Part of our organising documentation.

Organising a meeting

Note that this documents our current procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic where we’re running remote meetings. It’ll be slightly different when we return to in-person meetings.

We need to:

  1. Schedule the meeting
  2. Confirm the speakers
  3. Announce the meeting
  4. Host the meeting
  5. Run follow up

We aim to start thinking about a meeting a couple of months out, to give us plenty of time to arrange it all. Ideally we can announce the meeting a week or so after the last one. E.g. in early June we’d start thinking about the August meeting, and aim to announce it in mid July.

To help with this, Harmonia will randomly assign one of the organising team to “Make sure the xxx meeting is organised” about 2 months in advance. Being assigned this task doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself, just that you are responsible for making sure it does get done by someone. Share the effort!

Schedule the meeting

This means making sure we know when the meeting is.

Our standard schedule is the 2nd Monday of the month, but sometimes we need to move it around, if it clashes with a bank holiday, or some other big event. If we do need to move it shifting to the next or previous Monday is the preferred option, but work out what is most convenient with the rest of the organising team.

Confirm the speakers

Once we know the date, we can start confirming speakers. We have a [spreadsheet of volunteers][schedule-preadsheet] where we maintain a list of current volunteers, with notes and pencilled in dates. There are links into our shared inbox software to the conversations with each volunteer so you can chase up the speakers.

What we need from them

To confirm the speakers we need:

A full agenda

We run the meetings from 6:30pm to 8:00pm. With 10 minutes or so admin at the start, that means we have about 1 hour and 20 minutes (80 minutes) to fill. It’s totally fine to not fill 80 minutes. Getting one speaker in just so we can make an LRUG happen is good.

Speakers often don’t fill their allotted time, so we frequently end before our self-imposed 8pm curfew even if we have “filled” the 80 minutes.

If you do have multiple talks to choose from then combinations that work well are:

Combinations that work, but are painful:

Special combinations:

But! Any combination that doesn’t go over 80 minutes will do.

What if it doesn’t go smoothly

Hopefully all that is needed is for you to pick the top 2 or 3 volunteers who are already earmarked for the meeting you are organising and email them to confirm the date and their timeslot. They get back to you and the meting is full of speakers.

It doesn’t always go that smoothly.

In this case we’ll need to actually find some speakers as well as confirm them. Check out our tips on populating the speaker backlog if you need to find speakers. Adding an urgent “for this month’s meeting” plea can help.

Announce the meeting

Once we have at least one speaker confirmed, then we are ready to announce the meeting. This means:

  1. Schedule the zoom meeting
  2. Set up the eventbrite page so people get reserve their place
  3. Write up the meeting on lrug.org
  4. Tell the mailing list about it
  5. Tweet about it

Ideally we do all this the week after the previous meeting, but sometimes we do it really close to the event if we’re struggling to get speakers. It can be useful to write up placeholder versions and publish them, so that people will at least get the event into their calendars.

If we have more than one speaker it can be useful to trickle the speaker announcements out over a couple of weeks in order to keep reminding people.

Schedule the zoom meeting

We schedule the zoom meeting in advance so we can:

  1. add the link to the “online event page” in eventbrite
  2. pass on the link to the speakers well in advance
  3. get the recording properly named for the meeting

We have a paid zoom account that allows us to have 100 attendees and store ~1Gb of recordings (or 1 meeting if the recording is bigger).

Set up the eventbrite page

We use eventbrite to collect attendee details and manage how many people can come. Our zoom account has 100 places so we limit the eventbrite page to 95 tickets to leave room for the host and speakers.

We like to be creative with this page, add a fun header image and create amusing ticket types. We tend not to put full meeting details into this and just point people at lrug.org where the write up is.

There’s a long version of how to set up these pages over here, but in brief:

It does take a bit of effort though, so do checkout the detailed version.

We have a free eventbrite account and as long as we only have free tickets it should do us well forever.

Write up on lrug.org

The write-ups are fairly straightforward, so much so you can copy the previous meeting page and replace the details.

  1. Change the registration url to the new eventbrite page.
  2. Change the internal links for registration - we typically have a link in the meeting details at the top of the write-up like:
    [register here](#sept21registration)
    

    and later a registration heading like:

    ## Registration {#sept21registration}
    

    this allows the links to jump to the right registration block even when the meeting info is displayed on an index page with other meetings. Make sure you update both references.

  3. Fill in the details of each talk in the agenda section - a pattern like:
    ### Talk title
    [Speaker name](preferred-url) says:
    
    > details of their talk
    

    usually covers it, but go wild if you want!

  4. Update the frontmatter to include created_at / published_at timestamps that are broadly correct (they’re used to order the pages)
  5. Make sure the date and times are correct for the announcement
  6. If you feel up to it tweak some of the wording to make the announcement unique, but this is far from a requirement - after all there are only so many way to say “please register”, “hang out afterwards”, “here are the talks”

Push this up as a PR to the lrug.org github repo and once CI has okayed it you can merge and this will automatically deploy to lrug.org.

Tell the mailing list about the meeting

Once the meeting is written up on lrug.org you should email the mailing list to tell people about it. We keep this short and to the point:

  1. Include the date and start and end times
  2. Include titles and speaker names
  3. Point people at lrug.org to find out more
  4. Point people at the readme to agree to the code of conduct
  5. Point people at eventbrite to register for a place
  6. Ask for more volunteers - even if the agenda is full, it can be a good hook for future volunteers

Tweet about the meeting

Once the meeting is written up on lrug.org you should tweet about it. Twitter has even less space than email, so keep it brief and point people at lrug.org for full details. Feel free to use threads, but no-one wants a 30-tweet storm to announce a meeting.

  1. Mention the speakers by their twitter handles if you have them
  2. Point people at lrug.org for full details and registration info

It can be useful to tweet a few times in the lead up, and to tweet on the morning of the actual meeting. A lot of people need reminding and twitter is as good a way as any.

Host the meeting

This is quite involved, so check out our separate “hosting the meeting” documentation for all the detail.

It’s also important to remember that just because you’re responsible for organising the meeting, it doesn’t mean that you need to be the person hosting the meeting that month. Yours is the power to delegate!

The short version is that you need to:

  1. be around from about 6pm to run through logistics and AV check with the speakers.
  2. turn on the zoom recording
  3. mute everyone but the speakers
  4. manage any Q&A by inviting people to “raise hand” in zoom
  5. do some admin announce stuff at the start
  6. wrap up at the end
  7. take screengrabs and tweet something as each speaker starts
  8. be free to hangout after 8pm if people want to stay on the zoom call, but this is optional if you have plans or simply want to eat

Run follow up

After the meeting, we need to follow up:

  1. We should edit the videos for the talks and post them online
  2. Email the speakers to thank them for their talks and invite them to add coverage links for their talks (write ups, slides, relevant repos, other videos, etc…)
  3. Tweet about the videos once they are posted