The past couple of weeks have been a blur for me. It started with a FirefoxOS AppDay at Vizag last week, followed by another FirefoxOS AppDay and MDN sprints at Kolkata this week. The challenges we faced at both of these events made us reconsider the way we organize events in partnership with local organizers. Here is a brief sum up of what we faced and what possible solutions we propose.
Problem #1: Lack of communication with local orgaziners
All speakers from Mozilla India are volunteers. All of them have academic or professional commitments. This is one of the primary reasons why we organize events on weekends and travel on Friday nights to reach the venue and return back on Sunday nights. That takes away the weekends, which our classmates or colleagues get to relax or catch up with their study and work. Yes, it is hectic, but we enjoy every moment of it! So long as we get an eager crowd to cater our knowledge to.
Given this type of schedule, our calendars are totally blocked on weekdays and we rarely get to do anything outside our current schedule. For most of the events, we are not able to stay in touch with the local organizers and ensure they organize everything according to our requirements.
This results in huge gap between what we expect from the organizers and what the organizers expect from us. For instance, at Vizag, we had no idea that we will end up with such less number of participants than originally promised by the local organizer. This was primarily because the University hosting the event was on holiday and students had gone back home, which we were not informed before we reached the venue.
Problem #2: No specified guideline for required event infrastructure
Each event format has its own specific set of requirements. At present, for each new event, we provide some information to the local organizers regarding what we need at the event. This includes anything from proper lighting to internet to seating arrangements.
The trouble is, at the moment we do not have a specific set of guidelines or SOPs that we can hand out to local organizers and make sure they comply with those requirements. Whatever we put forward as requirements are more of gut feeling rather than from a specified rule.
So for each event, we end up taking a lot of overhead in thinking what would be the required infrastructure for that event. Even then, what we specify as the requirements remains debatable given that there is no authoritative document for it. To make things worse, these requirements are often conveyed over phone to make things quicker. There remains no substantial proof of the requirements we had set in case anything goes wrong.
Problem #3: We almost never get internet at the venue
From what I hear, this is the case with almost all events worldwide. Both of these events at Vizag and Kolkata had mentioned there will be “good” internet at venue, capable of handling at least 50 participants. It turned out to be exactly opposite. Internet was at its worst in both the venues during our sessions. The sessions on MDN could not proceed in the Kolkata event because of no internet access.
We need to improve communication between the speakers and the organizers. This can be done by appointing a dedicated event manager for Mozilla India.
We need to have a SOP for infrastructure requirements for events. There would be generic set of requirements which will apply to all events, and then specific set of requirements for each event format. Mozilla would not send speakers unless those requirements are taken care of.
We need something akin to an event kit for speakers, which will include 4G internet dongles, VGA adapters etc.
I hope these issues are addressed in the ongoing Mozilla South Asia Meetup 2014 at Kolkata.