The first Teched Tweener weekend aka ]InBetween[ was put together by our Developer Evangilist, Joe Healy and the Florida community leaders. The event was two days held on June 7/8, 2008 between the Developer and ITPro weeks of Teched in Orlando.
We had nine rooms to utilize and Joe asked a number of people to lead specific tracks which included .NET Code Camp, Day of Silverlight, Agile Camp, RoboCamp, ITPro Camp, SQL University, ToolShed, Office Communications Server University, DotNetNuke University and a large Open Space area. All this shifted and changed as we approached the actual event but is a good representation of what happened.
The whole weekend was a great experience and hopefully future tweener weekends will be even better.
Some lessons learned were:
- Open Space: Make people go to the open space, either have the registration there or force them to go visit in order to get coffee, schedules, etc.
- Open Space: Organize the open space (assuming a large area) with the vendors, information, user groups, and other organizations in the middle so that people can take a "tour" so it would be clear where to go.
- Open Space: Make sure there are specific tables for event information and user groups. Or more than one user group table even if someone wants to staff it.
- We had the corners setup with small seating areas and a large plasma screen for presentations. Make sure you get some things scheduled in advanced and publicized so that there will always be something going on while still leaving open slots for dynamic scheduling.
- Open Space: Create a dynamic scheduling tool so that when people sign up for it is all automatic (From Nikita who ran the open space).
- Location: Get all the rooms in the same area, same floor and ideally all together. I can attest to the issues and many miles of walking I had to do to keep track of four rooms on different floors and opposite sides of the South end of the convention center in Orlando.
- Schedules: Put someone in charge specifically of the overall track schedules so that the room assignments and track titles are always up to date.
- Schedules: Make each track publish a more detailed session schedule, it was very confusing to attendees that many of the tracks did not have any detail ahead of time and in some cases the day of the event.
- Schedules: Maybe even put someone in charge of getting all the schedules printed. It is very useful but has to be done the morning of the event to have the best chance of being up to date. This means that the convention center kinko's that opens at 9am will not do. I submitted the job online the night before and picked up the printing at a nearby kinkos the next morning.
- Schedules: Have all sessions start at the same time. There was confusion as to when various things started. As much as possible, synchronize all sessions.
- Registrations: Make a central website for all the info, we used Joe Healy's Devfish.net blog site which was ok but he is busy too and updates took a long time in some cases.
- Registrations: Make a central scheduling tool that allows the attendees to click off the days and events. Allow the track chairs to monitor counts and get the name/emails afterwards. This was another point that was very confusing to attendees with every track having a different registration. From the event viewpoint only a master list of names was required. With this, registration could be left open until the night before the event when the badges could be printed, instead of collecting all the registrations days in advance.
- Web: Shawn Weisfield (I think) registered floridatweener.com, I registered techedtweener.com and .net which I'm happy to donate to future tweener events but I suspect the tweener name will not survive exposure to the Microsoft machine...
- Signage: We really did not have any signage, a few suggestions without going too crazy:
- Directions at the entrances to the convention center where registration is located
- Directions inside the convention center to the Open Space area. Open Space is where all the information, schedules and directions can be obtained.
- Party: Nothing more to add here, nobody will top the party that Jessica Sterner arranged at the Destiny night club. .net girls and a project runway competition will give you the flavor...
- Swag: There was a lot of confusion about swag, even for me. All of a sudden there were books in some of the rooms to be distributed. Some people got no books and others went from room to room collecting as much as possible. One idea would be to give a few books to each speaker to distribute at their session but then make everyone come to the open space room where we could setup a "free" bookstore.
- Swag: Giving away a few X-Box's at the event would be great. For the code camp tracks I had a couple but none of us had discussed in advance how the distribution would work and I did not have anything setup. In the end I took mine to the party where they got lots of public exposure.
- Evaluations: Don't try to use evals for giveaways, this gets too complicated and did not work at all this weekend. One problem is that there was not a space for the person's name or email, which makes sense as you probably get more accurate evals if anonymous but useless for drawings.
- Raffle: Just give each person a raffle ticket as they register or maybe better a raffle ticket for each session they attend. At the end have a raffle and give away the valuable swag plus any books or software that might be available.
- Rooms: Assign a host to each rooms or at least those that are next to each other. Make sure the speaker is hooked up and working. Point out / help with microphones / AV. Make announcements.
- Name: Kyle Baley suggests Twixter as sounding cooler than Tweener (and perhaps more acceptable to Microsoft) and some more punch than InBetween (my opinion).
I'll add more as I think about it or hear from others.