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In a previous post we wrote about the concept of leverage when running events. 

We think that satellite events  are a promising area of leverage around EA conferences, and that local groups & community builders (not the core conference organising team) are well positioned to run them. If you or other organisers already investing hundreds of hours into a conference, you could plausibly boost the connections by 25% by investing time into recruiting pre/post-event organisers. I think you could pick the lowest hanging fruit with ~50 person-hours of work (this could be a paid role). In this post, we present the impact case for satellite events, and list out several specific, low-cost things people could do. 

Overview 

Here are some very (very) rough and conservative BOTECs to give you a sense of the additional hours needed and the connections that could be made at a typical EAG(x). 

We've used connections made as the main benchmark metric, since this is a key metric for EAG(x) conferences. We think it is overly simplified and doesn't capture all of the impact and value. 

Organising events around the main event results in about ~half as many connections as the conference itself, excluding the retreat.

EventPrep Time (person-hours)ParticipantsNew connections madeTotal connections
EAG (x)400+500 [1][2]3500
5 days of coworking6 (book coworking space)15690
1 pre-event social8 (book out a bar)604240
2 post-event socials10 (to book 2 spaces - you can repeat venues)1506900
Housing coordination20 (matching people in hotels)1003 (incl. repeat)300
Group chat / slack3 (create the chat, add people)50150
Total47  1580
3 day community retreat1002025 (incl. repeat + longer interactions)500
Total147--2080
     

We think repeated connections are just as valuable as one-off connections. They might plausibly be more important. You might also want to weight peer to peer connections and advisor-advisee connections (which you'd expect more of at the conference) differently, depending on what goals you are prioritising. We will write more about measuring connections in a future post.

Events

Pre-/post-event coworking space coordination - est. 1-6 hours

How to do it: 

  •  If you aren't sure about demand and want to be sure you'll be able to find a large enough venue, you can send a message on the chat groups (see below), or create a short google form.
  • Let the conference organisers know you're planning this so they can inform attendees ahead of time and they can prepare for it. 
  • Find a coworking space / coffee shop / public library that are near the conference venue (if you can't get funding, go for the coffee-shop solution)
  • Share the exact dates & location details ~2 weeks before the event, including how they'd find you. 
  • Show up!

Pre/post-event satellite events - est. 5-30 hours

Pre-events can make the conference less intimidating as people will now see familiar faces around (more important if they are newer) and allow for additional time for people to meet and connect.

Social events - est. 5 hours per event

  • People in town early / more of a reason to come to town early
  • Higher than average attendance, good for both the visitors and locals
  • Can be very low effort event - e.g. just book space at a nice bar and people can buy their own drinks & food and have name tags
  • If your locale has EA group houses, you can ask them to host an open dinner (consider capping it at a certain capacity and having RSVP's).

EAG prep session - est. 3-4 hours (2 hours for the MVP)

You can run and encourage other group organisers to run more content-focused sessions such as:

  • Quick things: 
    • Pre-EAG planning sessions - here are some examples, 1, 2 
    • Q&A sessions targeted at first-timers
  • More ambitious / experimental things: 

Ideally make sure someone is running 1-3 virtual sessions to allow  people not with in-person groups to attend and learn. 

Post-conference events

  • Next Steps Session - est. 3 hours  
  • 4 week career workshop - est. 15 hours
  • Reflection session - est. 1-2 hours
  • Accountability group - est. 3-10 hours
  • Hackathons - est. 5 hours
  • Forum post-writing workshop - est. 1-2 hours
  • And more ideas for activities listed here

Socials & Afterparties - est. 5-10 hours each

The conferences are pretty formal / intense for the most part, so it can be nice to have an explicitly social event where there is no expectation or norm of working. It's important for newcomers to see that the EA community is also a place where we can also have fun, unwind and relax. Socials are also a great opportunity for making friendships and deeper connections with others. 

