Running an Ubucon


An Ubucon is a community driven, community organised event that is all about Ubuntu. These events often include a number of speakers, BOF sessions, demos, social events and more, and they are excellent ways to grow the Ubuntu community in your area, and to build an interesting and fun event. Ubucons are different to large Linux expos and conferences in that they are uniquely community focused and driven, and uniquely Ubuntu.

With a worldwide community of Ubuntu users and our incredible network of LoCo Teams, the Ubuntu community is always keen to see Ubucons being organised and run across the world. In the vast majority of cases, the organisers have found them incredibly fun, fulfilling and worthwhile events to organise, and they are an excellent way of doing your bit' for the Ubuntu community.

So, you want to organise one, but don't know how. Well, luckily for you, this is where this guide comes in. This guide will run you through the core aspects of running an Ubucon, and also point you in the direction of other guidance and documentation to get you up and running.


Relax, Don't Worry, Chill

Before you really get started, keep in mind that an Ubucon, as a community event, is a lot more about hanging out and advocating Ubuntu than anything else. As such, it's important to keep in mind that the whole point is to have fun. This is not to say that there won't be moments of stress or intensely hard work, but the whole idea is to bring people together in a relaxed setting. Remember that for some Ubucon participants, this will be their first exposure to Ubuntu, so it's important that you establish a welcoming - not intimidating - atmosphere. A few rules are in order:

  1. An Ubucon, despite the "-con" suffix, is not a conference. In fact, the sole reason the name was chosen was because of the way it resembled "Rubicon." The setting is much more relaxed, and the schedule is much more fluid. Think of it as a community gathering or club
  2. Although a relaxed air is in order, keep in mind that there needs to be at least some structure. Given the wide variety of people bound to show up, it's to have a defined skeleton on which participants can build (or tear down and start over, if the fancy strikes them)
  3. The event will only be as successful as the participants allow. If those in attendance would rather talk about foo than bar, then let them, regardless of what may have been scheduled. There must be some type of interaction, and it should be encouraged every step of the way. Everyone needs to understand that they're expected to participate in some way. [see "open space" -]

Ok, Sounds Great. I'm Interested

Before you make the first phone call, send the first email or pester the first speaker, you should lay a certain amount of groundwork before you begin. When people have run events such as this in the past and they have failed, it is typically because they have not prepared for the level of work needed and rushed the job right at the end. You can mitigate these problems by preparing beforehand and building a team that is matched the level of work required to run the event. It's important to include others in the planning right from the beginning.

Remember, running an Ubucon is not something a single person can do easily. Sure, some people could run an event by themselves, but they would possibly turn to alcohol, drugs and sitting in a chair nervously chatting to themselves. Don't do it to yourself, work as a team and it makes the entire process much more fun and productive from the start.

Find a Venue

It cannot be stressed enough, but perhaps the most important early decision to be made is where to have an Ubucon. Often, you simply take what's available and you may not have much choice. If you do have a choice, be creative. You may think that you need wi-fi, projection screens, podiums, microphones, etc. All of that is nice, but your first step is simply making sure you can locate a venue with ample electricity and easily accessible. If it's near public transportation, even better. Any other amenities you may think you need can be arranged.

The first choice is finding a place that is free of charge, and you may be surprised by your options. Technology companies, non-profit organizations, churches, and schools, will regularly host gatherings of people around a variety of topics of interest to their members. Many of them will charge a fee, but there are ways to get space for free. For example, if one of your event organizers is a member of an organization, it doesn't hurt to ask them. Or if a gathering of Ubunteros is appealing to certain businesses, they may decide to host an Ubucon for you. It never ever hurts to ask.

Building an Ubucon team

After finding a group of people willing to help, it helps to get a handle on what everyone's skills are. Some people may designing handouts or graphics. Other folks may have experience running events. Still others simply enjoy reaching out to grassroots organizations or media. Take stock of what those in your group can do and let them do what they're good at. If you notice that you lack someone who can do X, then work through your group to try to find someone who can do that. And if you don't find that person... relax, don't worry, it will be fine Smile :)

It helps if people are clear on their key roles:

  • leader - benevolent dictators have a way of getting things done, but the operative term is "benevolent"
  • speaker liaison - it's best of one person has the primary responsibility of reaching out to speakers
  • exhibitor liaison - you may or may not have exhibitors, but it's good to have someone in charge of their needs
  • press - depending on how many people you want to reach, appointing someone to contact press members is a good idea
  • a/v (if required) - this can be difficult to pull together in time, so if you know of someone good with a/v equipment, make sure you treat them well! Another thing to note is copyright - make it clear from the beginning that you want distribution rights.
  • public relationship - if you bring a great Ubuntu star, you will need someone to introduce "famous speakers" and visitors in order to arrange "corridor BOFs". Sometimes people are too shy to do it by themselves, or they haven't seen the star's face before!

Building a programme of talks/events

It's important to leave the schedule somewhat flexible. Allow some time for open space-type collaboration, although it is helpful to have most of the schedule identified before the event.

building a timetable - take into account lunch, travel, registration


Wikis are great for planning an Ubucon. Let those who are interested write in their preferred time slot and topic. It gives participants control over their destiny and makes them feel like a part of the event, as opposed to simply doing as they are told.

Finding speakers

This is not as hard as you might imagine. Sometimes, people will show up at an Ubucon with a topic in mind, although you may not have known about it before. Make sure you include them in the day's activities! As an Ubucon planner, it's your job to interact with people and locate potential contributors. Everyone has a responsibility to contribute in some way, even if it's just asking good questions or expressing a desire to learn more.

If speakers come a different country maybe you will need help with translations. Simultaneous translation is expensive but it makes speeches more fluent. Volunteers can help with consecutive (non-simultaneous) translations, but bear in mind that speeches will take a lot (double?) more time.

Marketing and promotion

...more on this later... really depends on the size of the event, what type of audience is desired, etc.

Community Marketing

Blogs, podcasts, websites, forums etc.

  • - as mentioned, wikis are great. LUG's are useful for outreach - particularly those affiliated with universities.

Don't forget to contact local magazines. Every town has got a bulletin with events, fairs, conferences... People read more than just their screens!

Magazines, ads etc.


Here are some resources and places where you can find more help and guidance for making your Ubucon really kick!

  • ubucon-planners Mailing List - this is a mailing list filled with people who organise and run Ubucons all over the world. It is an excellent way of sharing ideas and knowledge with other organisers.


BuildingCommunity/RunningAnUbucon (last edited 2008-08-06 17:01:33 by localhost)