(Startup) event organizing

Yes, finally I did it! I’d been keeping it in mind for at least one and a half a year. Finally got a little time (sic!), to share some of my experience. Why? Well, I’ve kept organizing events as a proud team member or team leader for at least few years. Both working for incubators, science and technology parks, local governments or VS’s. For people who really care, and for those who really don’t, even though it’s in their best interest. Also I’m one of those people who often devote their free time to the community. And to be honest, I hate writing the same answers again and again. And a bunch of great people keep asking me the same questions about event organizing — I’m flattered, really. What you’ll read here comes from my practice and my mistakes. Yes, I’ve been there, done that. Therefore I wrote this text. And yes, I’m still looking for some answers for myself. So what a better place to start talking.

First, let’s talk about (startup) event organizing.

Fot.: Wittchen Jakub for Stary Browar, event: Poznan Startup Weekend Fashion & Tech/Global Fashion Battle: Poznan

Why you do it

It depends on what kind of event you organize and for whom. Let’s face it, most of local startup events are organized pro publico bono. Nobody pays you for arranging them. Lucky ones have them written in their scope of official duties, while working for some of the great incubators, science and technology parks or venture capital funds. But most of the time, you do it for free. Why? Because (random order): 1) you want to do something for the community, 2) it’s a great opportunity to gain new contacts and make new friends, 3) you’re learning a lot 4) if you have your own startup it’s a great way to find new customers & business buddies, 5) you find new business opportunities for the company you work for or for your business path 6) just because it’s exciting, etc.

Why am I doing it? Hmm… when I was new in the business, I wanted to gain as much experience and contacts as I could. Meet fantastic people and be a part of something great. Also I believed, that what we were doing, could really change something. And it did. Really :) I still believe in it. I really couldn’t motivate myself to organize an event that does not bring any value to the community.

Fot.: Wittchen Jakub for Stary Browar, event: Poznan Startup Weekend Fashion & Tech/Global Fashion Battle: Poznan

Well, I’m not going to argue which motivation is better. It’s important for you to see & feel the value of what you do. If you’re not taking anything from it & it does not excite you (still or anymore), stop doing it. Everybody feels it, really.

Find a great team or be a part of a great team

That’s the key to success. Well some would say “Find yourself a skilled team”. Yes, that’s partially true, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Engagement, willingness to learn, are crucial. You’ll always find a way to get new skills, and what is a better way to do that, than organizing an event?

Fot.: Tomasz Cholewa/Ten Moment, event: Poznan Offline Party vol. I, Weranda Take Away, Stary Browar

I’m sure you already know that — organizing a great team is a challenge. Finding great people is f*** hard if you don’t pay them (as if it could make it any easier, really). Finding people who engage and are as crazy as you, is hard. Also, it would be great if the people liked each other in the real life, but most of all, each and every one of us has to…

… be reliable

Your event partners & sponsors do not work with you only because the event that you organize is so great. Well, good that you’re doing an exquisite job, but they work with you because they trust you and your team. Again, if you divide tasks or you say you’ll do your part of the job, just do it man! Some situations are easy to solve without big consequences, but if your sponsors wait a week (!) for an answer, something is really wrong…

Communication matters

To make things short, guys, just talk to each other. Communicate! Don’t disappear. If you have loads of different stuff to do, or your boss is going hard on you, or you just have a shitty week or day. Just say it to your team mates. Find somebody who can complete your tasks. Hiding away is not a solution.

Fot.: Dominik Tryba, event: Hive61, Stary Browar

Try, fail, repeat

Well, the environment changes. Each city, each startup community has its features, dynamics and problems. Don’t ignore them. Listen, talk, draw conclusions, feel the success for some time, then fail. Why? Even if you don’t struggle with sponsors, lack of motivation & skills in your team, the greatest & the best team you’ve ever worked with always has an end. That’s just life. That’s just a fact that every team has its bests to fall apart.

Money

I know, loads of people & organizations that feel that money is crucial, that without money it’s impossible to do anything. To cut things short, money is really not an issue. If you have a great plan to do something that really matters, skilled & professional team, you’ll get the money. End of story.

Fot.: Dominik Tryba, event.: “First step into your own business” by InQbator of Poznan Science & Technology Park of Adam Mickiewicz University Foundation

Do it good & give away

Honestly I don’t remember how many times — while looking for new team mates or having a need to make some changes in an event formula — I’ve heard moaning and groaning that it’s been always the same team, the same people doing the event, so what’s the point in engaging. I’m not going to brag about who’s right here or who is not. What is important for us, as event organizers, is to encourage & help the newbies to take the lead in the future. Yes, it’s a challenge. Sometimes, we really do not see people who’d fit. Sometimes, we’re making mistakes by taking too much control (well, who does it better than I am) or we’re just poor leaders at times. It happens. Face it. But what I’m trying to say, always keep in mind that you won’t be doing it to your 50’s. You’re here for a while. And honestly, it’s a waste of time, if there’s nobody to take the lead after you’re gone.

Well, that’s it. Maybe, it’ll help some of you, especially the newbies. I also hope that the most experienced readers will share their thoughts. And to be honest, for some time I’ve been a bit pissed off when I’m looking at our local community and events. We had a great community, engaging and valuable events here in the city of Poznan. Now, in my opinion, we’re in a little crisis, but we’ll talk about it later :) There’s a bunch of a great people who really do care and plan to do something with it. Now, feel free to share you experiences.

Talk to you soon, Paulina

P.S.: Big thx for help: Tomasz Cholewa, Paulina Dobrzańska, Dominik Tryba, Joanna Tupalska, Jakub Wittchen