How to organize a great Drupal Cafe

This article is created based on the webcast I delivered to Drupal community from Drupal Association YouTube channel. The topic of the webcast and the article was chosen not randomly: for such an organization as Drupal it is very important to grow and develop local communities which will further contribute towards global goals. That is why the webcast was quite popular. So I decided that the article will also be useful.

The Drupal Association tweet about my webcast got 13 retweets. You can see the Drupal Association tweet below.

NEW Webcast: Learn how to improve and grow your local Drupal Users meet-ups by watching @adcisolutions new recording http://t.co/j8XYYCfDC0

— Drupal Association (@DrupalAssoc) August 4, 2015

And of course, ADCI Solution tweeted about it.

#ADCIsolutions' PR manager @red__cat made a video about how to grow your #DrupalCafe up to 100 people and even more https://t.co/6cPOuTnuiU

— ADCI Solutions (@ADCISolutions) August 7, 2015
Here is the video of the webcast. 

That was a brief introduction and now we can proceed to the content of the article.

Event management is an algorithm of actions made in order to organize a conference, meeting, exhibition, etc. And the content of each action varies depending on a topic of the events, target audience and other factors.

In the article, we are going to share with you the methodology of increasing the number of Drupal Cafes participants.

Stages of event management

Stage 1. Current state analysis

If you decided to grow your Drupal Community and organize bigger Drupal Cafe or Drupal Camps or any other event, the first step is analysis. There are two main areas of research and analysis.

  1. Market research
    • potential target audiences
    • stakeholders
    • competitors analysis
  2. Customer satisfaction survey
    • content
    • speakers
    • place
    • etc.

If talking about market research here you need to collect and analyze the secondary data about your market potential. By that I mean you need to check how many people you can attract in total or how many IT people are in your city or region. Then you need to make a list of people who might be interested in Drupal Event except developers. Maybe you can offer a sponsorship to certain companies. Or there are other potential partners with whom you can make a win-win or barter agreement. And last but not the least, you need to gather and analyze the information about your competitors - other organizers of IT Events. You can check what was good or bad during their events and learn from this.

And the second thing you need to analyze is your participants. You need to combine a research of past and potential delegates of your event in order to know what they want to do on your event, what are the best date and time, what information they want to know and so on. And if you are researching people who had already attended your event - the most important data is their level of satisfaction. This would mean where you met their expectation or now and would give you point of growth.

Stage 2. Planning

When you gathered all data and critically analyzed it, you can move to the planning part. It very important to rely on facts when you plan the event.

Creating a vision

It is necessary to create a vision of your Drupal Cafe. Why are doing it? What do you want to achieve by this event in a long-term perspective? Answer these questions and come up with a statement. It would be great of you create this vision together with your team. It would motivate all of you to do your best!

Setting up numerical goals

  • Numerical goals
  • Number of participants

Number of applications and conversion rate

Your main goal is the number of participants. But in order to track the process you also need to have a KPI for number of applications. That will give you an idea of how many people want to come. But usually not all of those who have registered actually come. The ratio of numer of participants and number of applications is a conversion rate.

Planning the timeline

Timeline:

  • processes
  • responsibles
  • duration and deadlines

After we have a goal we plan the timeline of the processes. Nowadays there are a lot of different tools and web-services for events management but I still you the Gantt Chart in Google Docs and think you that it is the easiest way to plan the project and constantly track the results. Now I will show the example of Gantt Chart for Drupal Cafe that I organized in June.

Here you see the list of processes, the column with a person in charge of this process.

Then the chart consists of columns for each day of the preparational period and you mark when each process is supposed to happen and deadline for it. I usually put the main goal and actual results on top in order to always be aware of the progress.

Stage 3. Implementation

Here you are making all the processes and checking if KPIs are being achieved. If yes - well done. If no - sit, analyze and re-plan! This approach to implementation allows you to react fast and be flexible.

Stage 4. Analysis and conclusions

If you conduct researches on the regular basis it will pay you off for the next event. You will already have all necessary information for decision making.

On this stage, you need to gather feedback from participants right after the event. You can provide them with paper feedback forms or with devices with a questionnaire. Or create your own way!

And you need to count actual conversion rate and compare with the KPI you set in the beginning and think about what helped and what disturbed you from achieving your goal.
Those were the stages of event organizing. And now we can move to the detailed discussion of the main processes of event management.

Processes of event management

And firstly I want to tell you about two necessary processes. Without those things you definitely won’t be able to deliver the event. I’m talking about the venue and equipment. It’s true because even if found great speakers and did amazing promotion - without well-equipped venue - there will be no event.

Venue

If the Drupal Cafe you plan is now very big - check the capability of your company’s office. We always have Drupal Cafe in our office - it helps to position the company as well as the community. We have recently moved to a bigger office to be able to host events up to 100 people. Another kind of venue is public event venues, big conference halls etc. I’m sure if you search such places you will find a dozen of them!

