Run your own Barcamp or Open School

Run your own event

A. Running your own Barcamp or Open School or such unconference

One reason we started running barcamps, open schools and un-conferences in Singapore and Asia is to illustrate that one can do a learning event without worrying about budgets and lots of support. The following guide will give you some ideas on running your own events in whatever subject area you are interested in. 

B. Who runs un-conference and why ? What do you need to run one?

Are they always about tech? What other un-conferences are there? 

Some reasons we like to run an un-conference

  • Low budget 
  • Community ownership
  • More intimate (We do not have a vip area or separate room for speakers. All participants are equal)
  • Why not tap on the talent all around us. There is so much knowledge in the community, the people who live around us, why not learn from them
  • Simple and green

Most such events are free for the participants. Some events may ask the participants for small donations. There is no one set format and people run their events based on their local conditions and availability of resources.

Where is the learning?

There was a time when we used to think that all the learning resides in the presentation that a speaker makes. As subjects and topics get more complex, there is a realization that the learning is an ongoing conversation. The aim of these events is to find people who are interested in the topics that you are keen on. Once this connection is made, we will continue to converse and learn.

C. How to organize your pre-event publicity online and offline?

Some ideas you can use 

  • Word of mouth. Tell your friends and ask around. 
  • Crash similar events and tell people about your idea for the un-conference. 
  • Look for groups or online forums talking about your interest area. 
  • Post on the global barcamp wiki at, Post on the Barcamp Nomads Facebook page.
  • Write to the folks in the next city/country, the folks who put up such events. And request them to talk about your events. Sometimes when people in your city/region see that outsiders are interested in your event, they will be too. 

D. Scoring a venue and sponsors

 Checking out local special interest magazines for prominent advertisers.

Can we do without sponsors?

Again, being visible at events helps. Use past un-conference pictures in your presentations. Don't worry if it is not your event. Many un-conference pictures are online under CC license.

Below we have posted a sample email that I send out to someone who shows interest in hosting us.

Usually the event hosts will invite us to have a discussion. Rather than making a presentation, we print photos of past events and pass it around.

Un-conferences are community events where we aim to aggregate the best minds in the city for a day long learning event. Like our past events, this year too we have managed to interest the brightest designers, media professional, entrepreneurs and educators. 

We are hoping (and this has certainly been our past venue host's experience) that among this community and the ensuing discussions, you will discover prospective guest lectures, startups where your students might be interested in interning and collaborative project opportunities for your educators. There is also an increasing desire among technologists and developers to enhance their design skills. You could have us (400 odd participants) explore the part-time and  continuous education courses that you are offering. 

Un-conferences began as an alternative to traditional conferences where we try to produce a highly participative event at zero budget. 

The Hong Kong Poly University, Multimedia university of Malaysia, Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and National University of Lao have hosted us in the region. All we need is about 2 to 3 classrooms and a large enough assembly area for the introduction session. We don't impose any other costs on the venue and as we don't have sponsors, we will not have any banners. We run a very green event and you won't even notice that we were there.

Venues that you can use.

  • Try schools, local libraries or museums, local tech companies. 
  • Local hackerspaces and community spaces (For example, you can find a member to book a slot)

E. Building an online space for your event and sign ups. Information design for a event site and reminder emails.

Some sites we have tried using are Facebook, Doattend, Eventbrite etc. We finally settled on Google Pages. They are easy to create and collaborate on, they can be edited on mobile/ipad at the venue etc.

You can create the registration form via Google Forms. The form data can then be displayed on the "Participant" page by embedding the same spreadsheet. Try to keep your registration form small.

Information design on the website. People like to see an actual personal contact email. Demo

For mailing lists Mailchimp is great. I like to use plain text for emails. Keep the email short. What are the best days and time to send out the emails? See a sample reminder email below.

Get a twitter hashtag for your event. For example we are using #educampsg for next educamp. Publicize this hash tag in every email you send out.

We will start tomorrow (Sat, 10 Sept) at 9.30 AM and finish by 6PM. You can come in and leave at your convenience. The schedule will be online at 

The venue is blk71, Level02, Ayer Rajah Crescent, Singapore 139951. Public transport, maps and parking information are at

If you feel like presenting, post your topic at the topic wall. Participants will use this wall to vote for topics they want to hear.

Track the Twitter hashtag #barcampsg7 for announcements, comments, questions and lost-found stuff. Eateries are at the nearby Fusionopolis building. You can refill your water bottles at the venue. 

NUS enterprise, MDA and Singtel Innov8 are hosting the barcamp.

BarcampSg7 volunteers

F. Crowdsourcing logistics, making your participants own the event. How many volunteers do you need?

It is fairly easy to make a editable spreadsheet or doc with Google docs. Put up your logistics requirement on the doc. When you send an email to remind people to sign up for the event, ask them to look up at the logistic doc and add their name next to it. We can do this as a part of the registration form too.

When people loan you the equipment for use, ask them to label it with their name and twitter or mobile number.

G. Running voting for the topics at the venue. Creating a real time timetable of happenings. Encouraging participants to run discussions and presentations.

Usually, on the event web, we will post pictures to show how one can post topics at the venue.

Sometimes we just use a whiteboard for posting topics. Remind people to leave enough space for other participant's votes.

Once you see some topic with say 20 or so votes, you can already start scheduling them on the schedule board.

Large PostITs are great because you can move them to your schedule board once you see that a topic has enough votes. Here we used tiny stickers for voting. The near image is of the schedule board. The far board is where the participants post topics and vote on the topics. Once a topic has say 20 odd votes, we will move it to the schedule board. 

Ask the speaker to take a sheet of paper, write his/her topic details and time and stick on the door of the room assigned to them. That way the participants know what sessions are going on inside the class.  

H. Food and refreshments.

Avoid catering the food. It will save you a lot of running around. I prefer to again provide information on the nearby eateries and the kind of food that is available and how much it will cost.

If you really want to get something, just get some fruits. They are inexpensive and can be consumed without the need of cutlery.

I. Post event documentation.

Skip videos, they are harder to edit and it is also harder to make them look good.

Photos are better, Create a photo story for the event on your web page.

List the topics and if possible a small summary of the discussions that happened. Request the folks who presented or lead a discussion to create a short PPT or a blog post. Aggregate these on the event site.

Upload images to Flickr and other usual social networks. Use the hashtag for the event.

Send thank you email to the participants. Send them the link to the story page, the page where you documented the event. Urge participants to upload their photos and use the event hashtag. if they come back to you with links, YouTube or images, post them on your story page. 

J. Our Contacts and links