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Report on the event coordination meeting in Essen, Germany

Hi all

It took a while, but here is the report on our event coordination meeting
in Essen, Germany, last weekend. It also includes links to the newly created
wiki pages.

Event Coordination meeting, Essen, Germany
Friday 11th to Sunday 13th of August, 2006

Andreas Barth (aba)
Susanne Ebrecht (miracee)
Gerfried Fuchs (alfie)
Meike Reichle (alphascorpii)
Alexander Schmehl (Tolimar)
Martin Schulze (joey)
Martin Wuertele (maxx)
Martin Zobel-Helas (zobel)

This is a report on what was talked about while this meeting. It also
includes our results: decisions we made, howtos and lists we created and
our plans for the future. Things of general use, such as lists and howtos
are put in the wiki[0] This report is sorted by topic rather than
chronologically, but all things in here were discussed during this weekend.

1) Review of past events. We first collected opinions on what we think went
   good or bad in past events, so we know whether we see the same problems.

  Things that we think are good:
   - Debian is very present, we visit a lot of events major as well as
     small local ones.
   - There have been some quite good things coming out of events, such as the
     tripple arch DVD
   - We have quite a lot of good and interesting merchandise, most of which 
     also sells pretty well.
   - Most people are very satisfied after visiting our booth. It's manned by
     experts rather than "marketing droids". They don't give you sales
     answers, and know what they are talking about. Often booth staff will 
     sit down with a visitor and help them fix some computer problem, even if 
     it is a tricky one
   - In major events there's also people from related projects (FAI,
     debian-edu, debianforum.de, sometimes debian-med) present. 
   - Debian booths are always well visited
   - Most major events have a dedicated Debian track (DebianDay)
   - It's mostly not a problem to get people to staff a booth. 

  Things that we think need improvement:
   - Often booth staff see an event mostly as a social get-together, not as a
     place to present Debian. They thus tend to prefer talking to other
     Debian people over their "event duties"
   - Some Debian booths have been too merchandise centered. It is not the
     main point of a Debian booth to sell stuff, also, the success of an
     event visit can not (only) be measured in sales
   - The booth often doesn't look inviting. People are working on their
     private laptops, sitting and relaxing or even turn their back to the 
     visitors, talking to fellow booth staff. Tables are mostly arranged in 
     a line, creating a barrier between booth staff and the visitors.
   - There is often a lot of private stuff (bags, jackets, private laptops,
     garbage, ...) lying around the booth because people use it as a drop-off
     point. Also the tables should not be "naked" since they are often dirty
     or chipped. Instead some kind of table cloth should be used.
   - The Debian tracks/DebianDays are often not advertised enough, especially
     when they are not in the main program. Also the speakers there sometimes
     have to be "persuaded" to give a talk ("We can get a track of our own,
     if we get it full"), and thus lack enthusiasm or preperation
   - Logistics are often short-term and chaotic, (too) often Credativ is
     simply assumed to take the Debian stuff with them
   - Debian-internal event advertisement is lacking
   - Debian-internal ressouces (wiki.d.o, lists.d.o or debian.net mailing lists)
     should be used for organisation/coordination
   - Some think the debian booth is often not recognisable enough, lacking an
     eye-catcher or something to make it recognisable as the debian-booth even
     from a distance
2) What is the main aim of going to an event?
   We discussed that question and came to the conclusion that events and
   our aims there can be separated into three different groups:
   1) Large community events such as fosdem, CLT or Linuxtag (in earlier 
   2) Smaller local events
   3) Business events such as Systems, LWE or CeBit

   Each of these event types has a different main reason for us to be
   there, different things that we would like to present and also different
   FAQs. The FAQs can be found at [1]

   2.1) Large community events
   Many visitors there are already experienced with Linux/Debian and often
   also do some kind of contribution themselves. Going there has mainly the
   aim to refresh social contacts, meet up- and downstream and other
   interesting people. People there don't usually have to be told about
   Debian but are often interested in how they can contribute or have
   rather specialised questions.
   Due to this we should mostly give information on how to help/contribute
   to Debian and what we expect/need from up- and downstream. Also these 
   are good events to present subprojects and explain what makes Debian
   different from other Distros and what its "specialties" are. People
   will probaly not be too interested in presentations of the very basics
   but rather on internationalisation or things that are new in Debian.

