In planning a SkeptiCamp event you can benefit from the experience of organizers of previous events.
Your first planning meeting is critical to getting people onboard and motivated to help. To gain someone's involvement, a good strategy is to give them some say in the decisions -- to collaborate.
Allow at least two of hours to get through this agenda. Tweak it as necessary to your needs.
It's a good idea to have wireless Internet access at this location so that you can check for conflicts on dates with other events.
Talk about how open events work and how the organizing effort is distributed amongst many.
Remind everyone that if organizing these events seems like too much work, then we're doing it wrong.
Promote this meeting widely to assemble a diverse group of people to help in the organization effort.
Describe what SkeptiCamp is and how it differs from our traditional events, such as how attendees 'pay' through their participation and how the content is drawn from the community itself.
Discuss why you want to host a SkeptiCamp event. Describe what you expect it will bring to the group.
Talk about the goals of SkeptiCamp -- tearing down barriers to sharing knowledge within communities of skeptics -- and why that is important to your group.
Talk about the openness of SkeptiCamp. It's not everyone's cup of tea, where some among you will prefer a traditional event format with programmed content.
This agenda item concerns who will do what -- the roles to be filled by volunteer organizers.
Though some people will be better suited for certain roles than others, you'll want to avoid typecasting for subsequent events. Rotate the responsibilities and bring new people in. The first three Colorado events all had different Lead Organizers, for example.
Some slots will be filled by a simple "I'm willing to do that" at the kickoff meeting by someone who knows exactly what is involved. Nevertheless, take the opportunity to set everyone's expectations by going over the role's responsibilities to keep surprises to a minimum. You will also want to get others thinking about filling that role for subsequent events.
Other roles will need some discussion before filling. Where multiple people seek to fill the role, you may have to resort to negotiation or a drawing of straws.
Emphasize that each role should be narrowly focused and sized to fit into one's otherwise busy life.
If someone has filled a particular role at earlier events, encourage them to try something else. Discourage territoriality.
Main Article: Lead Organizer
This person plays the role of master coordinator and should not be doing any work other than keeping all the other organizers and volunteers moving forward and on track. The abilities to communicate, delegate and motivate are keys to a successful Lead effort.
Main article: Speaker Wrangler
These people (better to have more than one) not only draw speakers from your local skeptic community, but from outside it as well.
Main Article: Sponsorship
When sponsorship is necessary, such as to pay for a venue, there should be someone other than the Lead who is coordinating the search for sponsors.
Main article: Communication Czar
Though all participants are tasked with talking about the event, this person leads the promotional effort an ensures the Event Page (or site) remains updated with all the latest details.
Main article: Food Czar
For events that will have food, this person is in charge of making the arrangements.
Main article: Shirt Czar
Shirts are optional, but provide the event a persistent identity to promote at our larger events. They can also serve as advertising for the sponsors (where you have the option of printing their logos on the backs of the shirts.) The Shirt Czar is in charge of every aspect of the shirts, save for funding -- see Sponsorship.
Main Article: Scheduling
The responsibilities of this role depend on how you want to manage scheduling of speakers and breaks on the day of the event.
This person should work with the Lead to determine what blocks of time are available to fill. For example, Fri 7p-11p and Sat 1p-6p.
There should be a section on the event page for participants to advertise the topic of their talk and the expected length.
Main article: Master of Ceremonies
On the day of the event, the person(s) who keep the event moving forward and serve as moderators and timekeepers.
When to target the event. May be dependent on Where.
In choosing a date, check the calendar to ensure there's no conflict with another major event that could cause problems with traffic, parking, holidays, crowds, etc. Be aware of local academic calendars so that you're not scheduling on top of finals week. Be aware of national skeptic events (TAM, CFI's World Congress, etc.) so you don't force attendees to choose between the events.
How often will organizers meet? By Skype or in person?
When choosing a location, be aware of its convenience, its accessibility, parking situation, local transit, safety, media setup (power outlet locations), acoustics as well as the cost of the venue.
For large rooms you may need a P/A system.
Partnering with a campus group can often get you free rooms. Note that any food service may have to go through approved caterers.
Make sure to schedule an on-site inspection to verify capacity, available seating, parking, etc.
Note that some venues will require that you carry event insurance. See http://www.insurevents.com/
Changing an event location will usually be less disruptive than changing the event date.
The distribution of the roles (Lead, Speaker Wrangler, etc.) will drive much of the planning of the event. Nevertheless there are decisions to be made at the Kickoff Meeting. For example, each of these could be points open for discussion:
Estimate the turnout that you can expect. First events where people are unfamiliar with SkeptiCamp will have modest turnouts -- fewer than 50 people. Only with an exceptional promotional effort can you expect a larger turnout.
You can also limit the number of participants, such as capping the first event at 40 people, first-come, first served. Explore using a registration service like Eventbrite, Meetup, Amiando, etc. or simply use a wiki page with a suitable notice.
Discuss how will speakers be scheduled.
A common practice for BarCamps is to employ open ad hoc scheduling. On the morning of the event, the MC will give an overview of what SkeptiCamp is and how it works. Speaker may be invited to each give a three-word introduction to their talk. Then all speakers will proceed to the scheduling board to claim their time slot and room assignment (where there are multiple rooms.) Then the day of talks begins.
Other scheduling options are available. But be careful: some involve making programming choices that will prove to be unpopular and ultimately a thankless task.
Extras are those things not strictly required to have a successful event, but which would be nice to have if there are organizers to handle them and sponsors to cover their cost.
You can also charge a nominal registration fee (less than $15 typically) to cover these costs, but we favor sponsor support and free events where ever possible.
Feeding people is always popular.
Shirts are not critical to a successful event, but they have their benefits:
- provide sponsors the awareness and recognition they seek with their logos printed on the back of the shirt
- they serve as a reminder of the event and can help promote future events
- for those who attend our larger events, wearing a shirt helps to represent efforts in your region
To provide shirts at your events requires several steps:
- finding sponsor(s) to pay for the shirts
- coming up with candidate designs
- reviewing those designs and choosing one
- getting the shirts printed
- distributing those shirts at the event
For those SkeptiCamp events which have printed shirts, most have been given away for free. In at least one case it's been part of a registration fee.