Description of event
ELC Europe was a largish event that congregates engineers and companies that work within the embedded device. This year it was held in Edinburgh simultaneously with the Kernel summit and the Open Source Summit. This means a large chunk of the Open Source industry attended.
Goals we set out to achieve
We wanted to attract developers to boost the community, attract companies that would want to pre-install KDE software, and attract sponsors.
How it went
We worked well together and we all complemented each other attracting and engaging visitors to our booth. We also had a strong topics to talk about (see "Spiel" below) and stuff to show off (see "Materials" below), which helped a lot.
It pays to have local people help out. Everything worked out cheaper and easier thanks to the fact Jonathan and Kenny were there. It also helps to have a person with a lot of experience in events, as Adriaan, as he seems to be always ready for everything.
Stuff to improve
In this case, not much. It is difficult to imagine a better team. Maybe have larger team to work shifts -- it was very taxing to be standing and talking for 10 hours straight. Also there was a slight snafu when we revealed something that was supposed to be confidential. I'm not sure if this will have a negative impact long-term (I am tending towards that it won't). Notwithstanding, for next time, staff must have a meeting with a Board members and other stakeholders and clarify which topics you can talk about and the ones you can't in an effort to avoid leaks.
How it went
The counter was tiny (1 meter x 0.5 meters), but we commandeered a much larger and empty table that was right next to us. Only on day two did the legit owners of the table turn up and then we managed to move and display our stuff on the smaller counter.
Keep it tidy! When we had to fit all our stuff onto our minute table, we made it work by making sure everything was perfectly squared and by getting rid of stuff that was not relevant to the theme.
Also, having a large monitor on a two-meter stand is not optional any more: Everybody had at least one.
Stuff to improve
The layout was sometimes messy and a bit cramped. Cabling likewise, and often cables were not long enough to reach the devices on the counter -- take account the height of the surface, not only the length and depth. Bring extra-long extension cables for power and USBs.
The spiel or theme is what you are going to tell people when they come and visit your stand. A pedantic marketing drone would call it a "story". The goals you want to achieve during the event will determine your theme, as it will also determine
How it went
We were originally looking to tempt companies of devices to user KDE software on their products and also tempt developers to join the community. Although was some of that, we found that many attendees were interested in Plasma and KDE apps as users, as they were more into programming for deeply embedded systems. For them, we shifted focus to how, with Plasma, you could have your cake and eat it: you could have a beautiful and feature-rich desktop environment, but it would also be functional, configurable, light and snappy.
We made the spiel into a conversation which allowed us to include feedback from attendees. When one developer pointed out that most developers work for mobile platforms (which is statistically true -- the bes kind of true), this allowed us to point out that the underlying pinnings of Plasma desktop and Plasma Mobile were essentially the same and that, more importantly, Kirigami made the distinction between both kind of apps irrelevant: You can develop one app for multiple platforms in one go.
Find out who you are talking to first. It will help you adapt your spiel to what they are interested in. In the case of what we were doing at ELC, the second thing we asked is whether the visitor was a developer/sysadmin/other (the first was whether they were familiar with KDE and Plasma). We also found out their speciality and as much as we could about their company. There are three advantages to this: (1) having a conversation is more friendly then giving a masterclass, (2) finding out about your interlocutor allows you to better adapt your pitch to their interests, and (3) if you let someone talk, they are more willing to listen to you.
Be ready to adapt. Your audience is not always what you expect it to be. If you soldier on with your pre-designed pitch, you risk losing your listeners attention.
Stuff to improve
Prepare spiel beforehand. Make sure all booth staff are on the same topic, and make sure that your spiel does steers clear from information that may be confidential or not ready to be released.
We had stickers, a Pinebook running KDE neon, a Nexus 5 running Plasma Mobile, a Pine Rock 64, Slimbook 1 & 2, big table monitor, monitor on floor stand.
How it went
The variety of gadgets attracted attendees which allowed us to deliver our spiel.
Be willing to let people touch and try devices and play with the software. If you are afraid of them breaking anything (software-wise) have a way to restore to "factory default" easily and simply. Carefully design your graphic work.
Stuff to improve
Stickers: make them better, prettier and simpler. My designs looked okay to me on the screen, but did not work at all when printed. Simple works best and they must be small enough and cool-looking enough that visitors will be willing to stick to their laptops and do some viral marketing for you.
