Unconference Basics — Step 4: Work On When

Primary Factors For Unconference Date

The first three “basics of events wrangling for an unconference”, clarifying what, why and who for the event, building the core team, and confirming key participants and supporters were discussed in earlier posts. Once those three steps have been taken care of, it’s time to start pinning down When the unconference will happen.

calendarUntil those earlier steps were addressed, there was no need to select an event date. In any of the first three steps, it might have been decided to not do the event. But the work done up to this point has shown it’s both worthwhile and possible to do the event. Now the serious work begins and the timeline becomes very important.

The core team will have already discussed tentative months or weekends to consider for the event so that when they confirmed the enthusiasm of key participants and supporters, they could be given a rough idea of when the event might happen. Now those tentative months or weekends will be evaluated and a final date selected. Primary factors in choosing an unconference date are:

  1. Weather Issues
  2. Participant Awareness
  3. Participant Scheduling
  4. Sponsor Commitment Confirmation
  5. Equipment and Supplies Arrangements
  6. Conflict Dates Avoidance
  7. Key Participants’ Availability
  8. Venue Availability

Weather Issues

snowThe weather factor was likely taken into account when you chose tentative months or weekends before talking to key participants and sponsors. The primary issue here is that locations with periods of unpleasant weather, such as cold, snow, heat, humidity, and other severe conditions should, in most cases, avoid those months.

Participant Awareness

The first factor is having enough time to get the participants, since they’re really the key component of any unconference. The timeline for getting participants depends partly on how easy it is to get the initial tier of twenty to thirty participants to commit. If only a small number of potential participants live in the city where the event will happen, more outreach will be needed to make the right people aware of it. If some organizers and supporters are strongly or extensively connected to the target audience, that shortens participant awareness time.

Participant Scheduling

Another factor affecting the unconference date is allowing enough time for participant scheduling. People seem to get busier every day, and if not given enough advance notice, they’ll be reluctant to add a long event to their schedule, or they’ll have prior commitments they won’t want to reschedule or skip.

Sponsor Commitment Confirmation

sponsorship commitmentIn Step 3 of unconference basics, you secured a high enough level from a variety of potential sponsors to convince you to move ahead on your organizing efforts. Now that you’re getting close to setting the final date and making legally binding arrangements to use a venue, it’s time to get serious confirmation on firm commitments from venue sponsors (in-kind or financial sponsorship) and those who are covering other major costs, such as meals.

Equipment and Supplies Arrangements

Timeline impacts of equipment and supplies depends on what items will be available at the unconference and who is providing them. If participants are bringing pretty much all supplies and equipment, not much time is needed for working on that.

Conflict Dates Avoidance

Avoid dates close to other major tech events in the same city or region that might have same target audience. An example is BarCampMilwaukee and Maker Faire Milwaukee. Since Maker Faire is an official Make Magazine event and is scheduled for September 24 – 25, 2016, BarCampMilwaukee 2016 will likely need to be scheduled either later in October (to give Maker Faire participants time to recover) or in August.

Key Participants’ Availability

availabilityNow that you’re ready to pick a date, make a list of key participants, including the unconference organizers. Confirm whether those key people are available and identify a first-choice date for which a majority of key participants say they will commit to. Also pick a back-up date that’s good for many of those people in case no venue can be secured for the first-choice date.

Venue Availability

Now that all the other issues regarding unconference date have been taken into account, it’s time to find one or several venues that are available and have the required related resources (like fast, large-pipe internet access) and meet all the other venue criteria.

Tomorrow’s post will address selecting which of the available venues will be the Where for your unconference.


Posts in this “Unconference Basics” series:

Events Wrangling Basics For Unconferences
Unconference Basics — Step 2: Build Core Team To Get To Next Level
Unconference Basics — Step 3: Confirm Key Participants And Supporters
Unconference Basics — Step 4: Work On When” — today’s post
Unconference Basics — Step 5: Work On Where
Unconference Basics — Step 6: Start Publicizing
Unconference Basics — Step 7: Begin Personal Invitations
Unconference Basics — Step 8: Organize Equipment
Unconference Basics — Step 9: Organize Supplies
Unconference Basics — Step 10: Run The Unconference
Unconference Basics — Step 11: Follow-up After The Unconference


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