Sunday, May 17, 2009


Running a DevJam Community Event

What is a ‘DevJam’ Community Event?

Basically, it’s an event where the majority of (or all) speakers are local user group members. Each talk’s topic is targeted to your user group’s technology focus. Each talk should be around 5 – 10 minutes long, (depending on the number of talks you schedule). A good rule of thumb is that eight x 10 minute talks takes just under 2 hours (due to setup time between talks, and the occasional overrun, etc.).

Why are they a Good Idea?
  • Some user groups suffer from a lack of presenters, so encouraging and supporting local developers is a great way of building your local presenter pool.
  • Since the talks are short (approximately 10 minutes), people who might find preparing a complete 1 hour session a bit daunting are more likely to ‘have a go’. People often surprise themselves by being able to give a short talk without too much preparation.
  • Having a wide range of talk subject matter means you are likely to get a good level of attendance.
  • They promote face-to-face networking between local developers.
  • They are a cost effective way of running a small event, especially if you can find a few sponsors.

How do I Run a DevJam Event?

  • First decide how many talks you are going to have up front (8 works well).
  • It’s a good idea to have some worthwhile prizes as an extra incentive. Whilst winning is not the focus, it’s always nice to win something!
  • Email clear entry instructions. Check them several times for any mistakes (such as date and time) before sending.
  • Prepare about 5 – 6 weeks in advance (give people enough but not too much notice).Follow up with presenters closer to the event date.
  • Ask presenters to have their talk ready to go on a laptop, and make sure those that are not bringing their own laptop let you know in advance so one is available for them to use.
  • Ask people to save their questions until the end of all the talks. Otherwise time will quickly overrun.
  • Voting: low tech - high tech. We currently use a low tech paper voting system, where each audience member can cast one vote for each of their favourite top 3 talks.
  • Have some extra material (or perhaps some awful jokes!) on hand just in case of unforeseen circumstances (such as a laptop failing).
  • Try to provide food and refreshments so people can get together after the talks.
  • Publicise the event as widely as possible (your user group web site, INETA newsletter, regional MSDN Flash email, blogs, etc.)

What Kind of Topics?

Here are the things I highlight when asking for talk submissions for our .NET User Group:

“You can talk about any development topic but it must be between 5 – 10 minutes long.

  • Anything you’ve done.
  • Any new technology or tools you’ve investigated.
  • Any tips and tricks, or traps and pitfalls.
  • Basically anything .NET software development related!”

[I should mention that conversations with Rob Farley, some time ago, got me interested in running this style of event.]


Powered by Blogger