Community is not just Cold Pizza
UPDATE: I've removed some negative quotes that I felt overshadowed the goal of this post. It's meant to be about successful community events in general.
Cold Pizza is not a good way to create community. We had a KILLER time in Portland at our InstallFest. Our DE, Jason Mauer, and the crew at PADNUG had 250 people show up - our largest crowd in PADNUG history, I think, and did many things right:
- Keep it Different with More than Cold Pizza: You can often get nicer food than pizza by having a locally owned business (not franchise) cater, We had Pasta Pronto come by and setup a buffet. A few months back we had Chef Randy from the Fresh Thyme Soup Co. We partnered with Cinetopia for the Diabetes Fundraiser. This is a great way for nerds to give back to their local community.
- Keep it Fast with Micro-Presentations - Jason and Rich called a pile of local nerds and said "come and give a 5-10 minute talk on VS2008." These "groktalks" are low effort, high-return and high-energy.
- Keep it Clear with Multiple Projectors - Everyone's got a projector at their company that they could check-out one evening and borrow. Local community events should never want for projectors. Engage with everyone and don't be afraid to ask the group for help. PADNUG had the event at Corillian and had three projectors going so everyone could see.
- Keep it Fresh - Bring in guests. I try not to present too much locally because folks get tired of hearing me jabber on! Rich and Jason brought Charlie Calvert to talk about C#!
- Keep It Interactive - Local Community events should never be "push content into their brains." Everyone's got a wide variety of experience and thoughtful heckling (thanks Chris Sells for heckling me and keeping me on track, considering that I was presenting on 2 hours sleep!) is part of the camaraderie that makes technical communities engaging.
The InstallFests in the US are usually being run by your local Developer Evangelist or .NET User Group. Call him or her and ask how you can help make local events better! If you have an InstallFest coming up in your area, how can you make Stone Soup out of your event?
Talk to your local evangelist and see what can be done to fire up future events.