around, we should build in a mechanism to collect email addresses so it's easy to get in touch with folks who plan on coming.
EmailsWe sent out two emails, one the week before Barcamp, and one on the Thursday night before Barcamp.
Scouting the LocationIan knew Dave at Little Radio Warehouse, and Dave was cool with us using his space, so we decided to hold it there, sight-unseen. I went down a couple weeks in advance to check the space out, figure out approximately where things would go, and talk with Dave about logistics (wifi, parking, overnighters) , and our expectations about running the event.
InsuranceWe assumed, incorrectly, that LR had liability insurance. Turns out that they got event insurance whenever they held a party, which meant that's what we needed to get.
We found this out in the week before Barcamp. This could have killed the event, so don't forget to figure this out in advance and take it into account when budgeting. Not getting the insurance wasn't an option, especially since there would be drinking on Saturday night.
Yahoo and FOX came through in a major way to cover the additional costs.
We got insurance through ProductionInsurance.com. They were really easy to work with, and they can generally turn around coverage in less than 24 hours.
T-ShirtsWe decided not to get t-shirts, which proved to be a good decision in the end. We simply didn't have the budget for it, and with the insurance surprise in the week before Barcamp, it was good not to have the extra expense.
Day of Event
Setting up the SpaceOn Saturday morning, I showed up around 9:30am (registration was between 4-6p). Dave was there, and had two guys there who work with him, Jimmy and Dino. Jason and Chris Messina showed up around 10a, Woody Pewitt and Sean Bonner showed up around noon, and Ian and Alex showed up around 1ish. People came and went, but at any given time, we had 6 or 7 people setting stuff up. This number could likely have been reduced if we were better organized.
As it was, the way things got done was pretty self-organizing. Chris, Jason and I walked through the space to figure out what the optimal seating arrangement would be for the three rooms, and where the food tables and sign-in table would go. Chris had learned at previous Barcamps that people would be hopping in and out of sessions, so it was important that foot traffic would minimize the distractions to presenters and their audiences. So we arrange the space with this in mind.
Once we figured out where stuff should go, we started getting things done. The screens went up--LR had these sweet silk screens nailed onto wooden frames that we used for the smaller rooms, and a sheet nailed to a couple of 2-by-4s for the main screen.
Dino trucked chairs in from somewhere in Hollywood, and people took the initiative to set them up. Good thing to, because although we asked people to bring chairs, it seems like most didn't.
A few people emailed me beforehand and said they could bring a projector. We ended up having more projectors than necessary, which was cool, because it was nice to have backups in case a bulb went. None did, though.
BathroomsAlex volunteered to clean and manage the bathrooms over the weekend, bless his heart. There were only two bathrooms, and we designated one for each sex. Even though there were far more guys there than women, we operated under Chris Messina's philosophy that we should create as welcoming an environment as possible for the women, given that more women would only benefit the diversity of future events.
WifiI set up the wifi. More accurately, I added the sweet Belkin routers to the existing network, and added a 24-port Belkin gigabit switch to the network for wired connections.
When we grabbed LR, we weren't aware that their connection to the internet was 768k/384k. Dave Bullock brought his Verizon EVDO card and set that up as another access point. We briefly worked on some other solutions, but nothing panned out. Strangely, it didn't seem to be as big an issue as I thought (maybe that's because I wasn't on the computer much over the two days).
Presentation WallSean set up the presentation wall for Sunday (we used blue sticky tack to get the paper to stick to the brick). BarcampLA schedule wall - before. BarcampLA schedule wall - after.
Sponsor WallWe got .ai or .eps logos of all the sponsors beforehand, and printed them all out in color on 8.5x11 pieces of paper. Not sure who set up the sponsor wall, but it got done!
PowerWe strung power cables to the critical areas: along the walls where tables were set up, and to the middle of the seating areas in all three presentation rooms. We left a big pile of power strips that we didn't use near the sign-in table, and people took them and used them at Barcamp as they felt necessary. Belkin really came through here; nobody wanted for a power outlet over the event.
WhiteboardsWe bought a couple of whiteboards the day of BarcampLA. Maybe it was just me, but they didn't seem to be worth the purchase (correct me if I'm wrong!)
ServerJerry Schuman brought a sweet little Cobalt Cube server that he set up on the network. I don't think it was used much, though.
Garbage Bags & CansI think we had four garbage cans throughout the space. We kept an eye on them throughout the event, and changed them when necessary.
DrinksLR Warehouse throws parties in the space, and had a bunch of tubs that we threw drinks into. We bought ice an hour or so before we cracked out the drinks on both days, which kept 'em cold. The drinks were enjoyed by all.
ParkingMetroblogging covered rental of the parking lot next door to the warehouse.
The Event - SaturdayRegistration was from 4-6, and people started trickling in soon after 4p. We weren't totally ready, but the people who showed up early helped out, started getting introduced, etc. We asked everybody to sign in when they arrived (here's the sample sign-in spreadsheet). We ended up with 80 people who signed in over the course of the two days.
We also had people fill in BarcampLA nametags (template thanks to the NYC guys). People didn't really use the tags on their badges.
