Tips for Event Planning for Developers

We don’t want to sound cocky, but there’s no way for us to write this without it.  Therefore, call us cocky, but really, how hard is it to throw a developer event?

People constantly tell us how our shows rock.  We give credit to speakers (they do most of the talking) and sponsors (they do a lot of the paying), but there is something about our shows that people just like.  It’s the community, it’s the feel, it’s the vibe.

We think the main reason why we’re successful is that we know what developers like.  It’s not because we interview them extensively, but rather because we are/were developers.  Like Todd McFarlane said, “I just make what I like and I figure other people are like me and enjoy the same things.”  I’m paraphrasing there, but not much.

If you’ve been tasked with putting on something for developers, here’s some tips to help make it a success. Note: We don’t follow all these rules at our shows because, well, because rules are meant to be broken once you learn them, but you’re likely just learning so stick to the list, okay?  :)

1) Giveways: T-shirts are a must, product (i.e. hardware/software) will get you brownie points.  Developers love two things: t-shirts and product.  In their dream world, they’d never pay for either.  Both however are required for their lives to be fulfilled. You may ask, “Do developers need another shirt?”  Just look around.  What do you see?  Tshirts…lots of them.  Some are very worn out due to the amount of use they’ve gotten.  This *despite* the fact that they probably have 30 others in their closet.  The point is to try to become that worn out shirt.  You want these developers to pimp your product for as long as they live right? Make and give a great shirt, and you’ll more than make your money back in free advertisement.

2) Toys: Developers are really just kids at heart.  They’ve never stopped playing with LEGOs.  Only now, instead of linking plastic bricks, they’re linking lists and classes, etc.  If you’re having an event for a product, you better make darn sure the product is there.  If Prince (Yeah, the singer) throws a party, you expect Prince to sing at the party.  When Sting got married, even though the Police were already broken up, they got together to play for the reception.  Why?  Because there’s just certain expectations you must live up to, or people will be mad and feel cheated.  If you don’t give away any product, but at least have some to play with, you’ll escape the wrath of developers; though you will likely get many, “Are you sure you can’t part with just this one?”.  If you don’t even have some product to play with, then really to be blunt: your event is worthless.  Developers can read and read they do: blogs, tweets, reviews, etc.  If you don’t give them tactile gratification of your product, your event is pretty much a waste of time minus the free meal (see below).

3) Presentations: This one’s a toughy.  If you’re going to have presos, make sure it’s clear and that the alcohol is far from the presos.  DO NOT expect a crowd of 500 to quiet down when you “Shush” them after they’ve been drinking and chatting for an hour.  Place chairs in a room to signify “This is for watching quietly”.  No chairs equals rock concert and sadly, very few people (except maybe Steve Jobs) can command rock star status at a developer event.  Therefore, people will just keep mingling and will ignore the presenter(s). There’s nothing wrong with having presentations, just make sure you prep the crowd and set expectations.  Having your presenters yell over the microphone to *try* to get people’s attention is just annoying to the attendees and the speaker both.

3A) Name it correctly: This goes with #3.  If you call something a “camp” or “conference” or “presentation”, people will know to expect a speaker with a screen spouting off some diatribe.  If you call it a “party”, people expect lots of free drinks and no strings attached (i.e. NO presentations).  Think about it.  In real life, if you went to a “party” where a friend (or group of friends) were giving a presentation, you’d be like, “This is whack, I’m outta here.” Same thing with developer events.  There’s nothing wrong with doing both.  Just be clear on your invite: “Presos and Info @ 6, Party @ 8”.  Just like a wedding, “Ceremony at 1, reception at 4”  Aunt Bessie can come to the ceremony and leave before Drunk Cousin Larry shows up.  There’s nothing wrong with presenting as some people prefer it to the parties, but let people know what’s up.

4) Free food and beverages: This one should go without saying, but we’ll throw it in, just in case.  This should go for every event/party you throw, for personal or professional reasons.  If you are inviting people to gather somewhere, have the decency to feed them and quench their thirst.  Developers like beer (and root beer floats as we’re finding out), so beer will likely be a requirement.  However, try to feed them too, especially if your event crosses into meal times (lunch, dinner).  You don’t even have to get fancy, pizza will do.  However, nicer pizza again gives you brownie points!

That’s it from us.  If you think we missed anything, drop a comment and we’ll amend the list if we agree. :)

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