October Gophers: The Rundown

October Gophers: The Rundown

Last week we hosted October Gophers at Checkout.com. And it went great! The talks were all fantastic; the venue looked amazing, and I even made this pretty collage.

Now you may look at this and think. "Damn, seems like a pretty cool event right?" Wrong! Just kidding, it was!

However, we can always strive to improve and check in with ourselves to see if there’s anything we can do better next time, or understand what’s going well.

Oh and to preface, this is entirely from my perspective as an organizer of London Gophers and not the opinion of London Gophers or any of their attendees.

Things That Went Hunky-Dory

Priority Queue

This was our first time testing this system out and, at least as a first impression, it seemed to go over well and the people I’ve asked like the idea.

It wasn’t difficult to keep track of the number of reserved seats either but if we ever return to hosting meetups that are 200-300 people strong will that change?

In terms of stats, of the 20 seats we reserved we reached 17 before we hit cut-off point to release the remaining seats. Which is better than I initially expected. As it’s still early days, we’ll see how the system progresses, but it’s certainly a good start.

RSVP Reminders

This time around we sent out RSVP reminders asking our attendees to please update their RSVPs if they couldn’t make it and explained how we’d be keeping track of attendance and giving away the spots of serial offenders to those on the waitlist.

Which helped, as after sending out the communication I think around 30 people, over time, moved their RSVP from ‘going’ to ‘not going’ which meant at least 30 additional people from the 70+ people on the waitlist could now attend the event. This rate of RSVP updating was a lot higher than our last event, but unfortunately I don’t have hard data to show that the reminders did anything, or if anyone even saw them.

We still had several no-shows, but it’s one of those statistics that I don’t think will ever be zero. It’s a free event, the only barrier to entry is making an account on Meetup, there aren’t strong penalties for not showing up and anything can happen at the last minute. All we can do is try to mitigate the drop-off rate as best as we can.

Increased Communication

This is something we are still working on, but I think we’re getting better at it. During the meetup we had slides explaining how you can contact London Gophers, as well as how the meetup follows the Go Community Code of Conduct.

We may need to go further, but it’ll take time and mistakes to see which areas we aren’t clear and what information is hard to find.

For example, is it easy for someone who wishes to talk at London Gophers to find out how to do so, where to submit and what/how to submit? I’d say yes, but that’s because I have full context on it. I do not know what the context is like for our attendees.

Our Recording Equipment Has Improved

I invested in a wireless microphone and for 1 of the 3 recordings I did I set it up correctly and it sounded pretty alright. Which is good, as some venues can not record so we can continue to rely on ourselves to create a recording and have the audio not sound completely tragic.

Unfortunately, I only set it up correctly once. The other times I messed it up and my camera died later into the night so we had to use the backup Zoom recording audio.

Things That Went Not-So-Hunky-Dory

How We Handle The Register

Since the restart, 3 different venues have hosted London Gophers. All have required some kind of register of attendees for security, which makes sense. If there’s a fire, you need to make sure you know how many people are in the building.

And we also need a register so we can keep track of who attended and the rate of drop-off. You may wonder why this is important. In short, one way to combat drop-offs rates is to overbook.

If, for example, you’re aiming for 100 attendees and you know from experience that no matter what you do you will always have a 20% drop-off, you can instead book for 120. (GCSE Math coming in clutch there). However, some venues require data in order to allow for that and on the off chance 120 show up, we still need to accommodate for that.  

Anyway, we couldn’t use this new feature on Meetup. So, all we had were CSV spreadsheets, which we sent to the venue. However, because of a small administrative error, the security were still using a list from a week ago.

Thankfully, this was solved quite painlessly (updated to the new list), but it brought up another minor issue.

RSVP updates can happen late. Which means even if a venue gets the attendance list a day beforehand, on the day of the event, Meetup may move attendees into ‘going’ because of someone updating their RSVP to ‘not going’ on the day.

If this attendee then turns up, they might not be on the register even though it’s only a day old.

We’re still deciding how we might handle this, but we think communicating the ‘cut-off’ point for when we send the register might be a good idea. As in, we have a fixed time we send the register to the venue and make our attendees, as well as the venues, aware of this.

What would be more fantastic is if there was like a living, collaborative register or something we could share with the venue. For paid music events, for example, there are QR codes and scannable tickets. So even last-minute tickets can enter the event. Security doesn’t need a list of names, it just needs to see a ticket.

Surely there’s some kind of version of that for free events? One that doesn’t require a ticket? I don’t know, but would love a hint. I’m sure this is a solved problem, we just don’t know what the answer/tool to use is yet.

How I Close Out Speakers

This one is more of a ‘me’ thing if you watch the latest videos of the October Gophers meetup. I noticed at the end of each of the speaker’s talks/questions the crowd didn’t really know when to applause. I funnily enough covered this before from when I was helping to host a room at GopherCon UK.

I need to learn to say final statements. Such as, “and can we have another round of applause for X!” The audience wants to clap, they just don’t know when to and I’m not helping by shuffling up awkwardly and saying ‘thanks for the talk’ while grabbing the microphone back.

That’s it

Did other things happen? Yes, probably, but articles can’t last forever. I’ll likely keep striving along with the team at London Gophers to see in what ways we can continue to improve and make the whole event both seamless and welcoming to our attendees, the venue hosts and future organizers.

Thanks for reading!