User Group Startup -- Having the Right Setup

In this installment of my Startup Stories I’m going to talk about the hardware and setup you’ll need for your meetings. When you attend events, whether they are company meetings, user groups or conferences, there is an expectation of that a certain amount of preparation will have been done in advance. Hopefully the ideas that I will talk about here will help you to achieve meetings and events where no attendee ever things about the preparations involved.

Meeting/Event setup involves a number of different things.

  1. Ensure your location is booked and confirmed prior to the event date. (more on locations for meetings in a future post)
  2. Ensure your catering (if you have any) is booked and confirmed prior to the event date. Also ask that they arrive and setup prior to your attendees arriving.
  3. Have the handouts (for us this is a meeting sheet and a separate feedback form) printed in advance.
  4. Have your leadership or helpers arrive early. We have our location booked from 5pm to 9pm and we advertise our events with the doors opening at 5:30pm and the presentations starting at 6pm. The group leaders and helpers are asked to show up as close to 5pm as possible which gives us half an hour to prepare the room, swag, handouts and test hardware.
  5. Setup the welcome/registration area. At Edmug events we have a single folding table at the door. Our Membership Director is in charge of this area and ensuring that we have our handouts in order for the arrival of the first attendees. One of the things that we do in the half hour before we open the doors to the event is collate the handouts so that the Membership Director can quickly pick up a package and hand it to the arriving attendee. If possible also have pens that can be loaned or given to the attendees for the purpose of filling out the feedback forms.
  6. Setup a table and chair for the presenter to work from. It seems that the common thing to do is place a table at the front of the room, angle it so that the speaker can see both the presentation screen and the audience, and place it off to one side of the presentation screen. Another thing to do is ensure that there is adequate room for the speaker to walk around the table from either side and access the presentation screen or the audience.
  7. Setup the audience seating area. There are a number of ways to do this, but the two most common are theater style (all the chairs are in rows) and classroom style (chairs surrounding tables). Both setups have their place and it’s not my place to tell you which will work best for you but here are two things to remember. First, classroom style setups offer far less seating capacity. Second, if you are expecting your attendees to bring and use laptops having tables is a must. Edmug uses the theater layout for our events because of the need for seating capacity and not yet having seen anyone bring, and use, a laptop to an event. No matter how you setup your room there is one thing you will want to keep in mind. Ensure that your attendees can move around the room, including in and out of it, without having to walk in front of the presentation. This can be done by including aisles from front to back through the chairs as well as room to move across the back and to the door.
  8. Setup and test your hardware. Almost every meeting or event will have a hardware need. Make sure that you take the time to setup the projector, run the necessary cables and do a system test that includes testing the presenter’s system and any internet connection that may be needed. Part of hardware setup is hardware preparation. I suggest that your user group invest in a hardware kit for meetings and events. It doesn’t have to be much, but it should include the following things:
    • Monitor extension cable (longer is better) – Staples
    • 2 power extension cord each about 5 meters in length (1 for the presenter’s laptop and 1 for the projector)
    • Mouse
  9. Prepare water for the speaker. Either take bottled water from you catering, or bring bottled water if you don’t have catering, and set it aside for the speaker.
  10. Setup the swag in a conspicuous location that is easy to access when it’s time to hand it out.
  11. Assign people to feedback form gathering duty. This will help the end of the presentation transition smoothly into the swag give aways.This list represents the items that we (Edmug) have learned by watching other events as well as putting on our own. By no means is this a comprehensive list that will ensure your meeting or event runs smoothly. If you have other ideas please leave them in the comments.