Community post by Annalisa Gennaro
Events, all sorts of events, are meant to enhance knowledge, nurture people’s social need to get together and grow personal networks of real relationships. As easy as it is stated, this doesn’t simply fall from the sky by magic: there’s a massive amount of work behind the scenes that remains hidden and undetected for most.
This short blog post will reveal several steps you have to take to organise a community event, the ingredients needed and the hurdles you could encounter.
The first tip: start small and build it into something bigger over time. But don’t do it alone – find a team.
The second tip is to build a team. To make the organisation work smoother, you need:
- People that wish to collaborate with kindness
- Clear rules set and shared by all organizers beforehand
- The capability to listen (and read with attention, simultaneous omnichannelling it’s ok, but…)
- Time, patience and resilience
- The ability to plan, but more than that, the ability to improvise (because it’s sure you’ll need it)
KCD Italy is composed of 12 -13 people more or less split in two teams, Marketing and Technical, working for five different (competing) companies. We discuss the distribution of the main domain of intervention at the beginning of the year, trying to match personal preferences or inclinations (some are experts on newsletter, some on graphics, some on writing, and the technical team takes care of the CfP), but tasks are not tightly coupled to specific people. If we want to use the Cloud Native metaphor, we are like replicas, so that we can base our collaboration on a microservices architecture: we distribute ourselves almost spontaneously in small pods so that if one of the pods fades for some reason (for example if the individual workload at a specific time is too heavy), tasks are collected by someone else. When some of us are burdened by day-by-day activities, others back up until they are freer, and this support is mutual. People and tasks are loosely coupled, let’s say. For us being a team is not at all counting how many issues or tasks were taken on and carried out by each person we focus on the final results. And when the stress level is too high, we rely on other people’s support. Honestly speaking, this is something that you can easily experience in an Open Source environment, not usually seen in other industries.
A further aspect you need to take into account is planning. Planning is crucial! But it will never be solid enough, you know that, don’t you?? Of course, it’s strictly related to the type of event: much easier if virtual, devilish if it is in person. A roadmap, checklists, automation, you can have all of that at hand, but be sure you will find hitches and hurdles exactly in that grey area that you underestimated or overlooked. At that point, you need to improvise and improvisation is an art that event organizers need to manage, sooner or later. To perform well and to feel safe about it, you need to know the cultural background of the team, and the shared values since you represent more than yourself, Which can be a delicate issue. That’s why you have to unfold all your empathy and ability to listen to other people along the way.
There’s the belief that organising an event is stressful. Well, it is true. But managing to organise an event is also incredibly rewarding. Although stress management is something that depends on the personality and the natural temper of each individual, some sources of stress are very likely worse than others: if it comes from tensions within the team, this can be more difficult to handle, because, as mentioned earlier, it is always about the people.
If you are eager to join the organisation team of some existing events or would like to launch your own, here are some hints from the CNCF KCD Organisers’ Group, they are a precious reference.
- If you are thinking about a CNCF event, then read first the general rules required to ignite the process
- Plan ahead. It will never be enough ahead but set a plan at least three months before the event date. You’ll have to do with digital platforms as well that you may need to learn (like Bevy or SM Apply for CfP)
- Marketing and Promotion Plan Tips – Spread the word and ask for advocacy to all members
- Be diverse! How to curate an inclusive lineup and engage speakers
- To Sponsor or Not To Sponsor? – Just a hint above all: set clear boundaries. In-person events need sponsors for sure to cover the costs, but remind them these are community non-profit events, organised by volunteers in a best-effort mode. This helps to be transparent from the beginning and to redefine the perimeter of their expectations into “Try to be part of something for the community’s sake and be tolerant if not everything is perfect.
These notes come from a fun panel chat with the gorgeous Sophia, Audra, and Renata organised by the Mad Bart Farrell, which you can watch here. And these notes are possible only now, after the great experience of organising the wonderful people KCD Italy that you find here.