Another easy way to reduce the price: cut stuff people don’t actually need.
The first is free alcohol at parties.
Everyone is aware that they are either a) paid by a sponsor or b) cross-financed through their ticket anyways. If you tell that to people most think that this hurts your event, it actually doesn’t. People will happily buy their own stuff or appreciate that they didn’t fund someone elses drinks.
We allow sponsors to foot the bill at parties, but only if they are a regular sponsor first.
Another is cutting parties completely.
They are appreciated but not as important as they seem. I figured that out at the first conference we ran, we just didn’t have any serious budget to rent a venue or a club. We sidetracked the issue by finding locations around the venue where people can go and had people from the local community bring them there. We also called ahead to make sure the places know they might get a lot of customers. Turns out: general feedback was good. Most attendees don’t spend the evening with more then 10 people. Why not around a table at a pizzeria instead of in a club with loud music? Or why not in a club with loud music, but without all those eating patrons around? :) Again, the first reaction here was “impossible”, but we are doing it ever since. This year, we found out that on our Saturday evening, the film studio where the Wachowsky brothers filmed a lot of films has an open night :D.
All those things are nice perks, but if they are the core of your technology event, there is something wrong with your event.
In the end: replacing things that cost money by people doing some work sits well with crowds going to community events. Asking local community members to just adopt a group and go out in town is a very inexpensive, but appreciated strategy.
Yes; paring down the stuff people don’t actually need is something that I mention in the post and that I’ve written about at length before. Nobody really needs yet another t-shirt!
Shirts are a bit problematic, sometimes they are more of a barter with the sponsors ;). They might expect it. Also, they are part of selling yourself for next year. “Hey, you were there, how was it?” is great. Still, if you want to drive ticket costs down, this is another way to go.
I thought their second reason for canceling was enlightening:
2. Zero women. I realize that this is the aspect people will have the most feedback on as it is such a hot topic in Ruby. But we had 79 speakers submit talks. No women. I reached out to 12 women to invite to speak (all expenses paid) they either were no interested or did not get back to me. I reached out to many of the international women’s groups to advertise the event. I sent free tickets to Rails Girls Summer of Code in exchange for promotion. Nothing. Considering how crazy everybody gets over the gender issue in Ruby I really did not want to subject myself to that drama.
I find that a bit over the top and would have preferred if that was a different discussion. The current climate in the Ruby organizer community is a problematic one, with some doing no outreach, some very efficient outreach and some try, but fail. So people complain about the ones doing no outreach and sometimes hit the ones with failed outreach projects, which shouldn’t get too much flak. It’s also sad to see that many of those organizers never get in touch with others that implemented such things successfully. I offer that all the time and never get responses.
In my experience, outreach groups are not as efficient as people imagine - not a lot of people monitor lists. You get a few replies here and there. On the other hand, they are easy and accessible - send an email, someone there will propagate you event and it gets the word out that you are an even that cares. Mailing people personally works okay, if they are already interested in speaking. But I found that getting them from “not speaking” to “speaking” as an organizers is really hard. What works best is “by reference”. Send a personal email “X told me that you have interesting things to say about Y”. We got almost 100% replies there. Also, I have the experience that marginalized groups submit last.
Also, finally: shop for submissions to the CFP. Be very clear that the proposal will be rated by its technical merit and you are only searching for submission with no guarantee of acceptance. This avoids “token speaker” effects - everyone on stage got picked in the normal process.
I’m a first-time co-organiser of a ~2-4 day collaborative economy hackathon/conference later this year. If any lobsters have any resources or stories, I’d love to hear. I’m particularly interested in pre/post engagement to make the time spent together at the event and afterwards more productive.