Monday, October 13, 2008

Conference Booths

Back at the Queensland Spatial Conference I found myself with a fair bit of time to check out other booths and compare them with what we had. I'm well aware that we were doing that conference on a shoe-string, but there was such a difference between the experiences of ours booth with others that I managed to write up a full-page list of things we were missing. Most would be fairly cost effective to pull together. Unfortunately, that list seems to have succumbed to the ravages of time and neglect, or more likely I recycled it.

With LISAsoft's recent work on the Live DVD, I'm once again thinking about my conference booth experiences of the past and future, so I thought I'd see what I could remember. The following points are things that I would like to have when representing OSGeo at conferences.
  • Live DVD

    This one we've got a good start on. It still needs some love, but it's sufficient to be passed out. Basically, it gives people something interactive to take home with them. I'm fairly pragmatic, so I have no grand illusions that every disk we hand out is a convert that will extoll the virtues of FOSS4G software, but if one in ten use it, and a few of those show a couple of colleagues, it's well worth the cost and effort.

  • Demo Laptop

    This will seem obvious to most, but at the Queensland conference, I made the choice to leave my laptop at home and bring my camera instead. It was a good decision, considering the conference was at Surfers Paradise, but since Cameron's laptop was buggered, it left us without anything to demo on. But simply having a laptop isn't enough. We need much of the trappings that the Live DVD needs as well:

    • Decent quality sample data loaded and optimised, where possible.

    • Services installed and configured to connect and style sample data.

    • Applications installed, configured to connect to services and linked from desktop.

    • Pages populated with interesting links to documentation, list aggregators, examples, case studies, etc.

    I set up such a laptop before the WALIS conference in Perth, and it was very useful. Even when I wasn't demoing on it there were applications running and looking pretty. The effect was much better than an empty table.

  • Handout Propaganda

    We had some fliers on the table, but they were leftovers from a couple conferences ago. It looked bad to have such a small subset of what we were discussing. They were also spread across the table in a tidy, but unappealing manner. Other booths had a variety of document stands to present their material in a much more compact and visually pleasing manner.

  • Wall Propaganda

    Our walls were bare. Looking at the variety of wall-candy around the show room, I realised that we don't actually need real content on our walls, just some eye-candy to draw people in and make us look organised. I figured two banners would do nicely.

    • OSGeo Logo Banner

      I don't envision this one having too much content. It could be one of those pointless banners that shows an attractive couple looking at a puppy, or a computer tower doing some rock climbing or something. The biggest requirement is a big green OSGeo logo, and some stuff. It's sole purpose is to catch the eye so a passer-by will take a second look.

    • OSGeo project listing

      I know these are hard, and they get out of date pretty quick, but I think it could be made to look pretty impressive. I remember ages ago someone put together a diagram that showed the interdependencies of various projects. It wasn't restricted to OSGeo, and I don't think this banner would need to be either, but it could provide the content for this. It's the kind of impressive, complexish-looking thinger that makes people stop and try to understand. The fact that they never will just gives you more time to chat.

  • Standing Banners

    • Project Banner

      We have one of these, generously provided by AutoDesk, and it looks pretty good. It has the logo, our mandate and a list of projects. It could stand to be updated to include recent projects, and maybe have a bit more colour, but is perfectly servicable as it is.

    • Interesting Banner

      This should match the other banner in basic layout, but needs a bit more to read. I haven't quite figured out what to include here. Quotes from recognised names, examples of large or high profile users of OSGeo stuffs seem to make sense, but would need to be updated and are next to impossible to get generic enough to be applicable to most conferences, and yet interesting enough to want to use. A timeline of OSGeo projects might be interesting as well, and would certainly be impressive.

  • Case Study / Project Book

    This is asking a lot. Various projects have been trying to compile lists of case studies and projects using their products for ages. We should have quite a few around by now. By compiling them all into proper prose and screen shots, we could bind them up into a book and bring a couple copies to the booths. People are always interested to know who's using this stuff, and while we can point them to web sites or give them examples we know about, I feel it would be much more powerful to walk them through a couple examples in the book, and give them a chair while they browse the rest. There is considerable work in putting something like this together however.

  • Table Cloth

    This one looks petty on paper, but when you are manning a booth with an bland white sheet covering your table, or worse nothing, it starts to make sence. By getting a simple black tablecloth with an OSGeo logo embroidered, emblazoned or emcrayoned on, we immediately look more prepared, more professional and more credible. This is my choice for the most cost-effective addition to our current booth efforts.

I'm sure I've missed a lot of things, including OSGeo swag (I take great joy in standing at the OSGeo booth with my ESRI thermal mug), booth personnel uniforms (which I'm personally opposed to) and the like, but this is my wish-list. I'm well aware of the time investment required to get most of these steps started, and once we have material, be it text for the book, designs for the banners or content for the DVD, we still need to find the money to produce them. Many of these are consumables as well. The reason we had such a poor selection of propaganda for the Queensland conference is that we gave most of it out at WALIS, and didn't get more produced. Our next conference is likely to have only two projects represented on paper. If we want to project a professional image, I feel we need to develop these resources. Once the legwork of putting creating the content is complete, it will be up to the local representatives attending conferences to decide what resources they actually need and how they will finance them. But that's a different blogging entirely.

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