For those who might not have browsed previous posts I'm heading up a free one day training event called SQLSaturday as part of my efforts on behalf of oPASS. It's been an interesting experience so far and we received a lot of good initial info from the ONETUG team. But being slightly competitive, we're trying to drive the quality of the event higher than customers might expect of a free event. Customers at a free event? Absolutely! Which brings us finally to the point...
Attendees expect a lot even if it's free. Of course one part of that is to set their expectations before they arrive, so far we've focused on the schedule and free lunch, but no details beyond that. As we get a bit closer we'll be providing them with both a PDF and printed program guide that has details on check in, lunch, raffles, the after event, etc. It's not so much that everything has to be done as well as it might be at a "real/paid for" event, but it's nice to meet their expectations.
So we're looking at how to make sure the attendees - the real focus after all - have a good enjoyable event. But I think where the Code Camps often miss the mark is they don't work as hard for their other customers; the people providing the facility, the volunteers, the speakers, and the sponsors. That's not to say they do nothing for those groups, just that it often feels half hearted. For example, here's a little thing that can really help a speaker; make sure there is plenty of cold bottled water on hand in the room! Couldn't the speaker carry their own water? Sure, but most are getting in the zone right before and are reviewing their material, they tend to forget about water until about 10 mins in under the glare of the projector.
Why worry about anyone except the attendees? Well, just like a business, I need them all as customers again for SQLSaturday 2008. If I don't look after the facility people, take care of volunteers, etc, it becomes that much harder to make each event better than the last because we keep repeating year one over and over again.
Will we succeed? Remains to be seen, but even if we don't quite live up to our own expectations it won't be for lack of thought and effort.