Checklist for new event organizers: how to schedule and get people there

I was talking with @schmichael today and he brought up that it was insane how many different organizing tools are out there, and there’s no handy list of tools for new event organizers to use!

So, here’s my list of helpful tools if you’re trying to run an ongoing tech event:

  • Put your event on a calendar like This may be pretty Portland specific, but if there’s an event calendar in your area, be sure to put your event on it! Calagator is great also because it shows you a list of venues – possible places for you to hold events. When you need space, its likely best to ask other event organizers. In Portland, we have a special list for event organizers. Get in touch if you are an event organizer, and not already on it!
  • Create a meeting event on something like So many groups still use this. Several PostgreSQL groups do, and PDX Lean Startup Circle swears by it. There’s also, but we don’t seem to use that as much
  • Create a google group! Mailing lists are still the best way to keep in touch with people. All the research on electronic communication says this. Tweeting is not enough!
  • Don’t put tons of interested people on CC or personally-managed Outlook lists. This is spam, and the people on the CC list can never unsubscribe! It’s not just annoying, it is rude.
  • Make a twitter account for your group! Twitter is a great way for the always-connected crowd to stay on top of what you’re up to. Easy to search, and quick to post. Try out Cotweet if you have more than one organizer!
  • Tell other event organizers about your event. They likely know other individuals and groups that would be interested and can use their best judgement in passing an email or tweet along. Don’t spam a bunch of unrelated groups!
  • Make an event announcement 2 weeks, 1 week the day-before and day-of your event.
  • Include the following in your announcement: event name, date, time, speaker name(s), talk title and location including zip code of your event (so people can use maps to find you easily!)

What else do you think an event organizer should have in their checklist?

What’s changed? Portland as an example of increasing women’s participation.

Code from @christiekoehler's presentation. #cns

At Code-n-Splode last night, we first heard Christie Koehler give a great talk on CodeIgniter, the one PHP web framework endorsed by Rasmus Lerdorf, original author of PHP. She went over the pros/cons, details of how you go about installing and then using CodeIgniter, and then showed a very detailed example from her recent work. I hope she posts the slides soon – they were great. (If you want to see our tweets – per Gabrielle’s suggestion, we’re tagging with #cns now.)

After the talk (nearly 9pm!) we all went over to the Green Dragon for our #afterhours chat. Audrey led off by explaining the recent controversy she’d written about, and the Ruby/Rails community response to her posts.

Some of the things she shared I was shocked by – specifically some very personal attacks in comments that she’d decided to save (in Skitch), but remove from her posts. Her standard was: “is this something that would cause my mom to stop reading.” And, if the comment met that standard, she archived and removed it.

I learned about threads in the local ruby community about the topic of women’s participation, and some very positive comments on Hacker News and Digg, and _why’s posts that seem to be expanding perceptions and opening people’s minds to ways that may ultimately be more inclusive of women and minorities.

All told, we had 15 people at the meeting, 13 of which were women. Our first Code-n-Splode meetings started with about five people. Our largest meeting (thanks to the clever, rocket-building Sarah Sharp) had somewhere around 30 people.

Among the many things that the Code-n-Splode crew discussed last night was “what made portland different”. And I thought I’d let you in on our secret.

We ask women to participate.

When we have code sprints for Calagator, Open Source Bridge or we have the Agile development meetups dedicated to coding – there are always women there. From what I understand, having women show up regularly to code sprints is unusual in other cities.

When I am responsible for these meetups, I contact the people that I want to attend directly – and I ask them to come. This is a mix of women and men (I no longer have to explicitly think about inviting women, because so many are already in the community). But when I was first asking people, I *did* have to contact women who were just dipping a toe into the community — to convince them that yes, joining us would be fun, educational and sometimes good for their careers.

When I first started attending user groups regularly about nine years ago, I often was the only woman. Now, it is extremely rare for me to be the only one. Particularly in groups that span multiple technologies (Web Innovators, Open Source Bridge, Extreme/Agile developers, Functional programming, and BarCampPortland come to mind) or are largely social opportunities for geeks to mix (Lunch 2.0, Beer and Blog). More geeky women (and women that I don’t already know) seem to attend these types of events.

I don’t think there is a single magic formula for transforming your city’s geek scene. But I think it is worth asking questions of the Portland tech community leaders, finding out how our groups work and trying out our techniques in your home town.

Running a Successful User Group

running a successful user group

After the People For Geeks talk, I presented “Running a Successful User Group” with Gabrielle Roth on Wednesday. You can find our slides and our presentation handout over on Bacon and Tech. The handout is pretty cool, take a minute and print it out!