This month I had the opportunity to help Corey Haines host a code retreat here in Orlando. We had a great turn out and everyone seemed to have a great time. I was thinking it might help someone else out if I documented what I did to set this one up here in Orlando. Once you decide to host, or help host one here’s what you might want to consider about a month or so before Corey even show’s up.
Get Permission and Help
I decided to host mine where I worked and went straight to my VP to ensure I could use all of the resources I had in mind. I asked the VPs assistant to order a bunch of extension cords and surge protectors and we ended up with 4 extension cords and four (fairly large) surge protectors to work with. And with the surge protectors and extensions cords, everyone seemed to be able to feed their machines a good diet of power through out the day.
Location, Location, Location
I chose a room that had a lot access to power (outlets), elbow room, and desktop space for seating 40-45 people. The location of the outlets and the number of outlets helped as well because once Corey arrived on site the seating arrangement changed that fit the format much better. You have to think about power outlets for all laptops showing up even though folks are pairing around one and leaving the other one idling. Some folks won’t have a laptop, there were three that arrived with only a (paper) notebook which is fine.
I used four extension cords and four (fairly large) surge protectors with six outlets within them. We did have some of the Apple power adapters making “T”s in the outlets in the parts of the room where extension cords could not reach which helped. There were a lot of cords on the floor and thankfully no one tripped on them, but I did provide some black grip tape to secure cords to the floor if needed.
The room came with an overhead projector and screen that dropped out of the ceiling. If you don’t have that kind of setup, see if you can borrow or rent a projector. Corey keeps the Game of Life wiki (mentioned below) and something like twitterfall running on his MPB during the event as a billboard for folks in the room. Seems like small detail but it’s a huge help.
Corey likes to use a projector to keep the Game of Life wiki displayed so folks don’t have to switch back and forth between their IDE and the wiki while they work. He also uses it to walk the group through the problem we are working on at the beginning of the day. And also at each 45 minute pit stop throughout the day to reiterate principles and problems we may or may not be thinking about.
“No Pizza!” (Lunch)
Corey really doesn’t have any constraints for the events, but one is no pizza for lunch. He recommended wraps and they did work well for lunch. I browsed some of the other coderetreat photos on-line to see what and how much was being served so that helped as well with gauging the amount of food. The only thing we had that needed forks was the salad, so think along those lines if you are working from a menu.
Another recommendation Corey makes is to use a local business which is not tied to a national chain. I found an excellent caterer in the Orlando community and he was able to put out some vegan options which was a great accommodation. The caterer also shared with me that he has a lot of requests for vegan, so it’s not that far out of the ordinary to find one that can provide vegan options. As far as I know, everyone had enough to eat and we had food left over and a few folks had seconds.
So for wraps we had Caesar Salad, Ham & Cheese, Tuna, and a vegan offering for a wrap as well. For sides and dessert we have salad with Sicilian pasta salad, vegan pasta salad, watermelon skewers, and German apple cake. There were vegan variations on the salad dressings as well. Corey invited 40 and I ordered food for a few vegan attendees and 45 other folks. This was just in case some folks were hungrier than others or members from my team came by.
Soft Drinks (Lunch)
For drinks you’ll need something in the neighborhood of: six 12-packs of soda ( Code, Diet Coke, Root Beer, and Sprite); two cases of bottled-water; 40# of ice; and three medium to large coolers to hold it all. I kept the soda and ice refrigerated during the morning so the soda would cool down quickly and I wouldn’t run out of ice during the day.
@Caike from OrlandoCodingDojo purchased breakfast and that consisted of coffee and bagels for ~40 people. The coffee came in six cartons with spouts from a local doughnut shop that sells it by the carton if needed. The doughnut shop also provided the cream cheese, napkins, coffee cups, and lids, and pink, blue, yellow, and white sugar packets. So there’s less cost involved if the shop is already providing the condiments and containers.
Whomever decides to fund this event might need an invoice for services, caterers, or receipts from miscellaneous purchases. Just make sure folks hang on to their receipts while they are making purchases, or invoices are being requested where appropriate.
A/C and Facilities Support
I had to make a special request to have the area we were in cooled (you might need heat where you are) for the event. This took a long time to get approved because of the approval chain so if you are up against that as well, ask *really* early so it happens and check back often so no one forgets. I re-requested four times during the 1.5 months this was being planned.
I missed on this one, but ensure you have enough garbage bags to clean-up for 45 after breakfast and lunch. I didn’t have access to get replacement trash bags, but there were a few garbage containers and recyclable container that help split up the refuse. Next time I would probably keep changing out the bags and make a trip to the dumpster out back after the first iteration after breakfast and the first iteration after lunch. This way at the end of the day there’s a few less trips to the dumpster that need to be made.
If you are in an area where you can share your food after the attendees have eaten try to give the food away just after the chow lines start to die down. This will also help with the clean-up as well at the end of the day.
We had a few folks that lingered at the Agile 2010 conference that were flying home that day as well as others the flew in just from out of state for the event. It might be helpful to have a few phone numbers on hand for a dependable cab company in case folks need to get around after the event. Also, if folks are staying in town after the coderetreat try to have a new numbers on hand for local, clean, and moderately priced hotels or motels they can stay in if needed.
For an idea of what was discussed here take a look at Caike’s video he produced from the event.