A few thoughts and tips on planning wikimania, based on past and personal experience. Note that this is highly unofficial, and not a statement from the bid jury in any way. Also note that there is more than one way to do almost everything, including planning Wikimania -- the event can and should be reimagined and reworked by each set of hosts. However, there are some mistakes and tips to learn from past planning experiences.
Fellow organizers and others, feel free to chime in.
Things to consider and tips
- This is one thing that the international crowd can help you with, and it can be done almost all online. However: who are the cool local speakers that you can draw on, who might not go to an international event? tap into this.
- There should be some flexibility about having a large room for plenary sessions vs. number of tracks, at least early-on in the planning process.
- We've been using the same programme management software for two conferences now. No need to re-invent the wheel.
- Try to have your schedule done more than a couple days beforehand, but don't be surprised if you don't succeed. Printed daily schedules = good. (Set up the templates for the schedule beforehand, even if there are a few holes to fill in).
- Great big schedule on the wall is also good, but it *will* change. Use something flexible/changeable?
- Have someone in charge of moderation. Make sure they know they are in charge of moderation. Tell them this before the conference actually starts.
- Have moderators, too! Have instructions for the moderators. 2007's instructions on moderation were pretty good. For flexibility, the more moderators, the better.
Scholarships and visas
- Start planning early. Have dedicated funds. Have one or two dedicated planners. Make sure you talk to the office about Wikimedia money.
- Getting more information out of applicants for scholarships is better. Getting all their personal and travel information up front is good. Ask them about their participation in the projects, what they hope to get from the conference, etc.
- Make plans ahead of time for how you will divide money up, what's fair, whether you'll use set cut-off levels (based on the applicants, or offering set amounts) and what criteria you'll use to pick people.
- Consider working with the chapters to get representatives from each chapter sent. Ask the chapcom about this.
- have a very good travel agent, or ask the office about using the WMF's early.
- you will need letterhead, for the visa letters; someone from the local organization to sign them; and a way to get them to people. Expect a handful to dozens, depending on how restrictive your country is.
- Expect some visa fishing and false registrations: people asking for visas/registering who aren't part of the community and have no intention of coming; they are just trying to get into your country. Asking about Wikimedia participation, or reasons for attending, usually makes this obvious.
- the important info is not just who doesn't need a visa to come to your country, but who does. What hoops do they have to jump through? How long does it take? There will potential visitors from nearly every country in the world, not just Europe and the US.
- Please ask people who have done it before so that the wheel is not reinvented again. There is software written.
- There have been requests for double-sided badges. Troublesome, but possible. Otherwise, provide markers :)
- Have a way to print badges on site...
- ...but try and do most of them before the conference starts. This is a big job for the registration coordinator.
- List of things a reg system should do here
- Give open space its own space. Doesn't have to be a closed-off room, but shouldn't necessarily be a hallway either. A big open room is great. Open space means a place to do conference presentations, but ones that aren't planned beforehand and that encourages drop-in participation. Should be a comfortable place to do work.
- Give people a place to congregate; make sure it's comfortable, and has power and internet. Try and make it open as early/late as possible -- jet lag and excitement means folks are up at all hours of the day and night. The eating area, the open space, another room, a lobby -- all possibilities, as long as it's easily accessible, a natural congregation space and has a good vibe. Tables, power outlets, and comfy chairs/couches are all bonuses.
- Accommodation -- near as possible is good. A short and easy walk to the conference space, or in the conference space, is ideal. If they are not the same thing, a planned space to congregate in the accommodation area is good, as people will do this anyway. Someplace tolerant of noise late at night is necessary. Either have internet in the accommodation, or have 24 hour access in the venue itself. Cheap is very good, though offering a range of accommodation is probably good. Making people share a room is fine, though a few folks will want singles.
- signs and arrows telling people where to go are good.
Food and drink and parties
- A place to buy snacks and water nearby = good. If that's not possible, consider offering water at least, and drinks.
- People will love you if you make coffee accessible.
- Get someone to sponsor a reception or a party so you can have good snacks and drinks.
- There are lots of vegetarians in the wikimedia crowd... plan for half vegetarian.
- ... and people love to drink, too. Make sure there is alcohol enough at the party.
- You'll need lots, and stable.
- Streaming, other technical things: don't be afraid to ask for help in the community. There are many experienced people who have done this before and have good ideas. If you provide the internet drops, we can figure out the rest. Of course, infrastructure is also very, very good.
- Ask the developers for their input.
- if you are inclined to make a structured technical program, consider integrating it with the main conference.
- The Foundation will be interested in how you are paying for this thing. You will be interested in how you are paying for this thing. Have good projected and actual budgets, have someone particular in charge of this aspect. How much do you anticipate spending? how much do your sponsorships cover? Are there in-kind sponsorships you can get? (free venue, etc).
- Paying a wage to someone (non-community is fine) to handle money on site is a good idea. Then you don't have to worry about volunteers dealing with it, and you can have them work long and boring hours.
- Sponsorships -- in the past have been a mix of local and international. Others can help with this.
- We can't *count* on sponsorships ahead of time but it seems likely that people will sponsor us.
- Getting sponsor logos, etc is important; you'll need them for printing and recognition.
- Make sure their badges are brightly colored.
- Plan for a press conference, at which the Board and perhaps VIPs will attend. Talk to the PR coordinator in the office (Sandy). Plan to make up a press kit.
- Make sure there are enough small and medium t-shirts, as well as XL and XXL. Medium and large seem to be the most popular sizes, though you could always ask folks.
- Get someone to take charge entirely of the awards contest, and then don't worry about it :)
- Get a volunteer coordinator. Make them coordinate the volunteers. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
To come: a brief history of planning for previous wikimanias
- 2005: Wikimania: inaugural edition -- Frankfurt
- 2006: the prodigal son of Wikimania -- Boston
- 2007: Wikimania returns, and this time, it's personnel -- Taipei