Over the last several months, I’ve been a member of the planning committee for Drupal Camp Asheville. In the middle of our planning, I attended Drupalcon New Orleans. As expected, I learned a good bit about Drupal 8. What I didn’t expect, however, was to learn about how to plan a Drupal event. I took away a few big lessons that have informed how I’ve helped plan Asheville’s upcoming Drupal Camp.
Lesson One: Schedules aren’t enough
You can’t adhere to your normal schedule at a conference, and that can play havoc with your sense of time (especially when you are travelling across time zones). There were a couple of sessions at Drupalcon that I was excited about attending that I missed because I was wrapped up in a discussion with someone and didn’t realize what time it was. At Drupalcon Asheville, I want to make sure that people don’t lose track of time and miss something that they’d be interested in. We are, of course, going to be on a smaller scale that a Drupalcon which, in some ways, gives us more options. Since we are only going to be having three sessions running concurrently, we can feasibly announce all of them before they start.
Lesson Two: Facilitate conversation
For me, the best part of Drupalcon is always the conversations I have. Some of that is catching up with old friends, but a lot of it is learning what cool things people are doing with Drupal, even if they aren’t presenting on it. Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions are great for this at Drupalcon where there are enough people to get a small group together on just about any topic. With the smaller population that attends a camp, BoFs are often less practical. Instead, we’re making a major effort to ensure that people can easily learn each other’s interests.
Lesson Three: Highlight your city
New Orleans is one of the world’s greatest cities, and the organizers clearly made a concerted effort to ensure that some of its flavor permeated Drupalcon. This can, of course, be a challenge when you are in a fairly sterile event center. Ensuring there are off-site events that connect well with the city, such as the crawfish boil that Mediacurrent hosted in New Orleans, is key.
Asheville may not be New Orleans, but it is a popular tourist destination in its own right. Last year, a number of visitors at Drupalcamp Asheville took part in a float down the French Broad River. The fact that a good bit of Asheville’s appeal is focused on the outdoors does provide a challenge for a technology-focused event, but we’re exploring possibilities.
Lesson Four: Everyone needs a nap, sometimes
This year, I dozed off in one session. It wasn’t a particularly boring session, but lack of sleep was catching up to me, it was after lunch, and I felt like I’d already had a full day. After about a half hour, I started to fade. I hope I didn’t snore. One thing I wanted to do going into planning Asheville’s camp was to recognize that we don’t always have the attention spans we hope to have. To that end, we decided to have a few half-length sessions (including both first thing in the morning and right after lunch) that would allow people to continue to focus on Drupal without needing to focus quite as long.