Wikimedia Conference 2018/Program/35

34. What I learned from interviewing 20 event organizers from around the world about how to run really engaging events edit


Rachel Farrand (Wikimedia Foundation)

Length (min)


Audience / Target group

Anyone looking to organize events

Session Format

Presentation followed by group discussion


Have you ever been to an event that wasn't as thoughtful as it could be? Have you been to an event that was thoughtful, inclusive and engaging? In this session, I'll outline key takeaways from interviewing 20 free and open source event organizers from around the globe about how to make events that make people feel welcome and engaged. You'll come away with concrete suggestions and tips — based on what's worked at conferences around the world. We'll then move into some group discussions and brainstorm as a group on how we can bring some more of the ideas to Wikimedia. We'll also discuss how we can increase the sharing and learning of best practices for organizing events within our movement, while continuing to learn from others outside of Wikimedia.

Desired Outcome

Share and be inspired by ideas from the interviews. Connect Wikimedia Event organizers more closely together. Talk as a group about next steps in openly documenting our own event organization best practices. We can all continually learn from each other.

Next Steps and Milestones
  • Decide as a group how to communicate with each other in the future and what we would like to communicate about. Where can we ask questions? Where can we share our lessons learned?
  • Improved documentation next steps
  • Defining: how can the Wikimedia Foundation help?

Introductory question: What is something different that event organisers have done to make you feel welcome or engaged? Answers:

  • CC newbie breakfast, seated with longer term community members
  • Special stickers for newcomers
  • Took people through the design process
  • Wikimedia Germany put toiletries in the bathrooms
  • Diversity conference had a bingo where you had to talk to people you didn’t know
  • Hearing the friendly space policy read out

Safe space policies should be sensitive to location, language and how it can be implemented by staff or volunteers.

Pre-event engagement,

  • Remember that this often privileges time-privileged people.
  • Ensure that the representative can truly represent their organisation.
  • Flyers, slide decks, and other supporting materials done all year can help.


  • Social media obviously important.
  • Give different participants different information, information that fits them.
  • Allow attendees to communicate with each other.
  • Moderate communications between then to reduce potential friction.


  • Allowing participants to add, change and repurpose.
  • Candy swap, Stickers, Teas, Games
  • Give people jobs: photography, social media, etc.

Measuring success

  • Measure fun things. How much beer was drunk, how many people left with blue hair?
  • Participants can engage with this kind of thing.

Event follow up?

  • Think about possible follow up events, is there another space that can be used?
  • One on one follow up
  • Use the momentum
  • THANK people. It’s important.

Post-event engagement

  • Write your event report *before* but then fill in the gaps after.

Newcomer support

  • Leave spaces open for newcomers to come in
  • Make sure newcomers understand so they can engage
  • Have open social rules
  • Organized group activities

Same people attend repeatedly, how can we continue dialogues?

Main Struggles in event organising?

How can we better work together?

How can WMF help?

How to make people aware of your event?

  • WMF has facilities for this, but on a local level?
  • Art + Feminism used promotional material and social media.
  • Knowing what your audience should be will help you focus your efforts

What if people are participating in your conference but with bad presentations? Unprepared speakers and unprepared sessions?

  • Requiring the slides before conference is good
  • Allow people to get up and leave sessions