The Main Points
- Why Organize events?
- Find a Friend
- Getting Started
- The Work That Lies Ahead
- Building the Audience
Why Organize Events?
The answer is two fold. The first answer is anchored on concepts in the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” By helping others, through the setup of community tech events, people want to help you. You would be helping a technical leader to become a speaker of your audience. You are helping attendees to connect with each other. You have a co-organizer or two that you enjoy catching up with outside of work hours. They ask questions about you and what they can do for you. Perhaps you’re looking for your next research project, your next job, a side hobby project, or advice on professional development. Your community will start to know you, and start to look out for you.
The second answer is a sense of non-profit for-purpose giving. ACM is a unique organization, in that it anchors the computing fields with amazing researchers, senior leaders, technical entrepreneurs, professors, students, and practicing professionals in diverse paths in the marketplace. As a result, you can benefit from this network by giving to it. The name carries a prestigious weight and often leads to warm relationships and positive outcomes that would otherwise be difficult to attain.
Find a Friend
When starting a new group or reenergizing an existing group, be sure you have a buddy to help you. Its not very much fun organizing events without one. Meet people for a coffee. Grab a lunch. Have phone calls. Explore a new or current colleague who shares some of the same enthusiasm you have. Once you have a buddy, you’re ready to get started.
- Talk to good speakers at conferences and seminars to other groups and try to convince them to come speak to your group.
- It’s much easier to get an email response when you’ve already spoken to a potential speaker in person.
- When you meet a potential speaker at another event or conference, this also gives you a chance to casually screen them for both knowledgeability and presentation skills
- There are always more topics and speakers than times available in a season
- Make the event presenter-oriented since it is harder to find a speaker than a topic
- Presentations are not expected to be academic presentations of papers
- Topics/speakers only need to be interesting
- Current technologies and subjects, in use but not necessarily new, still attract people
- Single speakers or a panel works better than two equal speakers in an event
- You can get a head start on compelling speakers through the ACM Distinguished Speakers Program
- You can get also get a head start by recycling presentations from elsewhere
- Speakers normally want multiple opportunities on the same topic with different audiences
- You are very likely to get a speaker to commit when they already have a presentation prepped
- Your colleagues and other contacts are potential speakers
- Audience members are potential speakers
- Your academic contacts and former “profs” are potential speakers
- Getting a lofty/remote/potentially expensive expert as a presenter is great, but don’t “hold out” for only those people
- A good candidate as a speaker is someone who commits immediately to an invitation
The Work That Lies Ahead
- Getting speaker short bio and talk abstract
- Posting to community and partner channels (Meetup, Social Media, Friends & Colleagues, Business Lists)
- Share the event in advance through normal conversations, have colleagues do the same
- Staying in touch with the speakers especially those arranged far in advance
- Attempting to meet speakers special audio / visual needs
- Coordinating logistics with event venue
- Keeping in touch with attendees on who is doing what
- Keep tech talks, panel discussions, show and tells, and other casual events free
- Creating a manageable, steady, interesting schedule of events is an anchor for growing an engaged audience over time
- Having joint meetings with other groups is a good way to refresh peers
- Its foundational to maintain one or more relationships with an in-kind or low cost venue contact
- If money is needed, explore a friend’s employer who is actively hiring - ask for sponsorship and provide recognition
- Local businesses that start to show up to events will often provide monetary sponsorship if asked
- Attendance goes up 40% if you advertise some food and drink
Building the Audience
Music, theater and ACM meetings are all performances. With any performing group there are four groups of persons who have to be equally happy about the performance outcome:
- Speaker / Performer,
- Emcee(s) (the Organizers)
- Sponsors and
- The Audience
The common denominator that makes all four of these groups happy is to have a good-sized attentive audience.