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Organising Meetings

Kwasi Gachie edited this page Sep 12, 2018 · 25 revisions

Overview

This section suggests proven guidelines for chapter meetings of various types.

Remember that your community is volunteering its time and attention to attend your event. Time is valuable, and you can do serious damage to your community with just one badly executed meeting by squandering goodwill and alienating community members. It is therefore important to plan your meetings carefully, and to have a clear focus or outcome to ensure that everyone feels their time was well spent.

Formats for Meetings

Ordinary Meetups

All chapters are required to host at least one meetup per month, to ensure that the community gets an opportunity to network and share insights or opportunities.

Ordinary Hacks/Hackers meetings tend to run for 1.5hrs to a maximum of 2hrs and usually start with some remarks from a member of the chapter ExCo, to set expectations and the pace for the meeting. The ExCo member introduces the event speakers, and serves as MC for the rest of the event.

Before the invited speaker/s, all meetups always have a short report-back session that updates members on projects or chapter activities and that allows for some discussion about the activities. This part of the meeting usually runs for 30min.

You can either have a single keynote speaker, who presents in-depth on a major topical issue or project, or alternatively you can have a series of quick-fire speakers who either present back-to-back on a related topic or who are part of a panel discussion. The best events are those with a clear focus, so it is important to ensure that your speakers stick to a coherent theme or topic. The best panel discussions are those with strong moderators, where panelists have a real debate rather than simply reading from their notes.

Here are three samples of what your meetup agenda for a 1.5hr event could look like:

1.) Keynote Speaker:

5min - Welcome from an ExCo member
10min - Chapter Projects / Activity Report-Back (by an ExCo member or Chapter champion)
15min - Q&A and Discussion
30min - Keynote Presentation
30min - Q&A and Discussion
30min - Drinks & Networking

Or, alternatively:

2.) Quick-Fire Presentations:

5min - Welcome from an ExCo member
10min - Chapter Projects / Activity Report-Back (by an ExCo member or Chapter champion)
15min - Q&A and Discussion
10min - Speaker 1: presentation of a project or opportunity on a specific theme
10min - Speaker 2: presentation of a project or opportunity on a specific theme
10min - Speaker 3: presentation of a project or opportunity on a specific theme
30min - Q&A and Discussion
30min - Drinks & Networking

Or, alternatively:

3.) Panel Discussion:

5min - Welcome from an ExCo member
10min - Chapter Projects / Activity Report-Back (by an ExCo member or Chapter champion)
15min - Q&A and Discussion
5min - Panel introductions and overview of the panel topic by moderator
5min - Panelist 1: short position statement / presentation on a specific theme
5min - Panelist 2: short position statement / presentation on a specific theme
15min - Moderator-led discussion amongst panelists 30min - Q&A and Open Discussion, led by the moderator
30min - Drinks & Networking

Workshops & Seminars

Hacks/Hackers chapters also regularly convene short training events, where members are taught new digital skills or tools. Training events usually take two common forms, namely:

1.) Workshops:

Workshops are generally led by an instructor (preferably supported by a couple of support trainers), who focuses on teaching participants a set of clearly defined skills or tools. Everyone hates being lectured at, so try to design your workshops to be interactive, experiential (meaning: learning-by-doing) and visual (meaning: ensure that there are clear examples for complex concepts).

You should remember that meetups take place in the evenings or on weekends, and that time is limited. You should therefore be realistic about what is possible within 1.5hrs or 2hrs in the evenings, or during a half-day workshop on the weekends. The best workshops are those that limit the focus to just one new skill or one new tool, to ensure that participants get the time and 1-on-1 attention necessary to master it during the workshop.

Topics that have worked well in the past include either 101-type introductions or more advanced masterclasses on spreadsheets (probably the single most important skill for data journalists), or scraping (meaning: how to extract content from a website), or how to use a specific data visualisation toolkit (for example: how to create a map, or a chart, etc). This should not limit your focus ... but try to target topics or skills that your chapter members have expressed an interest in.

Ensure that your trainer has prepared hand-outs or online courseware ahead of the event. Also try to prepare datasets or other content that participants will use during the exercises well ahead of the event.

Hackdays & Codejams

For projects that require more software development, there will be need to host CodeJams. These will typically be over a weekend/public/bank holiday to ensure that most people who are otherwise employed would be able to make it for the event. The Hackdays/CodeJams will be great to actually get ideas discussed in the workshops/meetings into working prototypes. .

Demos & Pitching Sessions

There will be a network of potential clients/investors who will be reachable in the Hacks/Hackers network. For this reason, whenever a chapter has a request for up to 10 applications/companies to be showcased, they can have a demo day/pitching session. It is at this point that a potential VC/Investor/Customer/Client would be called in to have the product demo'd. This would help the developers and journalists not only get an opportunity to pitch, but to additionally get a platform where their work can be critiqued.

Budgets

Budgets will be incumbent on the sponsorship available.

Planning your Meeting

Choosing a Theme

Do you have a Theme? Does your theme touch on current affairs affecting the day to day life of your citizens/developers?.

Finding appropriate Speakers

The best way to source for speakers is to

  • Contact other technology communities (if you need someone technology based)
  • Contact the local media houses for someone in Media
  • Contact Code For Africa for help in finding a speaker

Selecting & securing the Venue

Venue is primarily dependent on

  • Cost - Budget
  • Accessibility - Is it easily accessible by public modes of transport
  • Community - basically, any hub that already aggregates the tech community or media community is a good bet as they probably have taken care of the previous two issues and even if they haven't, the benefits from having a centralized pool of people who would like to participate outweigh the potential inconveniences

Marketing the Event

  • Mailing lists (GDGs/Hacks/Hackers List).
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Blogposts

Managing RSVPs

  • Use a Google form.

Recording the Meeting

  • Use of a simple smartphone to record audio would work well...

Reporting back to Members

Each event should be followed by a blogpost - preferably within 24 hours - so that members of the community who were unable to make it for the event can be aware of the traction made and the proceedings from the event.

SWAG & freebies

Other than partner funded freebies, the rest would have to be made in general accordance to Hacks/Hacker branding guidelines..

Templates & toolkits

Hacks/Hackers Event RSVP Form
How to write a Hacks/Hackers blog post

Checklist for Organisers

Sample Hacks/Hackers Planning Checklist (Make a copy and edit where necessary)

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