The venue should have enough space and furniture, lavatory. Check the lights before the events. Make sure that slides on the beamer screen are visible and other places of venue are light enough at the same time.

Equipment

If talking about the equipment, here everything is also quite obvious. You are going to need a projector and a projector screen and a laptop. This is a minimum. But it would much better if you also have a presentation remote, mics and loudspeakers. And I don’t know how it’s in your countries but here people are happy to have Wi-Fi in the venue.

Stationary and coffee-breaks

Next two processes are buying stationary and organizing coffee-breaks. That’s is that important processes if to ask the question “will this event take place or no” but they are important in terms of participants’ perception of the event. If you care about these things on time your participants will feel better and like your event more.

Needed stationary. It is badges and badge holders, notebooks and pens, board or flipchart and markers and any other things you or your speakers need to make an amazing session.

While organizing coffee-breaks you need to think not only about the food but also about the disposable tableware and water coolers / boilers. Prepare drinks and put sugar. You can make any menu you like. The main thing is to keep participants not hungry. Hungry people are usually upset and distructive during sessions. We usually have sandwitches, backery and fruits.

Agenda management and experts experience

This process is very important. Especially in a long-term perspective. I’m talking about the content. High quality content will always bring you long-term results. And that’s what you need when planning tp grow Drupal community. Because if you make a great promotion and a lot of people came but the sessions were boring or speakers performed not good - people’s expectation will be ruined and they won’t come again. That means that next time you’ll need to attract other people. Anf from time to time it will be more and more difficult. That is why we are talking about content before talking about the promotion.

How to organize a great Drupal Cafe 3

Some people might think that the main thing is to do great promotion and this will lead them to a great event. That is just partially true. Of course, if you prepare interesting content but attract only 10 people it is not reasonable. So both processes are important but content goes before promotion.

In this process, we need to underline 2 areas: agenda development and working with speakers and experts.  

In order to make the content of you Drupal Cafe interesting, understandable and entertaining you should think about knowledge and emotional flows. Knowledge flow is a series of session linked one to another. You as agenda managers must know the content each session to link them logically. Otherwise, the audience might get confused or lost in the middle of the event. You can start with light content and gradually go to more difficult one. Or you can alternate it. But it should have a logic behind based on your vision and goals. Emotional flow is also highly important. It reflects what you delegates feel during and between sessions. It can help you to schedule breaks and informal discussions. For example, if the session was full of difficult technical information - you’d better put a break after to let people assimilate new knowledge and share their conclusion with friends.

Another way to plan the agenda is agenda blocks. You can divide all sessions into groups based on their content and explain this to delegates. That will help them to understand what’s going on and better understand information. For example, you can have frontend block of sessions, then backend block, general block and so on.

When your Drupal Cafe will get bigger you can also organize several tracks. That means that there will be several separated session flows at the same time. Usually, conference is divided into tracks by participants profile (newbies and professionals) or by knowledge area (web-design track, game development track, backend track etc).

So now you are ready to develop a draft of the agenda (sessions flow, blocks), and it is time to start searching for potential speakers. I use this algorithm of finding speakers. Firstly I think of everyone who could potentially perform at my events. I don’t know what is the situation in your city but here we have lack of speakers specializing on IT topics. And there usually is a dilemma: either the person is a great developer but doesn’t have experience in public speaking, or he is performing very well but doesn’t know needed topics.

That's why mostly we have speakers from our company. You can also do so. And I would advise you to organize corporate training on public speaking. It will help you to find good speakers inside your company. If your employees or colleagues are performing well on events it will promote your company as well.

Then you’d better make a list of topics for each speaker in your list (that will fit your planned agenda) in order to make a meeting with this speaker more efficient. Sometimes people agree to perform but can’t choose the topics or suggest a topic that doesn’t fit your vision and plan. That is why it is much better to offer a choice from options that you have prepared instead of letting the speaker choose himself. But before making the list of topics - find out what certain speaker usually delivers and which of those topics you can modify a bit and use for Drupal Cafe.

When you approve all speakers and topics you will get your agenda! Yey! But of course, it’s not the end of work on this process. Speakers are also people they may be overloaded or forget something. Therefore you need to keep communicating with them and remind about deadlines. And the last step here is a dry run. I know it is hard to gather all speakers together and shortly present and discuss all sessions but usually, during such discussions, great ideas are born. And you as agenda manager can check the content and correct something. Also dry run makes people treat preparation more seriously.

Wow moments

This is an extra agenda thing. These are the moments when participants will think “wow, never knew it before” or “never tried it” or just “wow that’s so cool!”

