FOSS4G 2016 Lessons Learned

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FOSS4G 2016 Lessons Learned

This is to document things that the local committee learned, for the benefit of future FOSS4Gs!!


  • Arnulf told me, that the 1500$ supporter package was especially created "as is", means with conference pass and is used by smaller companies - which are the ground deposit and so important for spreading the word! That's the reason, why we didn't touch it...
  • We've done a very, very conservative calculation and only calculated 40k sponsoring money. Of course, the more, the better, but doing that will give you a more robust view on what attendees must bring in return. Might be you should adapt your break even points or even have to rise your fees. Finally it was around €120k minus free tickets connected to the sponsorship
  • Many exhibitors asked for additional reduced and/or free tickets, which we negotiated
  • We seperated exhibition and sponsorship due to some empty big booths from Gold Sponsors in Seoul... manned booth are much more attractive for all attendees and so in general for all exhibitors ;-)
 * exhibition was possible from bronze upwards (see idea behind supporter level above)
 * booth choose was "first comes, first serves, regardless from sponsorship level
 * 4 weeks before the conference we opened the exhibition also to our supporter sponsors
  • Exhibition costs were "as is", no extra value for us, the organizers
  • We created many kind of partnerships (I pass over the list of contacts) and announced them as "Institutional partners". The deal was, we publish their logo on our website and announce them (twitter, e.g.) and they publishour newsletters through their email-lists - no costs for nobody, but helped to spread the word

résumé: I think seperating sponsorship and exhibition is a good idea. Perhaps think to lower sponsorship level costs, so that sponsorship is even possible for "small and/or one man companies", perhaps think of a mini-supporter sponsorship without ticket. When we've seen, that there were rooms free, we offered sponsor-tracks in the programme, but the time to announce them was too short, so nearly nobody attended there. My opinion: Cancel.


  • Our goal was to put OSGeo much to front, so that everybody gets the message: "THIS IS AN OSGEO CONFERENCE"
  • For this the first and best located booth we planned was for OSgeo and from what I have seen, there was always traffic
  • Maybe a point for the 2018+ calls to request for an OSGeo booth in the first row

Travel Grants

  • The Travel Grants Program should be a fix part on every FOSS4G. Apply for money from the board soon! Conference Committee has to define unique rules (I already requested for this)
  • Should be sponsored by OSgeo and potentially the attendees. We used a Paypal account, but only gathered 50€, perhaps need for better marketing here
  • We paid travel grantees the ticket & their overnight - paying for travels is very difficult and could hardly be managed (what if they cancel their trip a few days before? The money is lost etc.). So Travel-Grantees had to care for their travel costs on their own
  • Selection mode & more -> see FOSS4G 2016 Travel Grants

Financial Stuff

  • Make kind of a risk analysis, that lists the costs you have 6,3,2,1 month before the event - this shows clearly, which costs you have in the very unlikely case, you have to cancel. Comparing these costs with the number of already registered attendees will help you to sleep better ;-)
  • About Early Birdies - I just talked to Sanghee, chair of the 2015 event. In Seoul 25% of all attendees registered few days before online registration closed or did it on-site! And that's why we thought about how we can attract Early Birders with more than just a smaller price. I like the early plans from Boston attracting Early Birdies especially!
  • We made a risk-assessment about what costs we have when we have to cancel 6, 3 and 1 month before the event and also, what happens, if we don't hit the sponsorship target. Might be useful to avoid sleepness nights


  • We are a community of late bookers, so don't get nervous if numbers are low at the beginning :-)
  • Maybe try to make Early Bird even more attractive than we did (we raised the difference and sent 50 EB-T-Shirts around the world)
  • Although we closed registration late (maybe too late on friday 19.8.!), still some people came and attended the conference on-site. Be prepared!
  • Having a good booking system helps really! We had the chance to rent one that was especially adapted to us
  • be prepared that many, many attendees will come and request for an invoice (instead of CreditCard payment), cancellations, changes in booking, ask for filling out special forms for their administration and so on. Just want to say: Be prepared, that one person has at least a 20h/week job to catch up with that

LOC Organization

  • If LOC consists of volunteers, don't expect permanent awareness, be patient and plan with some slack time ;-)
  • But if LOC consists of enthusiastic people, it gives F4G a personal touch, better than buy everything from a PCO


  • We had what we called "Institutional supporters" with the deal, we name your organisation and we can use your distributor for our press releases. In my eyes that helped to reach neighboured communities!

