After having a quick chat with Kévin Ottens on IRC we agreed that it would be useful to write up a small how-to explaining the Art of Booth Organization™ as a follow up on the how-to for sprints I posted earlier. He has been poking me about it repeatedly, so voilà, Monsieur, finalement, c’est fait.
While writing down all those steps I realized that organizing a booth is more complex than I thought. Chances are high that I have forgotten something more or less important. The comment section is yours!
Let’s say you come across an interesting event in your area or elsewhere and you think KDE should be present and have a stand in whatever shape and size. How do you proceed?
Register a booth
This is obviously the first step. Usually, the call for projects closes several weeks before the event takes place. As soon as it is open and you have decided that you’d like to be there send an email to the kde-promo list. Ask if anybody has already registered a booth and/or would be interested to organize one together with yourself.
Go to kde.org and copy and paste the usual about blurb on the front page for the registration or look for one of the translated versions. It keeps things consistent and saves you a lot of thinking.
Don’t be afraid if noone speaks up when you ask for physical presence. The usual reaction is something along the lines of „what do I know today about what is going to happen in 6 weeks?“. In most cases you will find someone coming along and do booth duty. Don’t be afraid to get on people’s nerves.
Set up a wiki page on community.kde.org (which is currently a building ground, but fear not!) to collect all information regarding the event and the staff. This will help you to organize accomodation and keep an overview. Keep nagging people to put themselves onto a list there and set a deadline!
An empty booth does not really make sense, you will need something to show. Good news is that the KDE e.V. has an awsome booth box that can be sent around for events. Ask for it on the kde-promo list and Claudia will let you know if it is possible. She might also just send you t-shirts and stickers and other things via mail if shipping the whole box is not feasible.
For any place outside Europe, we are still looking into the options we have for booths. Ask on the list if you are planning to organize one and need anything.
If you have to manage without the booth box you will need to think about hardware, too. Usually one or two laptops with a recent KDE installation including some demo data like images, music, movies, office files etc. The upcoming marketing sprint in Stuttgart is supposed to come up with a clever solution to the problem of demo data, watch out for updates from that front.
Make a budget and collect travel details
You may have to rely on non-locals for your booth who need funding for their travels. Find a room for them and ask them to add their travel costs to the wiki. Again, set a deadline! Some weeks prior to the event you should have all the costs collected on the wiki and send an email to kde-ev-board [at] kde.org and ask for funding. You should get a positive reply in a timely fashion and then you can push people to book their travel.
Everybody staffing the booth should put their arrival and departure times into the wiki and provide the mobile phone number. That way you will have all the information you need at hand and can reach everybody if anything goes wrong. If you are collecting mobile numbers privately I recommend making a list and sending that to everybody helping out at the event.
Someone will have to take care of setting up things before the event starts and packing up after the end. That does not necessarily have to be you. Make sure that this is clarified beforehand so you don’t get stressed when the event starts. Then let everybody know where they have to be and at what time. If the event is big and you have enough staff it may be a good idea to make a schedule for booth duty.
As soon as the event has started the worst things are over. Now it is time to enjoy what you are doing. Show those great technologies to interested people, answer user questions and look for the „Aha!“ expression on their faces, talk to the folks at the other booths and all in all have a good time!
Sometimes you receive questions you didn’t know how to answer or a concrete request. Remember to follow up on them when you’re back and get the right people in touch with each other. If you have the time write a short report on the event with all the things that both went well and that didn’t to the kde-promo list. We’re always interested in things like that. Oh, and what about a blog? Or a story for the dot?