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So, You Want To Grow A Community? Plan Your Event By Writing A Goal Statement That Demonstrates Depth and Details

This is the second of a five (or six) part series of a guide that gives you the tools to plan, manage and measure a great technology or creative event—then demonstrate that it can not only impact your community, but also the industry sector surrounding that community, and ultimately, the city-at-large.

This guide is primarily written in the context of my experience living through Portland’s thriving technology and creative communities, and is organized in five sections:

  1. Introduction: why Portland is the perfect place to start, and what to do about it
  2. Plan: write a goal statement that demonstrates depth and details (you are here)
  3. Manage: help your sponsors use their time wisely
  4. Measure: continue to engage after and throughout the event’s lifecycle by using a social intelligence dashboard
  5. The Big Picture: examining Portland’s capacity for creativity and innovation, making a case for more grassroots initiatives

In the end, I’ll have a downloadable, nicely designed PDF for you to look at.

(Note that the title and content of the chapter is in a constant state of revision, and so may change between now and the final version.)

Part two, here we go.


Plan Your Event By Writing A Goal Statement That Demonstrates Depth and Details

Unless you decide to host an event because you have nothing else to do that month, every event you plan must have a goal and objective in mind.

For example, I like planning events that share the same spirit with Legion of Tech’s: free, volunteer run and community oriented. But I also know that my time and resource is limited. My partner’s, sponsor’s and attendee’s time and resource also are.

To respect them, I must make sure that the event have clear enough of a value proposition so everyone knows if it is right to help out with, give money to, or spend time with, respectively. This is where the importance of a clear goal statement becomes clear.

A goal statement is exactly what the name implies: a short document contains the things you want to see happen with your event. It can be general or detailed (the latter is generally better, though not always.)

For example, here is a short, informal goal statement from Refreshing Cities:

Refresh is a community of designers and developers working to refresh the creative, technical, and professional culture of New Media endeavors in their areas. Promoting design, technology, usability, and standards.

The Refresh Manifesto

  • Let’s Gather Great Minds
  • Let’s Share All Of Our Knowledge
  • Let’s All Grow And Learn
  • Let’s Promote Local Talent
  • Let’s Be More Than We Think Can Be
  • Let’s Make Our Cities Better

(Source: http://refreshingcities.org)

This statement is succinct, memorable, and provides an idea of the people behind and attending the event, but does not answer the question that should come before all else: what is the event about? With this said, this statement is vague for a reason. ‘Refreshing Cities’ is a name that can be used anywhere freely to indicate the organizer’s participation in the loosely connected collective.

A more specific goal statement may look like this:

We are advocates, developers, and Portlanders making the world better with open source technology.

Open Source Bridge will bring together the diverse tech communities of the greater Portland area and showcase our unique and thriving open source environment. We will show how well Portland does open source and share our best practices for development, community and connectedness with the rest of the world.

We’re setting out to change the structure of conference planning: asking interested people to come together at a Town Hall meeting, and share their collective experience and wisdom. Following the lead of the Linux Plumbers Conference, we’re enlisting curators for our conference sessions, planning mini-confs for critical topics and including unconference sessions. The focus will always be on increasing interaction between participants and engaging everyone in the content.

(Source: http://bridgepdx.org/about)

Note how this statement explains exactly the nature of the event itself as well as its planning process. It identifies not only the planners, but also their goal for planning. These things will help potential sponsors and volunteers identify whether the event is right for them.

The answer to the question “what is the event about” is implied because the idea, while minted carefully, is still open to interpretation at the micro level (ie. The conference name and intent were established, but the timeline and details were not.)

BarCamp, an ‘unconference’ concept that had been adopted internationally many times, took an even more detailed approach:

BarCamp: What’s this all about?

COMMUNITY AND INFORMATION
BarCamp is an ad-hoc unconference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees.

Anyone with something to contribute or with the desire to learn is welcome and invited to join.

When you come, be prepared to share with barcampers.
When you leave, be prepared to share it with the world.

NO SPECTATORS, ONLY PARTICIPANTS
Attendees must give a demo, a session, or help with one, or otherwise volunteer / contribute in some way to support the event. All presentations are scheduled the day they happen. Prepare in advance, but come early to get a slot on the wall. The people present at the event will select the demos or presentations they want to see.

Presenters are responsible for making sure that notes/slides/audio/video of their presentations are published on the web for the benefit of all and those who can’t be present.

BARCAMP FOR EVERYONE
Contact us if you have any questions or want to participate. Let us know if you’re hosting your own. BarCamp is about support as much as it is about information.

(Source: http://barcamp.org/TheRulesOfBarCamp)

Note how the BarCamp goal statement:

  • Answers the question “what is the event about” right away (“BarCamp is an ad-hoc unconference”) then move to the ground rules (“All presentations are scheduled the day they happen”)
  • Explains in specific terms what will happen in the event (“discussions, demos and interaction”)
  • Identifies the audience (“anyone with something to contribute”), then establishes a social contract by asking them to contribute something (“Attendees must give a demo”)
  • Lays out the benefits of the event, rather than the features (“share and learn in an open environment”)

Two subjects missing from the statement are information about the planners and their intents. This is understandable, since, much like Refreshing Cities, BarCamp is a name that one can take, modify, and establish a chapter of anywhere for free, as long as the structure remain the same.

Let’s sum up. A good goal statement:

1. Is specific

It says what exactly will happen in the event and leaves no room for guesswork.
For example, if you’re planning a networking lunch for interactive designers from advertising agencies and software development studio around Portland, so they can plan on working on a collaborative project together, don’t skimp and say “let’s get together and code something.” Be specific, so you know that the people who are going to be there are the right people (otherwise, they will save their time by not attending in the first place.)

2. Establishes social contract

In addition to laying out details, you must also ask your attendee to bring something to the table, and promise to provide something back.

For example, they may bring current projects they worked on, questions they may have, curiosities, commitment to learn from each others, food, an open mind, anything. You may provide the space, food, centralized work table, wireless network, speakers, and so on. The kinds of things you expect and commit does not matter. What matters is that you set an agreement and clearly say, “If we’ll have this, you’ll bring those.” A social contract, even an informal one, helps set everyone’s expectation to the same level and could save you the trouble of dealing with group loafers.

3. Lays out benefits

It is very easy for an organizer to write out all the features of her event. For instance:

  • World renowned speakers
  • Invite to beta applications
  • Strong wifi signals.

The problem is, any event you plan will only matter if it benefits you, your audience and the sponsors. Switching gears from describing features to describing benefits can help. Think in terms of their needs. Change your language from saying “here’s what we have” to “here’s what you’ll get out of this”; then start writing.

For example:

  • Learn the principles of identity design from Jeff Fisher, a longtime, award-winning Portland designer who has been recognized by StartupNation as one of the nation’s top businesses in its annual Home-Based 100 competition in the category of Most Slacker-Friendly.
  • Make your software work faster with a free update
  • Broadcast fearlessly with a high-band wireless connectivity

A clear goal statement will not only provide a good base for your entire planning process, it will also help you manage your sponsors wisely and measure your event engagement online more easily.

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4 thoughts on “So, You Want To Grow A Community? Plan Your Event By Writing A Goal Statement That Demonstrates Depth and Details

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