   2.2) Smaller local events
   These events mostly atract people who are new to Linux or think about
   switching and want to get a first impression of what they are up to.
   They often have basic questions, and there is great interest in direct
   live support ("Can I bring my PC?") and general information. 
   At such events the presentation should mainly center on the user
   friendlyness of Debian, it's broad userbase, places to get help (mailing
   lists, irc, sites like debianforum.de). There should be some general
   information material on Debian/Linux/FLOSS and also on migration from 
   other OSes (mostly windows). Reference cards (like the one from 
   debacle) are also very handy. Also FAI CDs/DVDs are very handy for 
   live Demos.

   2.3) Commercial events
   At such events, Debian has to give a reputable impression. Our main
   interest there is to find commercial users or cooperations and refresh
   already existing business contacts and cooperations. They are also a
   good place to find sponsors for stuff.
   To achieve this, presentation there should center on things that are of
   interest to large sites (FAI, virtualisations ...) and highlight
   Debian's commercial independance, security and stability. Also we should
   present the possibilities of customizing Debian and existing CDDs. It's
   also possible to do cooperations with already existing business 
   partners, but we have to watch our neutrality then, so we do not favour
   one or the other business partner.

3) Debian Days/Debian tracks
   We found that sometimes DebianDays are not visited too well or by the
   wrong audience. We think that usually if there is a dedicated DebianDay
   or Debian track it mainly aims at contributors and advanced users and 
   should thus only be organised if 
   a) Enough of such people are to be expected
   b) We have enough good speakers to fill it without organising talks just
      to fill up the program. If that is the case, it is better to have a
      few good talks in the main track, than to have a mediocre extra track
   Also such extra tracks are often not advertised as well as the main
   track but their organisation and advertisement is left to the according
   project. If that is the case we need to prepare schedules to put out at
   the booth and a few posters. This needs some preparation, so it's
   important to check on that well beforehand.

4) The event box
   We had a long discussion on the idea of having an event box that
   includes all things useful for a Debian booth. There were some arguments
   against it, such as that most things such as hardware, office supplies
   etc can also easily be organised locally and the cost of sending them
   around is too high for that. An other possibility was to also include
   e.g. the video projector in such a box, this was dismissed though
   because of the high risk. We prefer the projector to be transported
   separately in its bag. On the other hand there are a few things, such as
   awards, book samples, banners etc that it might make sense to send
   around but there is not much use in buying a dedicated box for them. In
   the end we figured that it would be best to have a kind "virtual box".
   This means to actually have a collection of useful things for Debian
   booths, that can not be easily bought locally. These things will not be 
   sent around individually but we will pack them together with whatever
   merchandise people asked for. For this purpose we will get a few metal
   or plastic boxes to send around merchandising + the booth things and 
   that will also be used to send the kit and leftover merchandise back 
   to us.

5) Merchandiese Committee
   At the moment there is no centralised way of organising our
   merchandising stock. What we have is stored in many different places and
   there is only a rough idea how much of what is where. Also a lot of what
   we have is paid for by individual people or by comission from a vendor.
   There are also some things that were ordered by individual people but
   do not sell well.
   We will try to improve on that situation by creating a merchandising 
   team, that will keep an overview on how much is there and order new if 
   necessary. Zobel and joey will also write a database with a web frontend 
   for keeping track of the existing merchandise. 
   All financial transactions will be made via the FFIS. 
   The merchandise team should consist of: Tolimar, zobel, Ganneff (joerg
   Jaspert), maxx and Meike. We will also investigate international 
   cooperations e.g. with the UK, who have some great T-shirts.

