Organising a DrupalCamp - Tips and feedback from DrupalCamp Bristol 2015

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Rick Donohoe's picture
Jul 13th 2015Account Manager

As the Chair of the DrupalCamp Bristol Committee, I thought it would be great to share what I took away from organising Bristol's first DrupalCamp. I'm sure there's a few things to be learnt from this, and if not then at least it will make an interesting read!

The Figures

Friday total sales: 74
Friday turnout: 64

Saturday total sales: 132
Saturday turnout: 109

Income (to be finalised): £12,805.00
Expenditure (to be finalised): £11,964.16

I'd be happy to share the figures with any new camp organisers, and answer any questions you might have - simply drop me an email.

A big thank you would also be appropriate at this point to Kris Klinkhammer for all her help at the Drupal Association.

What went well?

The actual camp weekend was fantastic and we received a lot of great feedback. We had picked two amazing venues and a summer date, and luckily for us the weather did not disappoint; we even had lunch served outside!

We were worried at first when we realised we had to choose a different venue for each day, but in the end I think that worked out in our favour. St George's Hall in particular was a fantastic choice as our attendees were delighted to see the event held in such a unique venue, and started the weekend off in very high spirits.

St Georges Hall
- St Georges Hall:

A decision I’m glad we made was to introduce a Drinks Sponsor as a tier between Organisational and Gold Sponsors. Their fee was £1,000 which was put directly behind the bar of a superb venue - Goldbrick House - which was directly behind St George’s Hall. This decision had two advantages; not only were we not handling any cash, and therefore not subject to the 10% DA fees, but a bar tab of that size is a great way to ensure that all your attendees carry on late into the evening which creates a great networking opportunity.

At the core of the event we also had a fantastic variety of talks, so a big thank you to each and everyone of them.

Léonie Watson giving her Saturday keynote on "The metamorphosis of accessibility"
- Léonie Watson giving her Saturday keynote on "The metamorphosis of accessibility"

We were also pretty lucky with the committee, since we had a total of 9 people and it meant no need for any other volunteers over the weekend. We used Trello for communication (separating a board for each key area) and had monthly meetings at the Microserve offices to ensure everything was on track.

Little tip: The initial meetings will be long. Get some rules in place, figure out how to make quick decisions, elect a chair early. The first few meetings were twice as long as the others, so get a few Pizza's expensed!

What didn’t go so well?

We had initially attempted to have a sub-event on each day; Training would be held on the Friday within the same venue, and Sprints would be held on the Saturday. Unfortunately we barely sold any Training tickets so we had to cancel this, and although we had a great room for the Sprints, we simply didn’t publicise this enough and therefore it was barely used. We'd have liked to invite more people to sprint by giving them a free ticket, but because the sprints were in the same place as the camp, we had to acknowledge that each person would still be subject to the same "per head" cost - food & drink, t-shirt, merchandise etc - so we didn't do this unfortunately.

I should also thank Circle Interactive who provided us with a great deal on training. Although we weren’t at a financial loss by cancelling it they had put their time into putting something together and they were very understanding when we cancelled.

Where could we improve?

What are the main points I'll be taking into year 2 and what is my advice to anyone approaching their first DrupalCamp?

Take things easy on year one

We thought we had adhered to this rule by not having a Sunday conference day, but we should have also applied this to Training. We do look forward to putting a heavier focus on that next year though!

Don’t think of everything as linear

We didn’t start selling tickets till the website was complete, we didn’t start on the website till we had agreed all the key information and we didn’t promote to speakers and sponsors till we had all details. In hindsight we could have taken a much less linear approach, which would have boosted sales early and got our speakers and sponsors on-board faster.

There's a couple of points I should empahsise on the back of this one: 

  1. 8 months planning will suddenly catch up with you when you're 2 months away from the event and the ticket sales aren't what you expected. It really is important to not feel too comfortable in the early stages, and to get tickets and speaker requests out early.
  2. DrupalCamp already has a name for itself, so early bird tickets will sell regardless. We could have tweeted about early bird tickets before we even had the venues or any detail sorted; as long as the date is confirmed there'll be an audience who are happy to snap the tickets up without knowing the finer details!

Improve communication groups

We had email groups so everyone received everything (such as contact form submissions and EventBrite queries), yet it wasn’t always clear whose job it was to reply to certain things. One example here is sessions submissions which arrived via the website; it took a few weeks before somebody stepped up to manage this and confirm all the submissions, which really was hassle we could have avoided. As soon as someone offers to talk, get it confirmed asap!

Pass responsibility on better throughout the process

It was good that all the team found sponsors and speakers, but we continued communication this way instead of passing communications on to the appropriate team member. If we were chasing payments, logos, or session info for example, we would ask the connected individual to do it as opposed to the person whose role it was to look after sponsors or speakers.

Accept you will use discount codes, and put these into your marketing strategy

Admittedly this is the one thing I completely overlooked, as we had only thought about early bird Saturday tickets. We ended up creating a variety of discount codes which didn't really follow any plan, and became a little bit messy. We sent out camp specific discount codes to Brighton and London which was a nice gesture, but in the final month when we felt numbers were lagging a bit for the business day we ended up giving our speakers and sponsors heavily discounted ticket codes to pass on to other team members and friends. Although this worked to an extent, it didn't follow any structure and we ended up having a couple of refund requests from attendees who purchased full price tickets and felt a bit hard done by.

Sessions and Speakers

Not surprisingly we had a great variety of feedback on this, both positive and negative. We also asked "What topics / speakers would you like to see at a future DrupalCamp?" so we now have some great feedback to help shape our next camp.

From an organisers point of view one of the largest problems we faced was a lack of gender diversity amongst speakers. I should clarify that although we were lucky enough to secure Léonie Watson for the Saturday keynote, there wasn't a single session submitted by a female speaker, which was really a shame. 

I could probably write a whole post covering this area, so I'll go into more detail on how we are trying to be more inclusive for DC Bristol 2016 in another blog post at a later date.

How did you think it went?

We want to thank each and every person who attended the event, and we'd also like to ask for your feedback in order to make next year bigger and better.

We have a link to a survey hosted on Survey Monkey here. We would very much appreciate it if you could give us your feedback!

People enjoying lunch outside in the sun

- People enjoying lunch outside in the sun

The DCB 2015 Committee

- The DCB 2015 Committee (minus Jon Hadley)

Mark Pavlitski's picture

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Ashish Jain

Jul 14th 2015 - 10:07pmreply
Ashish Jain's picture

Good article and learning. Thanks for sharing this guys.

Ashish Jain

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