The EA London group often organises socials at bars before EAG London (they just book a place and publicise it, and might have name tags, and people can order food or drinks if they want), which mostly run themselves . But if you're throwing a social for an EAGx, the dynamics are different - there may be more students, more first-0time

How to do it: 

  • Decide what events you want to host. You can host multiple socials at the same venue (e.g. Thursday night before the conference, Saturday night if the conference venue is not accessible late at night, and a Sunday afterparty) 
  • Find a venue - generally if you can use group houses that's the easiest since it doesn't require booking a venue. Other things to consider (in order of cost) are restaurants and bars and just making a big reservation, renting a co-working spaces and other community spaces, renting out a venue like a bar or restaurant 
  • Sort out catering - this depends on the event. If it's in a restaurant, there's not much to sort out. If you're hosting something at a house, consider getting food and drinks. 
  • Clearly communicate expectations - should people RSPV? if yes, how? if it's at a house, is everyone living there okay with it? should people pay to attend, if yes how? 
  • Advertise the event - consider putting it on Facebook, adding it to a pre/post events list, and asking the conference / event organiser if they can share it with attendees

Short 2-page guide to your city / region - est. 2 hours for MVP 

Elika and I have previously made the case for writing a guide to your city - with housing info, how to get around, find vegan food, any weird travel restrictions or tips, and contact people who could answer questions. You could draft a low-effort version by copying parts of the guide we wrote for Berkeley or this one on EA in the UK

Help attendees coordinate with each other - est. 1 - 20 hours 

Create group chats / Slack channels as schelling points - est. 1 hours to set up & 1-4 hours to answer questions

Creating a Messenger or WhatsApp chat people can join helps - folks often actively seek out ways to meet each other! You can also create a Slack channel (or equivalent) if your group for conference-specific questions (this could also boost engagement on your workspace in general). 

To save your time, add your top 10 most engaged community members to help address any questions attendees may have! We recommend doing this ~2 weeks before the conference. 

Housing coordination (beyond blocking rooms at a hotel)  - est. 2-20 hours

The simplest version of this is creating a housing chat, channel, or spreadsheet and making sure it's shared with attendees (you can ask the event organiser for help with that) (1 hour). You could also help with matching people with roommates, helping larger groups stay at nearby Airbnbs, and asking local group members to also host visitors- this can be pretty fun! These kind of connections can be quite counterfactual, since it can be hard to know who is looking for housing without being very proactive about it, and it makes a better attendee experience (and save some community time in coordination and money). 

Having a fun housing experience makes the event a more memorable and becomes a bonding experience in and of itself for attendees. It can help to have some familiar faces going into a conference, and to have people to go home with at the end of a busy day - basically, more chances for folks to get social support if they need it. Conferences can be overwhelming. 

Start housing coordination early - ideally 3 weeks before the event - and encourage people to sign up by setting deadlines. 

How to do it: 

  • Decide if you want to help with roommate matching at the hotel for people who've gotten funding (easiest - in groups of ~2-4 people sharing a room) or local group members hosting (harder to coordinate). If you do the latter, run the list of hosts by CEA's Community Health team. 
  • Ask the event organisers to send out via email a <5 minute form with rooming preferences to fill out (name, email, gender preferences, whether they feel comfortable sharing a bed, any other notes or comments)
  • Create a spreadsheet of room assignments 
  • Coordinate with the hotel liaison to assign those rooms (ideally on the same floor so people can meet each other)
  • Introduce roommates them via email along with check-in details (or ask the hotel to email the guests with check-in details)
  • Low time alternative: Create a rooming coordination spreadsheet and share it with attendees (ask the event organiser for help). 

Pre-/Post-conference Retreats 

We don't have much to say here - simply put, it's usually a good time to run retreats when people (especiall senior EAs) are already in town. However, keep in mind that both retreats & conferences are really intense, so packing them closely could affect people's overall ability to fully engage with either. (and keep in mind your energy levels too - it's okay to not feel like you can attend a conference and plan a retreat for the same week). A more relaxed community retreat which focuses on reflection and socializing could be a good option if you're concerned about energy levels (some notes on creating the right "vibes").

Coordinate & publicize all the events - est. 2 hours

  • Share a public doc with all the information on the event (like this one for EAG SF 2022). Make sure to add all the logistical details & updates in the doc for people not on Facebook
  • Create events online (if it's a Facebook event it'll get added to EA Forum by the Forum team) 
  • Share events in the group chats / Slacks / Swapcard with reminders as they are about to happen
  • Ask the event organisers to mention there will be satellite events and the rough dates at least 3 weeks before so people can plan their travel accordingly, link the info doc at least 2 weeks before the event, and ask them to add the events & link the doc in the conference agenda app - see how it looked on the EAG SF Swapcard: 

This post is part of an ongoing series: Events in EA: Learnings and Critiques

  1. ^

    EAGx's vary quite wildly in terms of size - in 2022 size ranged from ~350 attendees to 1000. 

  2. ^

    From CEA's estimates

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