Pre workshop tasks

lilliealbert edited this page Nov 3, 2012 · 35 revisions

Join the organizer's listserve

If you haven't already, join:!forum/railsbridge-workshops. You can email the list with questions, requests, panic, or jokes. We're all here to help.

Confirm dates & details with the hosting venue

The Railsbridge meta-organizers have introduced you via email to the contact person at the hosting venue. You'll want to confirm that the dates still work for them, how much room they have (which you will use to guide the RSVP cap on Meetup), and lots of other details. So many, in fact, that we have a whole separate page: hosting venue questions.

Post the event

In practice, using a closed, invite-only system for recruiting instructors and a more public application such as Meetup or Eventbrite to register participants in the other roles has worked well. If you have the benefit of a local Rails or Ruby group, see whether you can use that group's mailing list or Meetup page to handle registration for the workshop attendees and non-instructor volunteers.

If you are in San Francisco, contact Bosco & Caleb for organizer permission via, so you can post to the SF Ruby Meetup. You will create:

  • A student event
  • A volunteer event
  • A teacher training (can be scheduled closer to event)

Copy an old workshop, update the details with your own, and have someone else read through it before posting. Because most people forget to update at least one piece of information, to various levels of tragedy.

Survey the students and volunteers

Meetup likes privacy. So you don't have access to folks' email addresses unless you explicitly ask for them during registration. You can, however, email all the participants of various RSVP statuses (yes & waitlist being the most important). We have a pre-workshop survey that you will send to participants that will help gauge who actually plans on coming and what class levels they will be in.

While there is a project currently underway for a site that allows organizers to easily send volunteers and attendees questionnaire forms, our current Google Doc templates can be found and used. In order to not expose your attendee's email address and infos to the entire Internet, please copy the form (File -> Make a copy...). Send your students a link to the form created by your copy, and share a link to your spreadsheet with the workshop coordinators (the ones who set you up with the venue originally, probably Lillie or Rachel in SF) so they can add the info to a private cumulative spreadsheet.

Here is the form to copy:

It bears repeating: please COPY this form before sending it to your students, so their responses aren't available to anyone who clicks on the link directly preceding this sentence.

The same is all true for the volunteer survey:

Arrange catering

David at Triptych has catered many RailsBridge workshops and is super easy to work with. He has a standard menu for us that is both in our budget and deliciously accommodates all the diets (vegetarian, vegans and gluten free). To order food from Triptych, give them a few weeks notice, and email david (at) with something like this:

Hi David,

My name is [Sarah]. I'm organizing a RailsBridge Workshop. RailsBridge gave me your contact information and said Triptych had catered several workshops in the past. We're having a workshop on [Saturday, August 11], and we've scheduled lunch for [12:30]. It's set for the [IGN office] at [500 2nd Street].

We're expecting [100] people, but RailsBridge suggested that we should give a smaller head count of [75% of the expected headcount]. As usual, we need a menu that accommodates vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free diets. I'm ccing my co-organizer, [Samantha], and including both our phone numbers below for when you need us the morning of. Do you think that will work?



You can also pick your own caterer, we have some suggestions! In which case, as you are getting quotes for the catering, check out the sample budget. Totals will vary depending on the number of folks there and where you're getting the food, but you shouldn't spend more than $1,500 for the whole workshop.

Here are some SF Catering and after party location suggestions!


Installfest food is pizza and hopefully salad. If the host has a beer fridge or kegerator to share, that's awesome, otherwise, get some beer, too.

Amounts: 2-3 slices of pizza (20 inch) for each anticipated individual. (I.e. Total Volunteers + Attendees = 80, 60% = 48: Roughly 144 slices needed- so 9 pizzas with 16 slices)


Workshop breakfast is usually coffee & bagels. Arrange to have everything delivered about 15 minutes before Volunteers arrive, so there is food and coffee to greet them.

Noah’s Bagels has a great catering delivery service on bagels. Order enough bagels to cover about 70% of attendees/volunteers with ‘Yes’ RSVP.

Search around the workshop’s location to find a coffee shop which will deliver it to you, if possible. Coffee Bean has a reasonable one which includes sugar, milk, disposable cups etc. A Cambro (5 gallons) is usually MORE than enough for 70 people as not everyone will drink coffee.


Ask the host location if they have any recommendations for catering companies that they have used before. Give the Caterer estimated head count; usually 70% of that number of Yes RSVPs. Ask for a Vegetarian/Vegan option for about a third of the food, and if they will want help clearing away any of the set-up they bring.

If the host company is not paying for it, ask for a quote to submit to Austin for approval.

Make after-party reservations

Provided you’ve found a sponsor whose donation has left a little extra after catering, it’s always great to thank volunteers for their time and help with a free drink after the event. This also gives the workshop goers a chance to socialize more and really build some networking connections that will help support them if they decide they now have the bug and want to actually delve into this awesome world of Ruby programming!

Find someplace close. The closer the after-party is to the workshop site, the more likely it is that people won’t get lost or distracted between leaving the workshop and arriving at the party. You need a place that has enough unoccupied space for the whole group to gather and mingle. A deserted bar is ideal, a casual restaurant is also good. Most workshops end at 4:30 or so on Saturdays, which tends to be a slow time for bars and restaurants, but it pays to check.

Make arrangements with the host location ahead of time. If you can tell a place that you’re estimating X many people will be coming and that you for sure will buy Y many drinks (one for each of your volunteers), that’s often enough to encourage them to go out of their way to support what you’re doing. Some places will offer specials (free drinks, extra food) to entice large groups but even those that don’t should be informed before a horde of people descend on them.

Mention the after-party early and often. Some students will fail to read the instructions, some will arrive too late for the opening presentation, and some will finish their coursework early and miss the after-class gathering. The more times you mention the fact and location of the after party the less likely it is that people don’t come because they don’t know about it.

If a potential host demands a minimum bar tab or rental fee, go elsewhere! Plenty of places don’t, but some places are in the business of hosting parties. This tends to run $1000 and up, which is too expensive unless you have an after-party sponsor.

Train the teachers

Set up a teacher training. This often happens during the week of the workshop. If you can't get a separate evening, you can do it during the Installfest, but try to get extra volunteers if you do that. Don't want to leave the student high and dry while teachers discuss best practices.

Take a look at the teacher training slides, which live at Edit them as appropriate here:

Communicate with everyone

A few of the things you'll do:

  • Post/announce the workshop to the Ruby-6 Meetup mailing list
  • Email the pre-workshop survey to the attendees, optionally including a deadline to respond
  • Remind attendees to take the pre-workshop survey
  • Remind attendees that if they have a Mac, they will need XCode prior to arriving to the Installfest
  • Email the volunteer survey to the volunteers
  • Send Installfest instructions to attendees
  • Send logistical info (detailed schedule, parking info, etc.)
  • Ask people at every turn to update their RSVP on if they can't come

When people join the SF Ruby meetup to attend a workshop, they don't always realize that by default they will be getting the Ruby-6 mailing list into their inbox. In one of your emails, it's helpful to address that and explain where the email setting are or encourage them to filter the messages (but still pay attention! for future learning!).

You can find templates for emails in the materials section under "Communication".

Obtain necessary objects: power cords, flash drives, name tags, etc.

To do: develop physical items plans (#1 plan: don't lose the stuff)

Update the pre- and post-workshop presentation slides

To do: links & instructions for updating slides

Figure out student class levels

  • Use the grouping guide to interpret the results of the pre-workshop survey

Back to How to Organize in SF

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