How to organise your own BarCamp

Organising your own BarCamp may not be as difficult today as in previous years, since there are so many successful events after which to model your conference. Just take a look at the myriad of websites for events around the world, and you are bound to find the best way to hold your meeting. But, having said that, there is some work involved for the organizer, and it is probably a good idea to have a schematic from which you might start. Below you will find ten helpful tips that we have compiled to get you started on the right path when confronted with the task of how to organise your own BarCamp.

1. To begin, you must be organized yourself. Document your activities by creating a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet should be your control book. Set up tabs (sheet names at the bottom) for individual topics such as sponsors, food menu, RSVPs, potential venues, budget, tasks, volunteers, schedule and topics of discussion.

2. Work within your immediate area and comfort zone. BarCamps work best when trying to find attendees in your city or region. It is often too difficult for people to travel across the country, and even drive for hours to attend a meeting that may or may not have participants. Start promoting the event by letting people in your community know about the details. Of course, you are going to advertise or mention it online, but do not expect thousands of people from across the state or country to come.

3. Some countries or areas have more than one official language. In order for the BarCamp to be fair for all participants, the predominant language will prevail if and only if everyone speaks it. For example, if French is the major language, and everyone has knowledge of the language, it is fine to use it. But, if even one person arrives that cannot speak French, then generally a common language such as English should prevail.

4. Check other BarCamp websites and reach out. Many of the event organizers who have been doing this for a few years have been gracious enough to put their templates up on their websites for others to use. This is a great way for you to get started when you organise your own BarCamp.

5. Keep everyone in the loop. Keep a current webpage which can be updated regularly, and make sure people know what is happening. Ask for help and suggestions if you need it. Involve your community.

6. Be sure to make details clear to the participants. For example, some venues only hold a limited number of people. Be clear in the number permitted versus how many have registered in advance. Likewise, if there are nominal charges at the venue, what is the reason for the charges, and the rules regarding the fees.

7. Be sure to get the contact information for all registered participants. This allows you to send out notices as the date comes closer, reminding those who already signed up. Plus, you want to be able to invite them next year.

8. Find an ally to be the first sponsor. When organizers of new events try to solicit sponsorships, businesses are often dubious. To circumvent this, try to get someone you know to be the first sponsor, so that others do not feel like they are guinea pigs.

9. Set up some sort of hierarchy for sponsors so that everything is perceived as being fair and honest. It gets sort of tricky when asking individuals and companies to sponsor events either by providing a free venue, by offering food or door prizes, or by donating cash. Obviously, if one entity gives a substantial cash donation, it will want some sort of advertising in return... for example, their banner on the wall and on the website. Consequently, you should have some idea in advance what you are going to offer sponsors, if anything, for helping out.

Further, it has been suggested that you limit the cash donations each identity is permitted to make. This method avoids two issues. The first is, the more someone gives, the more you will be held accountable, so if it is perceived that you wasted the money, a bad impression follows. Second, by limiting the amount, everyone is equal and the highest amount does not necessarily dictate the rules. Lastly, some BarCamp organizers have chosen not to deal with cash directly. They have asked that companies pay vendors directly instead, which is probably sound advice because it limits your liability and avoids potential ugly situations.

Remember, also, to treat sponsoring people and companies kindly. Make a big deal of their donations, regardless of how big or small. Writing a nice post on the website, send a thank you letter, and add their logos to your BarCamp page. Be sure to accommodate them accordingly and make them feel important.

10. Have Fun If you are just going to stress yourself out, let someone else organize the BarCamp. It is not supposed to be a chore, and everything is not cast in stone.