Although the location of our booth was not ideal (we were towards the end of a the furthest passage), we managed to attract a rather constant flow of visitors. I will attribute it to three things: (1) the organisers set up one of the tables for catering right at the end of the passage, (2) they had also organised a booth-bingo, which required attendees to visit all booths to opt to a big prize, and (3) we had stuff to show.
How it went
The first two were savvy moves on behalf the organisers and worked, bringing visitors to the further reaches of the exhibition hall. The latter helped retain visitors longer than if they were just browsing
Apart from merch, always have something to show and talk about and, preferably visitors can interact with. If you want people to visit your booth, it is best to make it entertaining. Many booths, even from big companies, just had merch and were empty most of the time, even when their location was better than ours.
Stuff to improve
Work with organiser to try and get better location. Check they have some sort of activity or strategy that will make attendees visit your booth even if you are out of the way.
Although we were only partially successful in achieving our original goals (see above), we did achieve some goals. Developers attending were mostly for deeply embedded systems and their interest in front-end, user-firendly interfaces (such as graphical desktops) was cursory.
Companies were not the ones we were looking for. Neither Samsung, nor LG, nor Huawei, nor smaller manufacturers were there. This has changed from prior editions, so we still have to find events they attend.
However, we worked on convincing more users to adopt Plasma and other KDE software. We got ourselves into the news and hopefully enticed other manufacturers to talk to us. We made contact with a major tech-event organiser that was interested in we attend events they organise. We made contact with an electronics DIY manufacturer which may be interested in pre-intalling Plasma on one of their kits.
- Finding out the booth (table) size is important. We had a much larger tablecloth than the table. Understandable, since the cloth was bought with FOSDEM table sizes in mind.
- Some improvisation for hanging up the table cloth as a banner was well-worth it. This way the cloth was still useful.
- The roll-ups are *essential* unless you have other arresting visual material tomake it clear that there is a booth there. Every other stand had something, but I noticed that the booths with "boring"backgrounds got less attention. Konqui is cute and colorful, that helps.
- The A4 printouts in vertical stands were nice -- would have been more effective on a bigger table. They provide labeling and make it easier to point to things. They only make sense if there's physical "stuff" on the table to talk about (e.g. devices) or we have specific things to promote.
- The "KDE Frameworks" pamphlet is reasonably up-to-date, but at which events would it make sense to hand out? I had some with me, but this did not seem like the right event.
- The KDE Plasma pamphlet is out of date; I didn't bother.
- Does KDE even *have* a membership programme anymore? (Oh, gosh, Join the Game still exists .. I thought that was retired *years* ago) (also the photos in "the People" bit show lots of people who are no longer involved). In any case I didn't bring those pamphlets either.
- Stickers are good. What we *don't* have that much of are basic "KDE" stickers, Plasma stickers. At this booth we had KDE-edu stickers (there's an issue there with the domain, Paul needs to look at transferring stuff). Also GCompris, which is always fun. But no KDE-applications type stickers, and not much Krita. Granted, this was an conference not-geared towards any of those, but it's fun to give away.
- The "you are here" stickers didn't work very well. They're so big, people don't recognize them as stickers. I think they would do well either as roll-ups or as A4 prints.
- Know beforehand if it's a "sell-t-shirts" kind of conference or not.
- Know which T-shirts to give away to a good cause (I used 1 Akademy Almeria and 2 KDE India shirts for this purpose).
- Having a separate Telegram channel for coordinating (who-is-where-when) is a good thing. Doing preparations over Telegram I'm not so convinced. But then, I really dislike nearly all IM solutions.
- Make sure it's clear who is where, when. I was a bit surprised to miss Paul on the last day. Also, attending talks should be coordinated (Jon did that, it was fine).
- Make friends with the booths around you. They can cover. Dan from FLOSS weekly (?) hung around enough to be able to do our stand as well.
- It was good to have talked about the message and purpose of the stand beforehand (e.g. demonstrate devices, Plasma running on "small stuff", etc..). A briefing the evening before would have been even better.
- With a 3-day event, you can hone the presentation of the talking points some. I liked Jon's "come back home" message to the KDE3 and KDE4 people.
- Updating https://community.kde.org/Promo/Events and the tree underneath .. in particular, linking to files and materials .. I know there's stickers and other designs *somewhere* but I need to ask Jon everytime.
- Make an A4 printout for the vertical stand about "KDE the Community" and "KDE Plasma" and similar, to explain the common sticking-points.