Thanks so much for stepping up and agreeing to organise a FOSS4GUK conference!
Firstly, this document is here to help you with some questions that are bound to come up during the process of organising and running the event.
Secondly, as a gentle reminder, you have volunteered to organise the event on behalf of OSGeo:UK, and we have some expectations as to how the event should be run.
Typically a FOSS4GUK conference will run for 2-3 days.
Past events have included a parallel workshop stream within the main event but this format is not rigid: you could run a day of workshops the day before the event. During the main event you should plan for at least two streams of talks running in parallel. Try to allow 30 minutes for each keynote and standard talk, which can include time for questions.
Don’t forget time in your programme for breaks, these are vital for networking and refreshment. People will be unhappy if sessions run into breaks, so good time-keeping is essential. We suggest that an organiser is present at all talks to help ensure they stick to limits. Prompts should be shown to the speaker at the halfway point, and with 5 minutes and 1 minute to go. The organiser should use their discretion on intervention for over-running talks, but not at the expense of following speakers.
Events have also included a hack day or codesprint, usually on the day after the main event (these have typically been attended by 15-20 people). Hack days or codesprints can involve documentation as well as coding, and it’s important to organise and publicise them well. There are many resources online to how to do this- see https://hackathon.guide/ for example, and remember that the term “hack day” or “hackathon” may be off-putting or unknown to some delegates.
People expect a social event on the evening between the first and second days of the conference. Please remember that not everyone is keen on alcohol, and quite a few people have dietary preferences or requirements. More people will attend the party if it is included in the price of the conference pass but that may push up the cost of the pass if you can’t get a sponsor(s) to pay for the party. Publicising the requirement to pay and/or register for the social event is crucial. Don’t assume people will read the smallprint on Eventbrite. Send at least one specific mail to all attendees before the event about this.
It’s a good idea to organise a meetup or communal meal for the evening before the conference (particularly if you run workshops on the day before). This could be as simple as pre-booking space in a bar or restaurant with everyone paying their own way.
We strongly recommend you video the talks at the conference if you can as it provides an opportunity for those who cannot attend to participate in some way. Live streaming is even better and the costs for this are falling.
OSGeo:UK will provide the Local Organising Committee (LOC) with the means of using the @foss4guk twitter account via Tweetdeck. Functionality in tweetdeck is slightly limited, so liaise with the OSGeo:UK committee to add your own logo and profile photo, and for administrative tasks like pinning tweets.
OSGeo:UK will also make the gmail account email@example.com available to you. Do not use any other account for “official” communications as it is often necessary to check back on emails from year to year, and it is not possible for the OSGeo:UK Committee to do this if we do not have access to or control of the email account.
The website should be built as part of the main uk.osgeo.org website on Github. This keeps operating costs down, allows multiple people to edit the content easily and transparently, and allows us (the committee) to maintain control over the site from year to year.
If you wish to use a platform such as Slack or Basecamp for organisational communications, please use the OSGeo:UK slack channel at osgeo.slack.com, which will persist from event to event (request our admin to set up your public and private channels).
Please consider whether it’s possible to archive the discussions when the event has finished. Again it is often necessary to refer back to previous discussions in future years.
Should you require a headed paper template, or official communications from OSGeo:UK, such as for overseas delegates or speakers, please contact us.
Sponsors will expect some opportunity to promote their organisations. Providing space for a mini exhibition (small tables and a banner) in the area where the food and coffees are served is a good idea. Sponsors can be linked to specific elements of the conference e.g. the party, a t-shirt (if you have one), the lunches, the codesprint, streaming or videoing.
Top level sponsors will expect, and should be entitled to, a speaking slot. This should be explicit in the sponsorship details that you send out. It should be subject to the following caveats:
Sponsors logos can be displayed at the venue, on the web site etc. Please take good care of the sponsors, they are a key supporter of FOSS4GUK and our community and deserve our gratitude. It is important, however, to specify exactly what they will get for their sponsorship, such as whether they can put out leaflets (generally yes) and if these will be included in any bags provided as part of swag (see below). If you are planning to provide free tickets to sponsors, be explicit as to how many and at what level of sponsorship these are available.
OSGeo:UK should be treated as a sponsor, in that we should be allocated space for a stand and at least one banner. We will also need to be allocated a full-length keynote slot (or a very early slot on the first day if the keynotes are all taken) to articulate what OSGeo and FOSS4G are all about, and provide a gentle reminder what open source means. If possible, space should be provided for a workshop or round-table discussion/unconference in which we can address questions about open source. You will need to include a timeslot for the OSGeo:UK AGM, but this can be at lunch time. This should be promoted as part of the event, to encourage attendance.
We don’t consider it essential that you provide swag for your event, but if you wish to do so then please liaise with the OSGeo:UK committee for prices and recommendations of companies that we have used in the past.
If you are going to offer a t-shirt, remember to add sizing as an option when selling tickets, and be aware that you will need to make final decisions on quantities of different sizes well before you actually finish selling tickets. Note that female attendees will probably not want a large male or unisex t-shirt!
As a rule of thumb, conference attendees will eat more food than you think… You must cater for special dietary requirements, in particular vegetarian/vegan/gluten free/nut allergies, and as such should include these as options when purchasing a ticket.
Please try to avoid using disposable plates, cups etc as much as possible to help minimise the environmental footprint of the event. More and more conferences are also asking attendees to bring their own water bottles and reusable cups, so this is also something to consider in the promotional literature.
FOSS4GUK is an OSGeo:UK event. OSGeo:UK will provide seed funding (deposits etc) and underwrite the event (i.e. cover any eventual shortfalls) on the following basis:
OSGeo:UK will assist the event with banking, invoicing and payments.
Note that OSGeo:UK is not registered for VAT so your budget must incorporate the VAT that you will be charged by suppliers.
Ticket prices have been £80-100 for a 2 day event. At the low end the party is extra, at the high end it might be included with a 2 day ticket. You should additionally offer one day tickets for each day.
In the past we have offered a 50% discount for students (with some proof of student status) but haven’t had a lot of take-up (also see Travel Grants below).
The codesprint should ideally be free to attendees, whether or not they attend the rest of the conference, and you should be able to find a sponsor who will cover the cost of catering and room hire.
OSGeo:UK has an account with EventBrite, which should be used for selling tickets. While other sites may be cheaper, the OSGeo:UK committee need to retain overall control over this year on year. The password for logging in can be provided on request. Be aware of fees before deciding on prices!
It’s OK to give free tickets to Keynote Speakers and members of the Local Organising Committee (if their employers are unwilling or unable to fund them).
You will be asked why you don’t give free tickets to all speakers or workshop presenters. The simple fact is that doing this raises the prices for all other attendees. See our advice on travel grants below.
OSGeo runs a Travel Grant Programme see here for details. You can apply for your FOSS4GUK to be supported by the TGP (you will need to match the OSGeo funds from your own budget).
OSGeo:UK wants to promote inclusivity across gender, race, and ability. You should consider how you can further that objective and whether a Travel Grant Program could assist in that objective. Do take into account, however, that furthering the representation of one subset of people may negatively impact other attendees.
If there is a desire to provide childcare facilities, we would welcome that, provided there is enough demand, and that the same care is taken over costs as for any other part of the event. Demand can be gauged either during ticket sales, or informally before the event.
Your event must comply with the OSGeo Code of Conduct.
Try to consider how you can minimise the environmental footprint of your event. When ordering banners, please choose ones that can be recycled.
FOSS4GUK 2018 https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZolGqZvBXaBJUldoGFHkCtbS2jAiNw0K2OYU2-59JPU/edit?usp=sharing (comment only link)