DIY: DemoCamp in your town
So you’ve been to BarCamp, and you’ve seen the power of open, ad-hoc unconferences but realize that these are competely unapproachable on a higher frequency basis. BarCamp’s are a great gathering, but they are a conference (well actually an unconference). This is why we created DemoCamp. A light-weight, easy to assemble event with content that let’s you show off the things you’ve been working on. It’s a way to for BarCamp attendees to get together and show off what they’ve been working on. Since the first BarCampToronto in November 2005, we’ve held 7 DemoCamps and have presenters signed up for 2 additional DemoCamps. We’re not alone in thinking that events like this are a good thing, the Boston Web Innovators group, MobileMondays (MobileMondayToronto ) and lots of others.
What’s the difference between BarCamp and DemoCamp?
A DemoCamp is a lighter-weight style of un-conference. A DemoCamp last only a few hours on a weekday evening, as opposed to a traditional BarCamp which would usually be a multi-day event and take place on a weekend. As such, they are easier to organize and tend to happen more frequently.
DemoCamp is an event that we’ve been running on Monday and Tuesday nights. It lasts approximately 1.5 hours for presentations and then as long as the crowd remains for socializing, networking, hanging out, job hunting, recruiting, chatting, drinking, eating, etc.
The Rules of DemoCamp
- Rule #1 of DemoCamp: Talk about DemoCamp
- Rule #2 of DemoCamp: No powerpoints allowed. Why no .ppt ? Well, do you have working software or don’t you?
No PowerPoint! This is mandatory. You must show working software. The goal really was to make presenters show, demonstrate, talk about their actual software/hardware/etc. We’re not looking for sales presentations. We want developers, CEOs, designers and others to have a forum to be proud of their work and share it with their peers.
What do I need to run my own DemoCamp?
- Event coordination
- Create a Google Group
- Create an Upcoming.org group
- Create a page on the wiki (check out one of the previous DemoCamps (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 for a template). Creating a page using the format “DemoCampCityNameNumber”, e.g., DemoCampTimbuktu1.
The events are pretty straight forward. The goal get people together. Share what you are working on. No PowerPoint.
- 3-4 weeks before (this is not necessary, you could put together a DemoCamp tomorrow, well you probably want about 5 or 6 days to let the invite propogate through the blogosphere)
- Find a group of 3 people to help you coordinate the DemoCamp, they don’t have to be friends, hopefully they are people in your community who have a software product that you’d like to see demoed.
- Begin to search for a location, begin by using your office, asking your friends, professors, etc.
- Blog about it
- Create a page on the wiki
- 1-2 weeks before
- Depending on your location, you may need to schedule a socialization spot. Call a local pub and see if you can make a reservation for 40-50% of the number of people signed up on the wiki (don’t want to over commit
- Talk about DemoCamp, invite people to come check it out. Not everyone has to be a presenter. This is slightly different than BarCamp where everyone is a participant.
- 1 day before
- Confirm the location(s)
- 60 minutes before
- Arrive at venue to set up the projector and test the network connection
- 30 minutes before
- Have the presenters arrive to test their equipment with the network and presentation setup
- Kick off
- The Rules of DemoCamp
- Expectations and Schedule
- Tags for blog posts, Flickr photos, etc.
- Have fun, this is a social event
Like BarCamp, finding a space for DemoCamp is the most difficult thing. We’ve held DemoCamps in a variety of spaces: an office conference room; a complete office; a hallway; an auditorium (twice a classroom; and a bar.
We have often had the demos and the socializing take place is separate spaces. This has worked okay, though we tend to loose about 30% of the crowd as we transition to the social venue. We’ve always picked pubs that are within walking distance from the presentation space. Most of the pubs are no more than a 10 minute walk from the presentation space.
You want a large open space that can accommodate the number of expected attendees. Ultimately the event is about allowing others in the community to meet and interact with each other. One of the pubs we’ve used has a lot of tables and very little mingling space. I find that this environment has really impeded the natural flow and networking. Early in the life of DemoCamp, corporate kitchens, boardrooms and hallways were the perfect amount of space. We could purchase beverages and pizza. The company hosting the event often would sponsor some snacks or beverages, though this was never a requirement for hosting.
DemoCamps in Toronto have been averaging about 150 people, we’ve needed to make sure that we’ve called the pub before the event to inform them of our numbers. This allows us to reserve space, allows the pub to have additional wait staff working because 150 geeks can drink a surprising amount of Guinness.
There is only 1 piece of equipment that we use for DemoCamp. We use an old school large darkroom clock (something like this if you’re interested). This is because Bryce is a old school photography geek and had one laying around. It’s basically a large dial countdown timer with a loud buzzer. Every presenter gets 15 minutes, when the timer goes off, the audience applauds and they leave the stage. You don’t need to buy one of these timers. Eli manually times each presentation at CaseCamp and announces to the presenter their time remaining. Find what works for you, but the timer is great because it just starts buzzing and the presenters disperse. There’s no “I just need a second”.
The only other pieces of equipment that have been handy to have around depending on location include:
- power cord/extension cord
- wifi access point
The projector is a key part. Not having one readily available was the cause of the 30+ minute delay at DemoCamp7. The power cord/extension cord makes the set up and location of the projector much easier.
We try to make sure that the event location has a wifi network. But we’ve worked with wired network connections, using trusty PowerBooks and AirportExpresses to setup a wifi network for attendees and presenters. T
Things to Remember
- Relax and have fun, you wouldn’t want to have a heart attack organizing one of these things.
- These events are about the people attending, the presenters, not you. Help people feel comfortable. Build a network. Find other people who are interested in helping. Let them.
- The community is the framework! We come out to these events because of the people. There shouldn’t be a fee. The content should be open. Presentations shouldn’t be “screened”. This is a chance for geeks to hang out and share and be proud.
This can’t be all, I am sure there’s more to it than that. Perhaps Jay, Joey, Bryce, Greg or others can add to this and correct my misnomers. Email me or send a message to the TorCamp mailing list and I’m sure that someone will be able to give you some advice.