At about 6pm, we asked people to move to the main room. I ran through expectations for the weekend--learn, share, and have fun--thanked the sponsors by name, and pointed out Alex so that he could run point on bathroom issues. We also asked people to tag blog posts and Flickr pics with the BarcampLA tag (and it was hot, too!). Ian then outlined the schedule for both days, and let people know to sign up to run a session on the schedule wall. Jason walked through what we'd be eating. Finally, Heathervescent talked about the e-iron chef competition and how it would work.
We then went around the room doing introductions. Each person offered three words to describe them self, and one thing they hoped to get out of the event.
The pizza dinner was driven down to the warehouse by Jason's awesome wife, Sandy. Before we ate, FOX had a representative say a few words about how rad it is to work there because they were sponsoring the meal.
We ordered 24 pizzas. operating under the premise that it would be better to have too much food than too little. We ended up having 4 or 5 pies left over at the end of the night. The breakdown was 9 cheese, 7 pepperoni, 3 sausage, and 5 vegetarian.
Buzznet kicked in for a keg of Stella Artois, which was delivered and tapped around 7 or 8pm. From 8 until midnight or so, we had a very loose demo session around the warehouse, along with lots of getting to know one another. Some gave demos on the big screen, some used the smaller rooms, and some just used the tables throughout the space.
Cleanup was pretty light, and there were lots of Barcampers who pitched in to throw away cups, take out the trash, etc. at the end of the night.
There ended up being no actual campers, which was just as well--the place ended up being colder than expected at night.
The Event - SundayJason, Ian, Chris, and Sandy (Jason's wife) got there early and had laid out the spread of bagels, cream cheese, coffee, OJ, etc. Ian picked up the bagels that morning, and the rest of the food we'd brought down the night before. We bought an industrial-strength coffee maker for about $70, which means we'll be set for future Barcamps. We had breakfast scheduled from 9-10a on Sunday, with announcements at 10-10:30, and sessions kicking off at 10:30.
The schedule was divided into 30 minute chunks. The morning had three presentations, a 15 minute break, and then two more. Lunch was an hour. We had three presentations in the afternoon, a 15 minute break, two more presentations, the e-iron chef wrap up, some quick announcements, and then clean-up. Presenters often shared a 30 minute presentation timeslot.
Things moved on schedule throughout most of the day, and the presence of the next presenter often provided the impetus for the current presenter to finish up.
We broke out chips, drinks, etc during the breaks. Lunch consisted of several huge trays of cold cuts, cheeses, veggie platters, and rolls. Heathervescent brought a cake, and there were brownies and other assorted baked goods. Lunch was again brought down by Sandy.
Having the lunch brought down saved us significantly on tips for the delivery guys, but you should make sure you've got somebody as sweet as Sandy who's willing to do the schlepping around town!
During the closing announcements, we thanked the participants, the sponsors, and Alex for running a tight ship with the bathrooms. We let folks know that we'd be doing a geek dinner soon and setting up a mailing list to facilitate Barcamper communication (it's here--BarcampLA Group). This was important--there were a lot of good vibes and we wanted to keep the momentum going. We also asked folks to hang out and help with cleanup if they had a few moments to spare.
There were a ton of folks who stayed to help out, and cleanup happened really quickly. Garbage was thrown out, extra food was divvied up, Jory Felice of Belkin said that the power strips were fair game for people who needed them, floors were swept, access points were shut down, bathrooms were wiped down, etc, etc.
Before leaving, I made sure to get receipts from everybody who spent money on Barcamp so I could later do the expenses.
AfterI wrote thank-you emails to each sponsor, set up the Google Group, and tallied up the expenses. I made two copies of each receipt and mailed off the appropriate receipts to be expensed by some of our sponsors.
Chair Rental: $150
Staples supplies: $160
Drinks, snacks, etc: $250
Cleaning supplies, toilet paper, paper plates, keg cups, etc: $150
Lessons1. Get lots of people to help set up and clean up. When people first emailed me to help, I tried to figure out whether they had some specialized skill that could make a difference. Forget about that--just say yes, and have 'em show up early. The more warm bodies setting up and taking down, the better. You can organize them when they're there.
2. Don't define tracks, just provide the empty schedule and let the program evolve naturally.
3. Stress the participation factor in all communications about Barcamp. This will self-select, to a certain extent, and make sure people are there for the right reasons.
4. Collect email addresses through some form. The reason we didn't was to keep sign-up barriers low, but it would have saved us a ton of time. It would also have helped us better gauge who was serious about coming, and perhaps have helped us better plan our food needs.
5. One of the biggest challenges we faced was to make sure we didn't over- or under-shoot the amount of food we got. In the end, we over-shot, but participants were able to take home the extra juice, etc. We also left a bunch of drinks, chips, etc at the Warehouse.
6. Try and get a hardware sponsor--it made wifi and power significantly easier to set up/deal with.
7. Make sure the venue has a fat pipe to the internet, and liability insurance.
8. Don't forget about the small things--paper plates, keg cups, toilet paper, air freshener, milk & sugar for the coffee, garbage cans, garbage bags, fridge if necessary, etc.
10. You can do this if you put your mind to it--seriously! You just gotta take the initiative... and don't forget to have some fun with it!
- First Barcamp email
- Second Barcamp email
- Shopping List
- Barcamp Nametags
- Sample Sign-in sheet
- Sponsor Email Template
- Pre-Barcamp To Do list
- Insurance Coverage