11 Tips For Better Tech Event/Tweetup Planning
In the past number of months I have planned – or been a member of a planning team for – a number of tweetups, meetups, and events. Much as I would like to say that every event I have been a part of has been a massive success that simply isn’t true. A lot of these events were huge successes but some of them were less so. In the past couple of months I have also attended a large number of tweetups, meetups, and events in Toronto purely as a guest. What follows will be the things I have learned in planning and attending these events so you can better plan your own events.
Before I begin, let me make one thing clear, this post is meant solely to share the wisdom and experience I have gained in event planning and is not meant to reflect badly on one event or another. As such, no specific names will be mentioned. If you figure out what event I am referring to (and many of the things I will mention are not specific to one event) please DO NOT name any names in the comments be it organizers or venues or the actual event itself.
- Make sure there is good cell reception with as many different service providers as you can: I was at an event recently (no specifics will be mentioned) and it was a superb event. However, as it was very much a tech oriented event I was surprised and disappointed to find that the place this event was held in had absolutely terrible reception on my cellular provider’s network. In fact, I kept losing reception both on EDGE and on HSPA (aka 3G). This was an event with a Twitter wall that was constantly updating and yet many of the people at the party couldn’t post a tweet due to the horrible reception in the venue! At another event I attended, and granted I am still unsure if this was the intent of the planners because the event was 1960’s themed, there was absolutely ZERO reception in the event due to the fact that it was held in an underground venue. The party and the venue were extremely cool but pretty much everyone at the event was invited because they had a membership in this group through Twitter. The vast majority of us WANTED to tweet about this spectacular venue and party we were attending with pictures, words, and videos but we couldn’t because getting reception meant a far walk upstairs simply to get any signal. At the very least, the event should have installed some Wi-Fi hotspots and let attendees know the password.
- Internet test: Wired and/or Wi-Fi: Don’t just take the venue’s word for it that everything will work, go check it for yourself. If you are going to allow guest to use Wi-Fi and you need an Internet connection for yourself as well, make sure you have a hard line. I was quite embarrassed when I once had to ask guests to get off the Wi-Fi so we could stream video of the event and everyone using Wi-Fi was leaving us without enough bandwidth.
- WiFi Password prominently displayed: Assuming you are allowing everyone on the Wi-Fi don’t just post the password on the event website. People won’t necessarily see it no matter how prominently you have it posted. Post it on big signs on the walls (or on screens if you have them). People will still almost definitely ask you for the password anyway.
- Speakers/audio system loud enough: Again, don’t take the venue’s word for it that the audio system is ‘plenty loud’ and will be ‘loud enough’. I ran an event where half the people couldn’t hear a word the speakers were saying and as a result they began talking among themselves. Having no idea that even when they were silent they couldn’t hear I kept shushing them and thought they were just being rude.
- Less chairs is better for more networking: If you are running an event where there are going to be a lot of people who do not know each other don’t have it in a venue with a bunch of chairs around small tables that seat 4 or 5 people. This discourages mingling and networking and people end up getting less out of the event than they otherwise might have. Of course, as I put in the picture to the right, long picnic tables work for networking simply because it puts everyone together on one long table. When people are all at separate tables it is hard to shift over to another table/group and join in the conversation. No matter how great a venue is for every other event, you have to ensure it fits the specific needs of YOUR event.
- Signs with directions in the venue directing attendees to your area if you aren’t taking up the entire venue: One event I ran we asked them to have the person at the front door let people know where to go when they got there and if they would put signs up around the venue. (The venue is a huge one with many different rooms.) They said they would do both and then simply didn’t. Don’t let that happen, bring your own signs and put them up everywhere. If you can, have someone continually checking the Twitter stream for the hashtag to see if people are having trouble finding the event.
- Attend an event beforehand at the venue and make sure things work as planned and as promised: As I said above, don’t be so quick to believe everything the venue manager/staff tells you about the venue. Try and attend an event there before hand to see how everything works and what kind of environment it is. This, of course, takes planning beforehand and means you can’t coordinate your event in the last week before it is to take place.
- Further to #7 – If you have something new and special planned: If you are going to something new and exciting that has never been done before at that venue (or by you/anyone) go to the venue and ask them to simulate the lighting and conditions (without filling it with people) of the event. This way you can know how it will work out and what kind of adjustments to make, if any, to your plans.
- If you’re running a contest keep everything as equal as possible: I was at an event recently where it was essentially a treasure hunt. There were stickers all over the venue that led to different websites which told you whether or not you won something. Supposedly, there were stickers in the Men’s bathroom (ones that were winners) but I noticed on the tweet stream the next day from the event’s account that the ladies should go look in the ladies’ room because there were stickers in there that hadn’t been claimed. As a man, I was very annoyed by this, I thought it was very unfair that they had put winning stickers in a place I simply could not get to (without upsetting a lot of women!).
- Get everything in writing: I once went to a venue, having been told by a co-organizer that we had a reservation, expecting our reservation to be all in order. When I went to speak to the management, however, I found that they had not actually held the reservation and there had been a miscommunication as to what time the reservation was to be filled. Not only should you get everything in writing but try to document who you spoke to, what time it was, and what day it was when you spoke. If you do this and there is any confusion later, being able to produce facts and dates will go a lot further to getting what you want accomplished and make you look less like you messed up and are just trying to get your way.
- Get good people working with you but follow up!: Like I said above, always follow up and double check when you have the chance. I know you want to put your complete trust in the people you are working with and not have to bother with this – especially if this is an event everyone is doing in their spare time – but if you don’t have the time to set something up try to find the time later to follow up. Not only will this make the people you are dealing with happy to know you are on top of things (don’t be a nudge, just call to confirm), but it will also give you the peace of mind to know that everything is set up as it should be. I especially advise following up if this is the first time you have planned an event with a person/people. Not matter how much of a good person they seem to be you don’t want everything hinging on them doing something and they don’t come through for whatever reason. If you have worked with someone before on an event or have been to an event they have organized/been a part of this is somewhat less important. Still though, like I said, when you follow up it shows that you are on the ball to the people you are dealing with and everything is coming along as it should.