Sponsorship & Exhibition

  • We've been very conservative in assessing sponsorship income (we calculated with 30k at the beginning) and I think that helped us really to do a more realistic planning
  • We had some minor problems, because our sponsorship team was not available during the whole period
* that caused, that other people had to jump into partwise and some issues arised such as forgotten logos on the webpage and some problems with the exhibiton
  • easy to prevent if there is a fixed and reachable sponsorship-team in LOC, that cares for all sponsorship & exhibition tasks
  • We had some funny requests, e.g. "Exclusive Sponsorship of the GalaEvent for 2k €" - be prepared and don't hesitate to negotiate and keep the balance in mind!
  • Be early! Some of the sponsors in the past years didn't sponsor our event, because we were too late and their budgets were already planned


  • Keep in mind, that offering special rates for students (and other groups) might cause problems for your general calculation! (see student helpers)
  • We only gave some discount to sponsors, that sent many people (special deals)

Student Helpers

  • We opened the doors for approx. 40 students from all over the world. The deal was 50% work for us, 50% free attendance. We also opened the not sold out workshops for them two days before. They worked at registration/for the video team mainly. Entrance pass was a copy of the student card
  • Students were partly mixed with travel grantees. For these we paid some money for their travels
  • In general good idea, needs some orchestration and don't expect every student to show up at the event!
  • Try to implement them the idea of an intensive communication - some of them didn't even reply to direct emails
  • The majority did and they did a great job & were happy to have this possibility!!!

Abstract Submissions & Paper selection

  • Submission
    • Having a URL to the source code/project makes the review less time consuming as you wouldn't need to search for the projects if there are any doubts.
    • Ask the submitters to keep the abstract short. 125-150 words is a good length to make it also fast to review.
  • Selection:
    • This selection process worked well for 2014 and 2016:
    • Having about 2/3 acceptance rate seems to be a good ratio for a high quality program.
    • Let the program committee make the hard decisions on selecting the talks (and not the attendees with an overwhelming number of talks) and rather have less talks in parallel. Strive for quality rather than quantity.
    • Not all submissions are really (about) open source. Double check the projects when it doubt.
  • Scheduling:
    • If you want full flexibility, don't start selling one day passes too early as that you can't really justify to change talks between days, even if it's just a preliminary schedule.
    • Make the preliminary schedule as close to the final one as possible, some people plan for that day/time of the day. It's welcomed if you notify the speaker if you needed to change him/her slot for the final schedule.
    • Find as many session chairs as possible before the conference. If there are some missing, appoint someone of your LOC to find people to fill the gaps (someone who knows a lot of people is surely beneficial (or ask someone well connection for help finding additional session chairs)).
    • Print out a simple sheet for the sessions chairs explaining what they need to do (e.g. that keeping the schedule and starting on time and not *earlier* is also important) and place it in the rooms.
    • Mix academic and general track slots, don't have a dedicated room from the academic track. This way academic track talks get a higher exposure to the audience.


  • We installed the OSGeo Live on the hardware, which was a good point, better than boot live (and even better than bring-your-own, which causes a lot of extra work for the workshop leaders)
  • don't expect workshop leaders to read all the information you send them. We pointed them to a weak WIFI and asked them to sent us all data/software before, but some didn't which caused some network problems, but nothing serious
  • plan early but also expect workshop leaders to cancel their workshops short before. So have some extra-workshops in the hind quarters
  • some of the workshop leaders requested tests in the venue before. If possible, make it possible ;-)
  • We had the strategy: "no conference-pass, no workshops" - we opened the workshops for some people that requested the weekend before the workshops actually happened. This mnakes booking the conference more attractive

Academic Track

  • need for a Student Award troubleshooter
  • we integrated AT into the regular programme instead of having one parallel track. Connected more people in our eyes.

Code Sprint

  • I think the idea to have two extra long code sprints before and after was a good one. Of course not everywhere the possibilty we had with BaseCamp are so perfect, but I guess, if people travel, they don't mind staying longer if they have the opportunity to work with their project for longer

B2B Meeting

  • Was not there but heard all the best from the ~ 50 attendees. If so, think how you can orchestrate 25 talks from business people into one programme without the risk, that they talk too long and everyone gets bored

Student's Afternoon

  • Decision was made in late June to open the doors on friday afternoon after the last dinner for students
  • We also had a students session organized by Prof. Klaus Greve with 4 talks
  • Not much time for marketing, also we had vacations at the university, so only 9 students appeared

résumé: I think good idea, especially to give student,s that can't pay the whole conference fee the chance to get an idea about FOSS4G, but planned too late. Also more promotion from Geo4All-chapter would be great. If possible, plan it from the beginning on - we started to think about, after we've noticed that some speakers cancelled their talks and we had unused session-rooms.

Social Events

  • Jeff's idea to include the GalaEvent into the conference fee took at least 700 people on the boat. What a party!

Other side events

  • We offered some side events from the official tourismus office Bonn, but had to cancel them with no bookings early. Otherwise we'd had to guarantee that we pay for the minimum attendees number and the risk was too big. Problem: We are a community of late bookers!


  • Interestingly is food where we spent most of the money. Venue, Codesprint, Workshops, B2B, Gala Event.....
  • We did not request for special diets. In the end, there was 1 vegan guy out of 889 - compared to all the organisation-work to do, if offering several diets/menues, that was okay for us
  • I guess the idea to have drinks all day was perfect (ok, Bonn was hot these days), but people like to drink when they want and not when the caterer offers. It's worth some extra money!