7.1. Designing an Open Event
Learn how to plan and design a face-to-face convening for your project, inviting feedback and contributions from your community.
- Storyboarding exercise for an event
- Make a checklist of convening tasks on GitHub
An idea for a face-to-face event that adds value to your project and to attendees’ experiences with it
Paper, markers, and access to a GitHub project repo
- Intro to Designing Your Event
- Questions to Consider
- Assignment: Storyboard or Map Your Event
- Assignment: Make a Checklist of Convening Tasks
- Assignment: Make a Safety and Emergency Plan
Intro to Designing Your Event
Face to face (F2F) meetings in real life (IRL) help cement the bonds between contributors to your project. They create immediate and personal opportunities for connecting with shared values, shared work, and other humans. Convening also gives you and your participants practice working together all at once in the same space. It’s a chance to to ask and answer questions about the project and process in real-time.
Intro to Convening, Erika Drushka
In this module, to support your project, you’ll think and work through everything that it takes to convene a successful F2F event for your project. Your goals for this part of the curriculum should be to plan and convene a successful event with your community. Start small so you can get a handle on all of the work that goes into convening a successful event.
If you have a contributor who is great at this kind of work or who has volunteered for the chance to do this kind of work, consider co-planning the event or delegating part of the planning to them as a way of recognizing and leveling-up their participation in the project.
Work to connect volunteer contributors with planning and facilitative tasks that motivate them. Do not assign tasks like a boss; facilitate matchmaking between people and work that matters to them, trust them to do the work, and support them in doing it well. Delegation is stewardship and advancement of the project and its people all at once; it is not foisting off work on others or asking people to do things you don’t want to do for your event.
As you become more experienced at convening events and begin to plan larger ones, keep your staffing needs in mind. You will need help to make larger events run smoothly. At ten, fifteen, or twenty people, it’s likely you’ll want a partner. You’ll want several people helping you when you begin planning events for 25 or 30 people. Again, start small. Plan an event for 10-15 people and don’t be afraid to ask for someone from the community to lend a hand. See how it goes and use your own experience to judge how much support you’ll need for the next event.
The first thing to plan for in convening others is to figure out why you’re meeting. The purpose of the gathering should help you determine its format and scope.
For example, if you need to meet with core contributors about the direction of the project, a small event might work best. However, if you want to invite your community to help develop stuff you need for your project, a larger event with a shared agenda might work best.
Selecting a Format
There are different kinds of events, and some are better for certain outcomes than others.
Questions to Consider
Once you have your purpose and format sketched out, you can use questions like these as a convening checklist.
- What’s your goal for the event? How does your format help you meet that goal?
- When and where will you hold it?
- Who should attend and how will they learn about the event and get there?
- How many people do you want to attend the event, and do you, your community members, and your venue have the capacity to plan and hold an event of that size?
- What’s the value proposition for attendees? How will attending help them advance the project or their own skills?
- How can you emphasize your event’s accessibility and inclusivity in its advertising?
- Whom can you recruit from your project community to help with these early stages of planning? How can you best reach them?
Moreover, you want to draw on your project’s contribution guidelines, established norms, and volunteer pool to plan for the following ahead of your event:
- What are your guidelines for inclusivity?
- What are your participation guidelines and code of conduct?
- Who can serve as a safety officer in case of emergency?
- What contingency plan will your safety officer implement in case of emergency?
Check out this brief, sample emergency action plan for events from the East Bay Regional Parks District.
Assignment: Storyboard or Map Your Event
Pick a format for your event and then draft a skeleton agenda. Brainstorm and jot down ideas for suitable venues, dates, and other considerations like catering.
Next, use a simple storyboarding template or mapping organizer to “walk through” a participant’s experience at your event. Annotate the visuals of their journey through your agenda with notes about what you’ll need to have in place for each “frame” or item in your schedule. Draft some background details to suggest the kind of space you want for the event and use those space needs to help you decide on a venue later. You can use the roughest sketches imaginable, or even make a key so that a blue square or a capital P, for example, represents a projector.
Think of questions like:
- What is the room layout like?
- How should you arrange tables? Seating?
- Will there be a presenter? If so, where should they present?
- Where should you put technology like projectors or speakers in the room?
Essentially, think back to your open canvas to help you visualize or otherwise describe what you want a participant to know, do, and feel during your event. Use that description to make decisions about convening your event.
Share your vision in the open as a GitHub issue or blog post. Ask for community feedback to help improve the event and planning process. Be specific in the kind of feedback you request. You want your plans to work, so it’s better to ask something like, “What other kinds of grouping might work for the tables?”, or “What other kinds of materials or technology do we need?”, instead of, “What do you think?”. You are looking for ways to improve your plan; blanket approval (“This is so good.”) or disapproval (“I don’t think this will work”) are not as useful as specific answers to specific questions. While you may use binary choices (like “Agree/Disagree”) or a 5-point Likert scale in a post-event survey, try to ask concrete questions ahead of time that give you responses you can act on while designing your event.
Assignment: Make a Checklist of Convening Tasks
When you know what you’re after with your event (thanks to your user experience storyboard), make a checklist of tasks you need to complete to secure the venue, time, date, technology, and other logistics of the event you need. Turn this checklist into a GitHub issue and keep track of what you accomplish by checking off tasks as they’re completed.
Here’s an example of a Google spreadsheet planning checklist for hosting a convening:
Here is how a list for a smaller event might look in GitHub:
This one is for the closing celebration of a web literacy training.
Invite your community to comment on the checklist and ask for help from anyone with ties to venues or vendors (like caterers) that can help you plan a successful event. If community members are ready to contribute time and effort to the convening process, be sure to cc or @ them on items delegated to them. Pay attention to their progress and help them prepare for a great event.
3. Break out any complex, multi-step tasks into their own GitHub issues or a Google documents, like a spreadsheet, and link those issues back to your checklist. (10-15 minutes)
If you and your contributors use a different tracking project management platform, be sure to make clear assignments there.
It might help to start backwards from the event itself. Begin with the items you’ll need to complete on the day of the event, and then take “steps” backwards through time. To make sure you can do everything you need to do on the day of the event. Ask yourself: “What needs to be taken care of the week before? Two weeks before?”
If you’re using GitHub, create separate issues for tasks with multiple steps. If you create smaller GitHub issues for each step, you can easily connect them to your main convening issue just by typing “#” plus the issue’s number, like this for example: “This step connects back to #101.”
Check out this tutorial to see more examples of how to reference one issue from another.
You can ask community members to help tackle specific tasks. After you assign community members to the tasks the volunteer for, assign yourself as an organizer for unclaimed work.. Help those volunteer organizers manage the issues by asking for updates through comments and asking people at work on the issue to share their progress and to keep the checklist up to date. Encourage organizers to close these issues once their tasks have been completed.
Assignment: Make a Safety and Emergency Plan
Take the time to draft a contingency plan in case of emergency, identify a safety officer for your event, and be sure to post and even share the plan as part of sharing day-of details with attendees.next: Event Planning & Facilitation