title: Tampa IT Camp 2011 Lessons Learned Part 1 link: http://sev17.com/2011/03/29/tampa-it-camp-2011-lessons-learned-part-1/ author: Chad Miller description: post_id: 10626 created: 2011/03/29 23:36:23 created_gmt: 2011/03/30 03:36:23 comment_status: open post_name: tampa-it-camp-2011-lessons-learned-part-1 status: publish post_type: post

Tampa IT Camp 2011 Lessons Learned Part 1

On Saturday, March 19th 2011 we held the first ever Saturday “code camp” style event for the IT Pro (Sys Admins) community which we called IT Camp. IT Camps are a free, one day learning event for anyone seeking professional development. This event serves IT professionals and students with a focus on IT Pro (i.e. Sys Admin) related technologies. IT Camps offer a conference style learning environment free of charge to attendees and is open to presenters of all backgrounds and expertise. This blog post is about the lessons I learned organizing an IT community event…

The Idea

In December, Blain Barton, a Microsoft Senior IT Pro Evangelist who sponsors my Tampa PowerShell User Group,  told me about an idea he had to start the first ever IT Camp to meet the needs the IT Pro community. I had been to many SQL Saturdays and code camps (like the Tampa Code Camp)  and heard about SharePoint Saturdays, but IT Pros really didn’t have an similar event for them. The idea intrigued me so I volunteered to organize it.

The Plan

Although I’ve spoken at or sponsored at ten SQL Saturdays or Code Camps I hadn’t organized a large IT community event so my first step was to talk to my local IT community leaders:

  • Andy Warren (blog twitter) – SQL Saturday founder, helped organized dozens of  events including Orlando SQL Saturday.
  • Keith Kabza (twitter) – organizes Tampa Code Camp
  • Michael Hinckley (blog twitter)  – organizes Tampa and South Florida SharePoint Saturdays
  • Pam Shaw (blog|twitter) – organizes I could have expanded the list to more people, but I really felt it was important to seek the advice of  folks who are familiar with local Tampa IT community. I would sit down with each person and ask them to tell me about how they organized events. One of the interesting things about each person’s event is there similarity, but at the same time they are also slightly different.

SQL Saturdays

SQL Saturdays have a strong central organization which at first was provided through the leadership of Andy Warren, but has since transitioned to  SQLPASS.  They help local chapter leaders kick start a SQL Saturday. They provide a web presence to handle speaker submittals, scheduling building and attendee reservations. They provide mentorship and have a really nice public wiki on organizing a SQL Saturday, most of which equally applies to any IT community event. The wiki was helpful to me as I could read about guidelines and lesson learned from the SQL Saturday camp all in one place. I still walked through the budget with Andy and Pam so I could try figure how much money I would need to raise. SQL Saturdays centralize their web presence, an idea I really like. I know they have to deal with the same types of issues as any IT community event: registration, speaker submittals, sessions publishing, schedule building, sponsorship list and providing a way to contact the organizer—so I spent some time seeing how their site is organized. Now, I’m not saying I ripped off their site. If you look at SQL Saturday site, any code camp site or the SharePoint Saturday site they all have a similar organization to them. SQL Saturdays folks have their stuff to together the only issues I’ve seen is around check-ins the day of the event which really made me thing about how to address this issue (hint: use EventBrite!) One of things Andy and Pam mentioned was to plan on a 30% no-show the day of the event. Andy had some good advice on what it means to have a successful community IT event simply, did your attendees learn something. Some of the folks who attend IT community events will not have the opportunity to go paid events and these community events are all they will get to go to. Teach them something and you’ve succeeded.

SharePoint Saturdays

I haven’t attended a SharePoint SharePoint, but plan to go to my first one, the Tampa SharePoint Saturday on June 11th 2011.I did chat with Michael Hinckley who provided some advice including:

  • Use EventBrite – This a free service for selling tickets to any events. The site handles event registration, event reminders, and check-ins. Now that I’ve used EventBrite, I totally agree there service is awesome! Like any technology there some gotchas. I plan on writing a short post about my EventBrite experience.
  • Take care of your speakers with a speaker dinner – The day of event many of speakers who traveled  may not be able to attend after event party. The dinner is an opportunity to network. Its also customary to show your appreciate to speakers for taking the time to present at the event. Many of speakers will have come from out of town, spending their money in travel. The trick with speakers dinners is choose some place nice which is group friendly. One of the problems with large group and getting preferred pricing is that you have to guarantee a certain number of people if not everyone shows up then you having to pay the per plate price. Like SQL Saturday I like the centralized website provided by SharePoint Saturday. Its also cool their site is built on SharePoint Smile. The site organization is similar to what you would see on SQL Saturday or Code Camp. My understanding of SharePoint Saturdays is that a committee/group of volunteers help kick start an event in a new location by providing mentoring and web presence.

Code Camps

Code Camps have the least central organization, in fact they seem to be entirely organized by the local developer users groups. To me, code camps feel like an “unconference” where its almost like a really big user group meeting. They also seem to be able to run on the cheap. These guys are the grandfathers of the whole Saturday code camp events and SQL, SharePoint and IT Pros owe them a tip of the hat for doing it successfully for so long. Keith helped me especially with getting hooked up on event insurance, some recommendations on lunch and break down of budgeting. Keith also allowed me to adapt his sponsorship packet to IT Camp. One thing that is different about code camps is they seem to enjoy building out a code camp site in whatever is the latest technology. Some spend more time theirs than others. For me, I’d rather just have a group site like SQL Saturday or SharePoint Saturday I can use without having to spend a lot of time developing one.