I’ve been inactive on the Chennai Geeks community for the last two years and this year I decided to change that. The group was slowly becoming inactive and Dorai Thodla is the only one who keeps it going these days. So, i wanted to help him by volunteering and organising events. Karthick and Madhu used to do that before but they are not in the country now.
We had a meeting on Jan 2016. I went there after a long time and it was nice to meet like-minded people and engage in conversation. We discussed about Machine learning and Functional programming. It was interactive, people were sharing their knowledge about FP and 2 hours flew by. That’s when I thought it would be interesting to have a separate event for Functional programming, everyone seem to be interested in it. Even I wanted to try FP sometime.
Few days later, I texted Dorai about the next Chennai geeks event and he said Karthikeyan Mani from ByteAlly has volunteered to do a talk or workshop on functional programming. He also asked me if i can coordinate and help organise the event. I said yes. That could be fun. Okay, now where do i start? The topic is Functional Programming and speaker is chosen, We need to decide whether it’s going to be a hands-on workshop or usual talk kind.
Since it’s a community event, it has to be of people’s choice right? I created a poll on our Facebook group page and asked people to start voting. We waited three days and saw there were more votes for workshop. Ting ding ding We have a winner. What next? I have to find a good place to host about 30-40 people. I figured more people would RSVP because FP is a very interesting topic.
Finding a place to host the event
We have many startup founders within the community who have generously offered their office space for us to host events. For the past few years Suresh has let us have our monthly meetings at OrangeScape’s office. Dorai said, we can host the workshop at the same place. While discussing with Karthikeyan, he said ByteAlly’s new office can host about 40-50 people. Now we have two places available, wow that’s amazing. Next thing is to find out how many people are actually going to participate. Karthikeyan and I fixed a date for the event and created a Facebook event page to let people RSVP. I also asked them to Register on a google form just so we know they’re really interested.
Getting things ready
We started getting a lot of RSVPs on fb event page and on the google form. I was thinking how embarrassing it would be if no one RSVPd but there was lot of response coming in everyday. Karthikeyan and i were counting the registrations. He called me few days later and asked if we should close the registration since its going beyond 40 and we have limited seats. But then Dorai said, usually the turnout is 50% of the total registrations. That’s true, it’s a free event, everybody wants to register and save themselves a seat just in case. So we kept it rolling and closed at somewhere around 65.
That’s a great number. Even if 50% came, we would have around 32 people. That’s A LOT OF PARTICIPANTS. I then called Karthikeyan to ask if he needed help in getting the place ready for the event. He said, “everything is taken care, snacks and refreshment is on the house”. I know him for a long time so i knew he would do it best. When i asked him for the agenda, he sent me a neat PDF with the schedule. He was prompt and took so much care to make this event a successful one. He hired chairs with pads for the attendees, ordered pizzas and everything. So i had nothing left to do.
The next thing to worry about is WiFi. I’ve been to many events where the biggest problem people had was wi-fi connectivity. “Dude, help me connect to the wi-fi”, “why am I not able to connect, did the router max out or something?”. Having seen all that in many events, I checked with karthikeyan if he has good broadband connection with more bandwidth. He said they have a 60 Mbps connection. But then we decided not to rely on it entirely, you know things could go wrong no matter what you do, heard of Murphy’s law? So we asked people to install the tools before coming to the workshop and thought of having the setup files on a pen drive incase people had wi-fi issues.
A day before the event, Someone posted on the event page asking if he can pay for the snacks and refreshment. In return he asked if it’s okay to put up a banner and talk a bit about his company. This being a community event we said banners and promotions are not allowed. We also didn’t want to take payment because this is completely a free event. But since he asked we allowed him to give a shout out about his company towards the end of the event.
On the day of the event, i got ready a little early and went to the venue to help Karthikeyan. But everything was already set. There was one guy working really hard on his desktop and I came to know that he was the speaker for today’s event, Sri Nidhi along with his partner Magesh (ByteAlly team) has been working on presentation and sample codes throughout the night without much sleep. Hard workers.
We printed the attendee list to make sure everyone who registered online gets a seat. We posted google maps link on the even page for people to find the place without any difficulty. We also stuck print-outs outside the building.
People started coming in one by one and soon we had about 35 people. All of them were waiting for the speakers to start, patiently. None of them left home during the breaks, everyone was wired to their laptops working on sample codes without any distraction. That’s the kind of attendees you’d like to have when you host a workshop. They were all so passionate, stopped the presenters once in a while to ask questions and help out fellow attendees when they had trouble.
It went on till 1:30 pm and we had to stop because two hours was the plan. Pizzas came in and nobody moved until we asked them to. Then i went around talking to some of the participants, taking feedback and asking them to join the Facebook group and volunteer for future talks. After networking for about 30 mins or so, people started leaving. All of them were happy that we organised an event like this. Kiran, one of the participants said he was surprised to see Functional Programming workshop happening in Chennai.
After the event Dorai posted a comment, “To me this is a big event. For the first time, an active member takes charge and runs the program based on the demands of the community. I am so proud. Hope to have more people from the community taking similar initiatives. That process makes this event more sustainable”. I couldn’t agree more.
As an organiser all i had to do is bring people together and everything worked out on its own. I didn’t do much. That’s how a community event should be. We need more active members organising different kinds of event with interesting topics instead of one guy doing it all the time. Chennai Geeks is an informal group, anyone can volunteer to talk about anything in technology or organise workshops/hackathons. All you have to do is post an update on our Facebook group or send an email to our mailing-list.
Photos from the event https://www.facebook.com/groups/chennaigeeks/permalink/1170467259644978/