John Hopkins (who needs to blog more) wrote a fantastic article on how to run a community based conference. John is speaking from experience as he’s successfully run the Day of .NET two years in a row and he’s been on the board at CodeMash. I was on the organizing committee for both of these as well and can tell you that what John speaks is gospel.
I’m not going to rehash his whole article but to sum up a few points.
- You can’t be too organized.
- You can’t do it alone – you need as many volunteers as possible.
- Venue is critical.
I will say that there are one or two tricks that you can employ that he didn’t think of. One of them is that there are a ton of registration services out there that run from a simple RSVP system to a full blown event engine. You really need some idea of how many people are coming so that you order the right amount of food, satisfy venders, stay safe on the fire codes and more. On the low end, you could just do a Upcoming, Facebook event or something like it with RSVPs. On the high end, you could go with an event company like EventBrite to do that for you. Or you could do what most of us morons do (And I’m including myself in this) and write your own registration engine for the show. This can come in handy if you actually include things like picking sessions that you’re interested in and the like.
He also didn’t talk about communications and such before the event. It was invaluable to have a collaboration site to stick notes, speaker abstracts, vendor contact and all that type of stuff. I’d recommend looking at BaseCampHQ and Sharepoint as possible collaboration implementations.
John’s advice has helped start and successfully run several conferences. It’s worth a read to go check out Organizing A Conference, especially if you’re planning to host a conference yourself.