Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Running a developer event – sponsors

They may not come through when you think they will and even if they say they will, others though will come out of the wood work. But they will never find you first.

But don’t let that put you off!

There are a few or companies who support the UK MS development community that you could say will be guaranteed to help out in some way, make contact with these guys as early as possible as they always run their sponsorships on a first come (with the best idea) first served. And they take the longest to get money signed off and paid.

Now its the hard(er) bit, start sending emails out to every business contact you know, anyone could be a sponsor. I didn’t go for the give us cash or forget it, it was important for me to get ‘stuff’ that could keep the costs down and I never said no to a sponsorship offer.
The email that went out was heavily focused on what I was trying to do, not on how much cash I needed, actually for most first contact emails I never asked for cash. If there was a positive email, then I would send a gracious thanks and mentioning cash needed.

My initial thoughts were to ask for small amounts (trying to avoid a ‘no’), after speaking to someone who knows about running and organising a lot of successful events (Simon Sabin from SQLBits), I realised that I should be asking for the full amount from everyone and seeing what happens… First try on this was surprisingly effective.

Don’t stop looking for sponsors, you cannot be certain of anything until the cash arrives.

Be prepared to cover some(or all) of the costs for the event yourself, hopefully it wont come to that. But you do need to bear this in mind, this will also keep you focussed on finding both sponsorship and the right venue.

Phase1 – the people you know
Phase 2 – the people you know through people
Phase 3 – random companies that you have seen advertising in the magazines you read, who may or may not have any link to the event
Phase 4 – repeat 1,2,3

It takes balls (not literally) to run an event, if you approach people confidently and know what you want to achieve you will get a better response. If you know what the sponsors can get out of the event, you will get a better response.

My initial emails were basically crap, it took me awhile to get my story of what I was trying to achieve straight.

Once you have your sponsors, do keep them in the loop, now this is not something I did on the run up to dev4good, but I will be sending a thanks and summary to them all within a few days of the event finishing.
While the event is on, make sure every attendee knows who the sponsors are and what they paid for, I did a lot of this on day1, but forgot about this on day 2.

And most importantly don’t lie to sponsors, ie this is our 5th year, we have 200 people registered, your closest rival has given us £xxx etc It will only get you bad press when the truth comes out and you will find it very hard if not impossible to get these people to ever take you seriously.

Well that’s a few bits on sponsors, don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to find out more, tweet me @chillfire

Running a developer event - venue

My biggest piece of advice to anyone looking to run ANY event
Get your venue sorted FIRST

That’s about it really, except a few other things to consider;

suitable for the Event

Make sure you focus on venues that fit your event, there is no use chasing a venue that is not suitable, if you can go to the venue before you say yes or put cash down, expect to out a deposit down well in advance of the big day, to secure the booking.
Keep in contact with the venue, make sure you know what they need from you and that they know exactly what you are expecting them to do.
When you go to the venue, try and imagine how the event will run in your head, ask about everything you may need and make sure anything verbally agreed is also bounced around in emails too.


This will set your cost per person straight off.
In London its going to be a lot more than in the sticks, saying that you wont get as many people travelling to somewhere that doesn’t have a train for example.


Public transport is a must, if it’s out of range to walk, then is their parking?


If you plan to run the event over night or not, people may want to stay the night before to save an early trip. I used a hostel as an option for anyone who didn’t want to kip on the floor. Saying that a few said they would have crashed on the floor if they had to. Also I could have saved a lot of cash by booking beds rather than dorm rooms that were not full due to last minute drop outs.
I was very lucky when I found www.hammersmithriverside.co.uk, this was all down to an opportune email. They allowed me to use the venue overnight (this was the biggest hurdle for dev4good, I wanted people to be able to work through the night if they had to (or sleep for free). I spoke to a few businesses and insurance was the problem, so was security. I tried real estate agents as well, looking for empty buildings, but again insurance and security were the problem.
I also looked into YHA hostels, as the initial event idea was for it to be a code retreat, but there are very few that have an internet connection (even 3G) and even fewer that are close to civilisation – they are a very cheap option though.


Can you get the internet, is their 3G, how many people are you planning to have on site?
We had 25 people using 2 wifi points on the same Adsl and we crashed this quite regularly. One team ended up in the pub next door using theirs for a few hours. If you are using a corporate venue this probably wont be an issue, but do go wandering around your venue and make note of any ‘public’ wifi spots, cafes etc


After the venue itself this is the second biggest cost, at dev4good I covered all food costs + coffee/tea/biscuits through the venue’s kitchen. We ordered pizza in on day 2 as it is a pre-requisite for any coder event.


I didn’t have one, but its always worth having a backup in mind, especially if you are booking a long way in advance, don’t stop looking for other venues, you never know hen you might need them.
If you have any questions, tweet @chillfire and I will see what I can help with

Saturday, July 02, 2011

dev4good day 1

Day one has been a great day for learning!

The 3 charities all came to us with completely different problems.

Hope and Play (www.hopeandplay.org) were looking for a way to locate and manage resources. And allow other charities or people to do the same.

The Ministry of Stories (www.ministryofstories.org) are looking for a way to get more young people writing stories and publishing these to the world. All while helping to generate a little more cash along the way.

The Design and Craft Council (www.craftanddesigncouncil.org.uk) want to be able to automate their awards processes

For me one of the big worries about the event was how to get the teams to work on all the projects.

Fortunately after much post it noting and milling about, the teams magically built themselves!

Then came much discussion and planning

Then the internet and wireless connections started to fail our multi user downloading of updates/platforms/frameworks. So much so that one of the teams retired to the pub next door to use their wireless (well that’s their story anyway)

More pics from day 1


Its been a great day and there will be more code and frivolity tomorrow.