People usually forget almost all information from the events but that’s what they will tell friends. Something like, hey I’ve been to Drupal Cafe yesterday. You won’t believe what I’ve seen where - they threw out a hundred balloons! or they put zebra into the venue! or whatever else that people would want to share.

You can create wow-moments and let people spread the word about your Drupal Cafe. Of course better to link this activity to your agenda. That will make even more effective. For example, we created an IT quiz and I asked this question between sessions and threw the tangerine to the person who answered right. It added a little of gamification and people were discussing this and other companies started to use this method too.

Promotion

I was thinking for a long time about how to tell you about the event promotion and came up with just these 3 points.

  • Develop a GTCM model
  • Set KPIs for all initiatives
  • Track constantly  

Well, a GTCM model is a method of planning your entire promotional activity rationally, logically and effectively. As you probably already understood - I’m a fan of analysis, numbers and this stuff. That’s why this model will work only if you devote enough time to gathering and analyzing data. I told you about it at the very beginning of the webcast. If someone needs help with conducting a surveyor with analysis - I can help, just write on my email.

G stands for Goal, T - for target audience, C - for channels and M - for message

Let’s see how it works.

The goal here is your event and number of participants you want to see on it. A target audience is people with the right profile. Channels are promotional channels where you will place the information about your events such as TV, social media, newspapers and so on. And the message is what exactly you will place on those channels. How do you want to present your event and which benefits for people to underline?

Your product - your event - has set of values - characteristics or benefits for TA and on the other hand TA has its needs. In order to create a catchy message, you need to find the intersection between values of your event and needs of TA. In other words, you need to tell your audience how your product will solve their problem or how your event will cover their needs in knowledge, communication etc.

And when you found the intersection and created a message you decide what channels to choose for this message. There are 2 criteria for this channels. First you TA reads, watches, uses this channel. Second, your message fits the channel by its meaning.

To make it easier, let’s see the example.

Your project is Drupal Cafe. It has its values depending on your vision and goal. Here I put just some examples of values, which are community development, providing education on new features, tools etc and Experience sharing because you invite specialists and students and it will be cool if they can communicate and share.

The TA of Drupal Cafe consists of several groups of people. Of course, it is drupallers. But that’s not it. If we want to grow the Cafe and community we need to invite other IT specialists and IT students who could get interested in Drupal because of your Drupal Cafe.

Better to divide them for identifying their needs separately but here it’s just example so their imaginary needs are to get new knowledge, to have a good time and to talk to IT specialists.

We have all needed information, great! Now the point is to find the intersection. The most obvious one is that Drupal Cafe provides education and TA wants to get new knowledge. Good, that is the intersection. So a message that will underline this should tell that Drupal Cafe provides participants with the most up to date useful knowledge.

Next step - choosing channels. Logically it should be educational media that IT people read. The survey will help you find out what magazines or online resources your TA use.

When you planned TA, messages, and channels, you need to set KPIs for all of your promotional activities. It is very important to track if you go according to timeline you made at the beginning or no.

Main KPIs for promotion:

  • Number of applications (and conversion)
  • Number of subscribers
  • Number of views

Of course, you may add other KPIs that works for you and your planned activities. But you definitely need to set it for each and every action. Yes, it takes time. But I promise if you do this for 2-3 events, you will do it automatically later. As well as GTCM model.

So set KPI and all activities. For example, you decided to place the article in the local online news website, you need to check how many people usually view such kind of news, and set the KPI for a number of views. And it would be great if you could approximately set the KPI for a number of application what will come from this article and the goal for a number of people who will attend the event from this particular article. That will help you in future to estimate the conversion of the channel and decide which channels are most effective and which channels you can stop using.

If talking about our example, social media is the most effective channel of promotion. And inside of social media, the most effective is our group of Drupal Community in Russian social media VK. The easiest way to explain what it is this social media about - is to call it Russian Facebook.

That’s why even between the Drupal Cafes when we don’t have to make promotion, we still continue working and developing this group because we know - the more people join the group - the more participants we will have on Cafe.

And finally, track your KPIs at least weekly. You need to be always aware what’s going on and how much you have achieved and how much is still to go. If you realize that you are behind of your goal you can quickly replan you actions or add new initiatives to achieve the initial goal.

Delegates servicing

That’s not the main process and therefore usually people don’t pay enough attention to it. But in the long perspective, it will make your audience loyal to your events and overall activities.

Delegates servicing is making your delegates happy. You just need to treat them like their special and do this 3 easy steps:

  1. schedule the reminder-letter
  2. don’t hesitate to write or call personally if needed
  3. send outputs and feedback form after the event

This is it about the stages and processes of event management that I use in ADCI Solutions for organizing Drupal Cafes. And after preparing and delivering 3 of them I can conclude that this algorithm works pretty well and from time to time we learn more from our experience and keep improving the methodology.