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How to Make the Most of Your DrupalCon BOF Experience

DrupalCon Nashville is coming up and that means another chance to create deeper connections with the Drupal community by attending or facilitating Birds of a Feather sessions (BOFs). The DrupalCon team has summarized what a BOF is on the DrupalCon website:

Birds of a Feather sessions (or BOFs) are informal gatherings of like-minded individuals who wish to discuss a certain topic without a pre-planned agenda. BOFs allow groups to meet and discuss issues and talk out ways to move the project forward. Have fun and learn! BOFs exist to provide attendees with an inclusive, informal environment in which to share ideas freely. BOFs can be serious, and a great way to gather the people you’ve been working remotely with on a project in a space to deep dive on a topic, but they can also be fun as well. Knitting BOF? Why not?!

At this point, you might think BOFs sound interesting, but why would you consider attending a BOF at DrupalCon?

Since regular DrupalCon sessions are recorded and BOFs are not, consider attending BOFs you find interesting in preference to a session - you can always watch the recording later! BOFs are great subjects for blog posts, so take notes and write about them.

  1. BOFs are not presented lecture style and allow for a high-level of interactivity between the facilitators and other participants. The facilitator generally kicks off the topic and framework for the discussion, allowing everyone to discuss the ideas.
     
  2. Due to the interactivity, there is a chance to meet and get to know others in a way that you might not be able to do in a DrupalCon session.
     
  3. Some BOFs are focused on discussions around and determining best practices. These are great ways to look into your processes and know what you are doing well and what you can do to improve. Organizations looking for the value in sending you to DrupalCon can’t ask for more than the opportunity for immediate process improvements post-DrupalCon.
     

Let’s shift gears to BOF planning and facilitation. Why would you want to host a BOF? One reason is that you may have been one of the 900+ session proposal submitters that were not selected - turn your lecture style idea into a BOF discussion! Another reason to host is that you can ensure that a topic you have a passion about has DrupalCon representation, drawing in participants with similar interests. A BOF is also a great way to practice public speaking and prepare for a future DrupalCon session opportunity!

If you are interested in facilitating a BOF, here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of it and ensure that participants have the opportunity for a positive experience.

  1. As a first step, check out the DrupalCon suggestions: How to Run a Successful BOF
     
  2. Plan your BOF with a clear and concise abstract on what you want to discuss. You are marketing your session against others sessions happening at the same time so make sure to attract participants.
     
  3. Submit your idea as soon as possible! The BOF schedule fills up quickly! There is nothing wrong with pulling together an informal BOF in a hallway or lunch table if spaces fill up.
     
  4. When the BOF begins, introduce yourself and clearly state the topic and format for the BOF so participants know how it will work.
     
  5. Have a brief topic discussion to kick off the BOF. This can be an example of your personal experience around the topic, including successes and challenges. This helps make participants comfortable and gives them time to think about questions and ideas to contribute. Keep it brief so you have time for others to participate.
     
  6. After the short introduction discussion, start by asking an icebreaker question to get participant involvement going. It is a good idea to have a list of related questions and discussion items ready in case you need to keep the conversation moving. Many times, the BOF will take off organically and there will be no need to rely on those techniques.
     
  7. Remember, you are the facilitator. It is your job to help give everyone a chance to be involved and to guide the BOF back to the topic if it gets off track a bit.
     
  8. End the BOF by thanking everyone for coming and consider offering some resources or related research to continue the conversation.
     

If you are interested in submitting a BOF idea at DrupalCon Nashville, BOF scheduling opens on March 14th, 2018. Visit https://events.drupal.org/nashville2018/birds-feather for submission details. Remember that the Code of Conduct is in effect at BOFs and throughout DrupalCon events. We hope to see you at a BOF at DrupalCon Nashville!

Additional Resources
Mediacurrent to Present 7 Sessions at Drupalcon Nashville | Mediacurrent Blog
Drupalcon: Not Just for Developers | Mediacurrent Blog 

Mark Shropshire

Meet team member, Mark Shropshire

Mark brings 20 years of experience leading technical teams to his role as Mediacurrent’s Open Source Security Lead. He is a leader in tech community organizing, blogging, podcasting, and public...

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