Ok, so it shouldn’t be referred to as Creating Consumer Camp, Part II: The Quickening. This is actually the 2nd of 3 posts, designed to help MVPs who want to put on a Consumer Camp event of their own understand some of the basics from idea to execution. The first part of this series dealt with questions that MVPs should ask themselves about the particular Consumer Camp event they want to put on. I also suggested ideas for when to have them and how to think about your particular venue.
As I went from Post 1 to 2, I decided that it would be easier to give a concrete example so you can pluck ideas as necessary and apply them to your own situation. So lets say an Xbox MVP wanted to put on a workshop called “The Un(X)boxing: From Purchase to Xbox Live”. The program will deal around what one does when they get a new Xbox 360 home. How to go from taking it out of the box to being the new noob on Xbox Live. This example MVP is going to have it at the Microsoft store in Century City on a future Saturday from 6 to 8pm. Their lead is on-board and they know of a couple of Xbox MVPs who can help participate.
How now can they go into the pre-event organization and promotion phase.
For pre-organization, I would suggest keeping in constant communication with the MVP lead. They have greater reach to other MVPs who might be interested in helping promote the event, at least from a distance, or you could find out about additional MVPs — related to the topic — who may want to help. Maybe you find out there’s a Zune MVP in your area, who can talk about the additional services once established and online. Maybe you find out there’s a Windows Live MVP so you can transition from talking about cloud storage and floating profiles to a bit about how most things in the cloud go with you via Skydrive.
I’ve found out that the MVP lead is one of the most important people in this equation, especially when you have an MVP lead that believes in what you’re doing. If you don’t have a particular connection to a product team that you think could benefit from your topic, your MVP lead can become that conduit between you and the product team(s) you want to make requests of. When establishing this contact with your MVP lead, make sure that the lead has a clear understanding of your event and what your goals are. That will better help them figure who should be the people to bring into the loop and how best to word your requests to them.
If you can, visit the venue a few weeks before your event. Get a feel for the space and understand the diagrams. You may have done this for the first steps, outlined in part 1, but once you begin to have people in place and are making your topics concrete, a second visit to the venue would be ideal. Take a complete walkthrough, take pictures of the space, do what you need to do to go home and fully be able to know where your presentations are going to be and how the event is going to flow.
If you plan on doing a presentation yourself, start rehearsing it now. Once you know what your particular role is going to be, make sure that you’re on top of your game. It can be easy to get into the spirit of the event and forget major points (it’s even happened to me, so I sympathize beforehand). Also tell your presenters to have their presentations ready. If you can, see them beforehand. It would help you because you can become a better host of the event and be able to make better transitions between one segment and the next.
Do you plan to give prizes for your event? Don’t be afraid to ask product teams and ask early. One of my flaws is that I have this trouble asking product teams for prizes, because I always think they could use that hardware/software for other, more major events. Get over that, if you ever think the same way. Remember, Consumer Camp is reaching out to the major population of people who will be using this technology in their everyday lives. If you want them to have the chance to take home some of the items that they learn about, be up front about that and be confident about it. I had to learn that early on and, so far, I’ve been honored that the product teams see Consumer Camp as something to rally behind.
Assuming you have an event at the Microsoft store, they are going to want preliminary information (i.e. expected number of attendees, any equipment needed, catering, etc). In my travels, catering becomes less important than maybe raffle prizes, however you may see it different depending upon your particular audience. Again, it’s very important to maintain a constant loop between the store, you, and your lead. I’ve learned that setting up conference calls is a fantastic way for everyone to hammer out (usually within 30-45 minutes) everything that’s going to be needed for the event.
Promotion & Getting the Word Out
So now you feel you have the event all set and running smoothly. Now you have to figure out how to get the public there. I’ve used EventBrite to establish an RSVP page that people can sign up to note their expected attendance. You can also create a Facebook event page and share with your friends. There’s a Consumer Camp Facebook page that would be more than happy to create and host the event RSVP if you wish. That way things remain under the Consumer Camp umbrella and remain organized.
Since you’ll know your topics, and possibly your planned prizes, put all of that in the RSVP page for your event. It’s important that people know everything that’s happening with your event. Then you’ll know that the planned attendees have a genuine interest in what’s being presented. Some may just show up thinking they could win the prizes, but I’ve learned that they go away from the event more glad of what they learned than what they could win.
Don’t be afraid to use your personal social accounts to promote the event. You’re doing an awesome thing that’s going to benefit a lot of people. Friends and family will rally behind you for something like that. However, understand that your own personal voice can only travel so far. My own voice (anywhere that you find tromboneforhire) can only have so much reach. It’s become important, again, to have your MVP lead and the product teams help in this regard. Maybe you’ll get your event mentioned by the MVP Award program, maybe the product teams will share about your event (especially if they’re part of the focused topics — so in the case of The Un(X)boxing, maybe key individuals people associate with Xbox will bring up your event to their followers and friends. Things like that, when they get reposted and retweeted, can go a mighty long way.)
Some Microsoft stores have been very good about sharing the upcoming event with their followers. See if the store (or any venue you plan to have this) will let foot traffic know about the event a couple of weeks beforehand. You could create flyers that could be handed out or you could even visit the store one day prior and talk with folks — wear an MVP shirt. The whole goal here is to make the word spread out with multiple voices.
So now, you have the program goals/agenda established and you have people spreading the word like wildfire. Now it’s time to prepare for the big day and make sure that you have the tools to analyze the event once it’s done. The third part of this series will deal with just that: how to get ready for the event, on the day of, how to collect opinions about the event and how to analyze that data post-event.
Remember, if you want further information than what’s presented here, maybe in the hopes that you want to establish a Consumer Camp event in your area, contact me at consumercamp [at] live [dot] com.