6) Event Reports
   After an event there should be a report on how things went. There should
   be not only the official public report on w.d.o/events but also a more
   detailed one to events-eu that can also be used to prepare the following
   events. Additionally we think it would also be good to have a private
   report that gives information that is useful to us but should not be
   made public. We agreed to create an svn repository for these reports.
   The reports will be accessible to all event coordinators, but not
   publicly. Tolimar will create a svn repository for that on alioth. 
   Here's a list of things we think should go into these reports:
   1) To be put at w.d.o/events 
   This is the most general one. It should give some overview information
   on how things went and have an overall positive tone.
   2)  To events-eu
   This report should include the following things
   - An official thank you to the booth staff, the event organisers and our
   - Feedback on the booth from the outside plus our own opinion 
   - Frequently Asked Questions
   - What kinds of visitors/which other projects where there, who staffed
     the booth.
   - Numbers on the visitors
   - What should be improved next time
   - Will we go there again next year
   - Feedback for the event organisers (enough signs? location, booths ...)
   - What booth did we have? (size, location, what was presented)
   - Talks (how many visitors, quality, topics)
   3) Intern report
   This report will be stored in a svn repository on alioth. It will be
   private and only accessible to other event coordinators. This report
   should include the same as the -events-eu one plus
   - Financial information (how much was sold, how many donations ...)
   - References, what do we need to follow up on. Possible new cooperations
   - Sleeping possibilities, who is willing to host people, where can one
     go for dinner

7) Misc decisions
   7.1 Kensignton locks
   It's mostly no problem to get enough demo machines for booths but they
   are mostly badly secured. We will thus buy a few Kensington locks that
   can be sent to events along with merchandise and other stuff.

   7.2 Shelf
   We discussed the posibility of buying a simple shelf for the booths, to
   present either merchandise or information material. The problem with
   such a shelf would be that it is even if it can be taken apart still
   rather bulky, which would make sending it around pretty expensive. Still
   especially on large events it would be very useful.
   We thus decided that zobel should look for a cheap shelf that would fit
   with a booth. This shelf will be stored with credativ. It will not be
   sent around on Debian expenses though. People going to an event can have
   it if they want but they need to find an own way of getting it there.
   7.3 Debian Tux
   We discussed whether it would be a good idea to have Debian branded
   tuxes since people often ask for some kind of Debian cuddly toy. The
   idea seemed nice at first but it quickly turned out that such a tux
   would be very expensive in the making and it is unlikely that we would
   find a store to cooperate with us to sell them since cuddly toys
   generally don't bring too much profit. Also they are pretty bulky and
   thus difficult to send around and store.
   We then discussed only having a few to put up at the booths as
   decoration and to see how they are received. Tolimar will investigate
   the possibilities there. 

   7.4 Debian Banner
   In order to have an eye catcher and make the Debian booth better
   recognisable from the distance we decided to buy some kind of banner. We
   decided against a "classical" landscape format one since they are
   difficult to put up and require a lot of space/a wide booth. Instead we
   will get a vertical one (or two) with a frame to put it up. Such a
   banner would only require a little space but still be an eye catcher.
   Alfie will investigate prices for such banners. If they are reasonable
   we might even have two made: One with the logo, one with some general
   promotional text (nothing that can get out of date though). There's also
   the possiblity to get the banner sponsored, and include a "banner
   sponsored by" note in one (small!) corner. One possible sponsor could be

   7.5 etch press kit
   Tolimar is collecting press material on etch at [2]. This will be
   useful for people wanting to write about the upcoming release but also
   for booth staff, since not everybody may be familiar with all the news in

   7.6 Debian Talks
   We decided to review and update http://www.debian.org/events/talks 

   7.7 The glass vitrine
   We discussed whether it makes sense to keep the glass vitrine, since it
   is very heavy and bulky and thus very expensive to ship. Additionally
   assembling it is pretty difficult. We agreed to keep it anway, since 
   it can be used for presenting merchandise as well as information 
   material. We need to find a new storage place for it though.

   7.8 What to show on the video projector
   We need something to show on the projector when it's not used for demos.
   So far we mostly showed bb but something fancier would be better. Meike 
   and Tolimar will create some kind of "Debian slide show". 
   7.9 Foil stickers
   There is a large demand for foil stickers (like the ones seppy does). 
   The merchandising team will investigate on the prices and order them.

   7.10 Event coordination in the German-speaking area
   We made a list of all upcoming events and discussed who can take care of
   them or at least go there and give a talk/help at the booth. The results
   of this can be found at [3]. We plan to continue this page as a central
   overview on upcoming events and to organise the Debian booths there. 


[0] http://wiki.debian.org/DebianEventsHowto
[1] http://wiki.debian.org/DebianEventsFaqs
[2] http://wiki.debian.org/NewInEtch
[3] http://wiki.debian.org/DebianEventsDe

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