In my previous two posts, I discussed guidelines for the preparation of running a code camp, and then I went through all the tasks for handling the actual day of the event. Here, I’ll be discussing the things you should do after the event is done — after you’ve given yourself a few hours (minutes?) to bask in its afterglow.
Tally the feedback forms as soon as possible after the session. I experienced an interesting phenomenon at the end of the day, after the attendees had all left and the speakers were waiting to go out to dinner. They were all over the evaluation sheet box, checking ratings and feedback. The visual is quite an experience, and in my bewilderment, Melissa Demcsak (who didn’t speak at this event, but has done so at others) observed that I must be new to this, because it’s a common occurrence. I certainly understand it though.
I gathered all the ratings and averages for each category, sending it along with comments specific to each speaker’s session, and also the general comments about the code camp. You can download a copy of our eval document as a starting point for your own.
I’m sure you’re thinking there must be a high-tech way of handling this, but for gathering feedback while the sessions are still fresh in attendees’ minds, I’m not sure there is. Even if we had set up kiosks, forcing people to line up at a few really isn’t an attractive option. The goal is to make it as friction-free as possible. It’s the facilitators’ job to deal with the work involved afterwards. Yes, it was a pain manually tallying all the sheets, but I got into a rhythm, and was able to push through it in decent time. It was pretty interesting reading the comments, and quite a challenge deciphering the handwriting. And, yes, even some normally detail-oriented developers still have trouble following directions .
I created a spreadsheet with a worksheet for each speaker, one for general comments, and one for tallying results from the venue-specific questions. Here, you’ll find a semi-fictionalized sample (the names and ratings have been changed to protect the innocent). I then split each speaker’s worksheet into its own spreadsheet, which I emailed (along with the General worksheet) to each speaker.
Follow-Up Communication with the Speakers
Of course, don’t forget follow up with the speakers right after the event to thank them for volunteering their time and effort, not to mention their sheer courage for speaking in front of a crowd for at least an hour straight. Like I said before, without the speakers, there is no code camp (no user groups, no education, no growth and no interest in the field — nothing). These people deserve all the credit in the world for making all of this possible. This would also be a good time to remind them to send you their presentation slides, etc., if they hadn’t already. You probably already have attendees bugging you for these.
Post the Session Presentation Material
Shortly after the event is complete (by the following Monday, if possible), try to post all the material you’ve received up until that point. We placed a session list on the home page of the code camp for easy access, with links on each square leading to a zip file of the material. Also, if a speaker has a web page, link their name to that page. And if you happen to take photos and/or videos of a session, also create a link to it from within that box. Keep these up-to-date as you continue to receive material. I created a standard naming convention to easily create and update the links. In the future, I plan on making this data-driven. For this code camp, I’ve been updating a simple table, but it’s still error prone.
Final Call for Presentation Material
You don’t want to be too annoying (I’m known to be a bit annoying ), but a week or so after the event, you may want to send out one last reminder for presentation material. As top members of our field, the speakers are probably all very busy, so sometimes a little nudge will help give them a chance to refocus for a few minutes to gather up their material.
Plan the Next Event
What? Already? You bet. You don’t want to lose the momentum. I’d wait a few weeks, but not much more than a month after the event to follow up with both the speakers and the attendees. We haven’t done this quite yet, but we’ll be sending out an email shortly, asking everyone about the topics they’d want to see next time, and ask the speakers if they’d be interested in presenting follow-up topics in either our next code camp (around May, if we do these semi-annually), or if they’d want to expand upon their topics at a user group meeting in 2008.
Wow, there were a lot of guidelines, but this is a big undertaking — much larger than I had realized. But it was well worth it! It’s definitely not something that you’d want to take on more than a couple of times a year. With solid planning, dedication, and some seasoned guidance, you can do this, and it’s an experience you’ll not soon forget.
Please let me know if I missed any important points. I hope these guidelines prove useful, and I’ll keep these posts updated as a reference for anyone who wants to run a code camp or similar event in their community.