Some thoughts on the challenges of running events
Finding suitable venues is tough and expensive. Capacity, layout, accessibility, wifi, parking, transport links, tech (projector/audio etc), food/drink, temperature, toilets are all things that go unnoticed until they’re not right on the night.
Finding decent venues in London is REALLY expensive. Finding decent venues in not-London is REALLY hard (for all the aforementioned points).
Speakers put in A LOT of effort. It’s not just 20-40mins of talking. They have to write, create slides, practice and importantly, muster the courage to get up there in front of you. It’s a tough gig, mostly done on top of a full-time job. Even if you don’t particularly enjoy a talk, empathise and consider constructive feedback.
If you do enjoy a talk, tell the speaker and tell others.
Organisers, when at all possible, PAY YOUR SPEAKERS. They’re the main reason your attendees turn up. Even a nominal amount (if you’re a non-profit making event) shows appreciation. Get a sponsor to cover it if you have to, it’s more important than swag, free drinks or anything else.
Diversity is tough. But necessary. For tech events, straight, white men have endless role-models and reference points to indicate “You can do this”. Women and other under-represented groups do not.
The confidence gap is staggering. As an anecdotal example, for any one event (with speaking slots) I organise, I’ll likely reach out to 10-20 “not-a-straight-white-dudes” (I.e. women, people of colour, LGBTQ – basically, anyone under-represented) with a (paid) speaking opportunity and maybe one or two people will be cautiously interested. For the same event, I’ll have at least five straight, white men approach me to offer themselves as speakers. To be clear, I have no issue with people approaching me to speak, it makes things easier for me. The challenge for us all to embrace is making everyone feel confident and comfortable enough to do the same.
This makes a diverse line-up challenging, but essential to help break the cycle.
ROI for sponsors is tough. Supporting community events comes down to “because it’s a good thing to do”. That doesn’t often sit too well with purse string holders.
Sponsor tip: get involved to maximise value and visibility, show up, meet the audience, be associated with “the good thing” you’ve helped enable.
Free events typically have 40-70% no-show rates. This is extremely hard to manage. Please cancel tickets for events you can’t make with as much notice as possible.
Many people are entitled. I’ve experienced a small amount of this, but it sticks out. Even for free events, someone will feel like their time is so valuable you owe *them* for showing up. Read this thread, be grateful or organise your own thing and make it better.
Contrary to all that, organising events is incredibly fun and fulfilling. If you’re thinking “I wish there was an event for X” you’re probably not alone. Do it. There’s still loads of scope for more not-London events, niche subject matter events and more diverse and inclusive events. Make that.
Speak at mine!
If you’re interested in speaking at an event, drop me a message on Twitter or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) me with your areas of interest and I’ll do my best to help.
Find out more about the events I’m involved with on my events page.