Workshop Planning Tasks

ndun edited this page Jan 12, 2016 · 23 revisions

When You Sign Up

Join the organizers email mailing list

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.

Create an issue on the Organizers Github Repository

As described in the organizers repo, we use Github Issues to help coordinate event planning.

Confirm dates & details with the hosting venue

The Railsbridge meta-organizers have introduced you via email to the contact person at the 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 Bridge Troll), and lots of other details. So many, in fact, that we have a whole separate page: hosting venue questions.

<a name="calendarlisting'/>Add your workshop to the RailsBridge website calendar

You can announce your workshop on the listserve or contact Isa at miss.herico at gmail dot com.

Meet your mentor

If this is your first time organizing, the meta-organizers will set you up with a mentor to answer questions as they arise. Say hello now, in person or in the ether!

Post the event on Bridge Troll

Bridge Troll is the RailsBridge-specific event management system we use to help Organizers have a better time. Visit, create an account, and make a new event by choosing "Organize an Event" in the bottom left. If your workshop is at a new venue or a new chapter, you should create those things first (with the "Manage Locations" and "Manage Chapters" buttons).

*ProTip: When adding organizers to the event, they can not be RSVP'd as an attendee. If you are having trouble upgrading a user to 'organizer', be sure that they are not yet currently associated with the 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.

Bridge Troll can be used to

  • Record and modify RSVPs for Students and Volunteers, including self-selected class level preferences
  • Email all students and/or volunteers
  • Record check-ins of students and volunteers on Installfest and Workshop days
  • Arrange attending students and volunteers into small groups on the day of the event

Bridge Troll automatically sends are reminder email three days before the event, but you can also send additional emails about downloading Xcode so that everyone's ready for Installfest if you're throwing a Rails workshop. Also remind them that they can return to Bridge Troll to modify their RSVP, class level preference, dietary and needs for any children they plan to bring.


If your city has a Meetup related to the event your putting on (for example, a Ruby meetup), you might want to email the mailing list for the Meetup or create a publicity-only event with an RSVP limit of 1 to point people toward Bridge Troll for RSVPs. (This can be pretty confusing, so you probably only want to do it if you're having trouble finding students or volunteers from your other publicity efforts.)

Arrange catering

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.

If you're in San Francisco, we have some suggestions.

(If you're not in SF, please feel free to add a page to this wiki with recommendations for your chapter!)


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.

Search around the workshop’s location to find a coffee shop which will deliver it to you, if possible. Not everyone will drink, but make sure to have plenty as many will refill their cups throughout the day. Remember to request extra cups & cream.


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. You can save some money if one of the organizers has a car and is willing to return the dishes to the company after the event.

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

If lunch will be delivered, please make sure they come at least 30 minutes beforehand so you & your team have time to set up. When setting up, try to make sure the food is accessible by many at the same time (perhaps various stations?) as lunch time goes by so fast.

Make after-party reservations

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 workshop and party. 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 location ahead of time. If you can tell a place that X many people will be coming and you 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. 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 RubySF Meetup mailing list
  • Send Installfest instructions to attendees
  • Remind attendees that if they have a Mac, they will need XCode prior to arriving to the Installfest
  • Send logistical info (detailed schedule, parking info, etc.)
  • Ask people at every turn to update their RSVP on Bridge Troll if they can't come or if their info needs changing.

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".

Arrangements for Children

  • What we offer is a supervised play area. Since parents are nearby and ultimately responsible for their kids, we do not provide full child care with all that implies. We use experienced babysitters or trusted volunteers. We have never had professional child care facility or staff.
  • Anecdotally, few people will bring kids, but knowing it is available will often allow parents to immediately RSVP, even if later a partner can take the kids; people more frequently need nursing/pumping space
  • It's worth checking with the people who said they needed to bring children to make sure they still really do. Many do not realize that you will be providing it specifically for them, and will try and make other arrangements after requesting it. Check in with them as soon as you can after the initial request to confirm.
  • We have a list of contact info for sitters; email the workshop mailing list (which you should already be subscribed to!) at!forum/railsbridge-workshops for access.
  • We usually use a simple parent waiver. If requested by a venue, we can add more legal caveats. We can share a sample of that (ask on the list).

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

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

Update the pre- and post-workshop presentation slides

Figure out student class levels

  • Use the Arrange Sections button on the Bridge Troll Organizer Console to have the COMPUTER set up a rough guesstimate of number of classes and sizes. It is very helpful to arrange the sections again the night before, after everyone has checked in at the installfest; that way you have a much better idea of what your actual workshop attendance will be. The computer's arrangement can be manually rearranged by drag-n-drop.
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