I’ve had a few conversation with various WordCamp programmers recently, mostly stemming from “how do we do ______”, “how did you do __________”, and I wanted to cover how we accomplished them cheaply, quickly. I know Jane is coming out with some extended help guides. Plus, I am more than happy to offer help to anyone with specific questions.
We recently threw a 500 person camp in Boston for just shy of 20k. We’re budgeted 30k for 600 people for Phoenix, and that’s with some massive padding. I know some people get worried about having to raise a ton of money, but generally its a good idea to start with “if ticket sales cover 50%, I should raise that much in sponsorships as a goal.”. If what you’re doing costs more than that, start cutting.
Remember, you’re really giving sponsors access to a very hard to reach and highly desirable demographic: the upwardly mobile geek. If you make the sponsor levels reasonable, it allows smaller companies to be involved. Provide them a sponsor sheet, and think about going to local companies. I think you can give sponsors great coverage at the event without tables, an expo, or overbranding. A few mentions is enough. And never, ever trade sponsorships for speaking slots.
Since this is the first thing you’ll go looking for, be creative in finding a venue. Free is optimal and should preempt all other needs. If the only venue you can find will fit 200 people, that’s the size you might want your camp if the alternative is spending 30k on a conference center. Some would say wifi isn’t neccesary, but its surely desireable. Consider colleges (who do you know there?), high schools, community centers, movie theatres, corporate spaces, any kind of community space possible, even open realty. Once you find such a space, try working with the venue- this is a “self supporting event” that serves the community. Can you make the rate more reasonable, we only have XX to spend. Remind venues that this is a crowd of bloggers, twitterers, and foursquarers, and will bring a great amt of coverage to the venue.
the biggest mistake I think you can make is locking into a venue with a catering contract. that is the budget killer. a surprising number of college campuses now have catering locked down. without a contract, you have options to allow people to venture into the city they’re in which is great for lunch, or to work with local vendors. for instance, consider local markets, pizza places, etc. even if they won’t donate lunches, you can normally work with them to bring the price down dramatically as a mix of sponsorship & cash. We had great luck with Whole Foods & Sprouts. Try to remember your vegans &v egetarians.
Try finding a local vendor to work with on shirts. You don’t have to brand the shirts with logos, just keep them simple. Figure on spending 5-10$ per shirt, and be sure to get a few quotes. This is another great opportunity for an exchange of cash + sponsorship.
It is absolutely unneccesary to have swag bags. If you do have them, they can be had for literally 1-2$ a piece from major bag producers. Consider going to sponsors and asking for them, or perhaps your food sponsor.
printing can be done at kinkos easily, but you can also consider Moo, who would print badges and programs for free. Contact me for our templates we used.
Basically, be in contact with the Foundation (jane). Its essential we get these sessions videotaped, but massive technology isn’t needed, and Jane will work to ensure you can videotape. Some flips is more than sufficient, and the Foundation will likely help with cameras & rendering videos to wordcamp.tv if you ask.
A reception just means you tell everyone where to meet. You don’t have to secure a room, etc…. you can certainly talk to the venue and warn them about the crowd and ask for some drink specials, etc. If you can’t find one venue, consider a “bar hop”.
Getting a hotel discount is a big boon to attendees, but the first thing a hotel will tell you is you need to guarantee a block of rooms. This is likely not true. You want to direct traffic to one hotel, they can give you a discount code, and in return, you won’t receive the “perks” of a hotel guarantee (free rooms or points for organizers, shorter hold times, etc).
Always, always have 10% in your budget for the things you don’t expect:) When there are no surprises, simply give the money to charity!
I know this is a quick overview, but hopefully this would be of assistance in aiding people to orchestrate an affordable but great wordcamp experience for their city. I’m always available for questions if you’d like.