Running an Ubuntu Community stand at a Conference/Show

Before you begin consider the following. Ask yourself two questions:

  1. What should be achieved ? What will going to the event and presenting a booth or a talk at this event mean?
  2. What happens after the event?
    Don't forget to write up how the event, lessons learned and things to remember for the next time.

Then apply the planning maxim : Dont talk an idea to death, Dont over plan or try to be perfect. Half of something will always be better than all of nothing.

Keep the plan simple, create a check list for attending the event, for help needed and for items you will need. By creating a check list you can cross items off as they are completed giving you a better idea of where you stand.

This wiki page has been written based on the experiences of NikButler in helping to organise the UKTeam booth at the .Org village for Linux World Expo 2006. It also covers a few years of experience in the monthly attendance of the Sussex Linux User Group at the British Computer Fairs. It is not the definitive document and its worth taking time to go read similar pages based on experiences of other event organisersl; detailed below. This document has been updated by Laura Czajkowski of the LoCo Council who also is an event manager.

Every show and event will be both different and the same so try to break down the event into discreet steps of planning. Fortunately for the community a wiki lends itself to enabling a large group of people to co-ordinate their contributions. As a suggestion open two wiki pages for the planning your event. Use one page as a whiteboard and the other page for things that are agreed or fixed. An example planning page is provided below.

There are other ways such as etherpads and email but find a way that works for you, there is no right or wrong way to do anything just people have their own ways.

Don't forget to share out the roles, you can't do it alone, and you are part of a team. Teams want to help but they do need guidance and they will also bring something new to the event.

Step 1. Getting Ready for the show.

* What needs to be done

* Create a list and make it specific to the event either by calling it the event name, or the event date.

* Be prepared

* Get as many people on board who can help you as possible


Contact the organisers and get the following information

* What days the show is on for ?

* Is there a cost associated with you being there ?

* Who is the contact you are dealing with, get a name, contact phone number and email, share this information with your team for emergencies.

* When and what time are you able to deliver and set up the stands ?

* When and what time will you be able to break down and remove the stands ?

* What parking and access will their be for deliveries or volunteers ?

* What local amenities, refreshments and services are available locally ?

* How much stand space will you have access to and what furniture will be available ?

* What Utilities are available, electrics, heating, Internet access ?

* What overnight security and insurance is their for equipment at the show ?

* Where and how are badges assigned for setting up and show attendance and how many can you have ?

Volunteers and Help

Now you know about the place and what is expected you can begin to assemble your presentation and if required your volunteers. Start asking for volunteers early and make it easy on them by suggesting that you get enough volunteers to be available for the stand short periods , for example morning and afternoons. Spread out the times they are going to be helping, create a rota as this makes it easy to see and if someone can't do a certain time they can swap.

If the show occurs over a period of days then ensure your volunteers are aware what level of commitment you require and when you will be expecting them to be available. The setup and breakdown of the event are often the second thought of any event planning so make this a priority when asking for help. With the volunteers and help in place you will, hopefully , already be receiving offers of equipment and “stuff" for the stand at the very beginning accept everything with the view to considering what will be useful before setting up.

Make sure you have contact numbers or a way to get a hold of them, social media, email, IM but a way if needed to keep in touch if plans change. Make this information available to all of the volunteers. There is no point in one person having all of the information, share the knowledge that way if something happens everyone can be kept up to date.

Blogs , Mailing Lists and Wikis

Take time to find ways to share with the community about the event and its upcoming importance if its a particularly large event requiring much work in terms of logistics and people then a regular update of what has occurred and is yet to occur and what is still needed will keep people involved and will attract attention of those whom can help.

* Post to the Fridge

* Planet Ubuntu - if you are not an Ubuntu Member get someone who is to blog the event for you. Many teams also have their own team planet. Make your event visible and in peoples faces, that way they won't forget it's on

* you Team LoCo Mailing list

* LoCo contacts mailing list

* Post on the LoCo Directory

* Post on local mailing lists, lugs and other groups to let them know the event is taking place

Computer Equipment Demonstration material

Unless your going to do a show on your own then always accept the offer of help with creation and production of demonstration systems and materials. Since your going to be spending a lot of time organizing people and places and items you will not want to spend all your time on setting up and tweaking a demo.

By now there is plenty of material from Marketing and the Screen cast team to create some very solid demonstration material. Have a clear understanding though of what space and provision you have for equipment. Laptops are always easier to handle but Large 21" LCD Screens are always easier to demonstrate with.

Be prepared that people may wish to come and “handle" the equipment and play with the demonstrations so make sure you have nothing on the equipment which you don't mind strangers seeing. Creating separate user accounts is a great idea but make sure the user also has appropriate privileges to create and utilise the equipment for the purpose of an demonstration.

Shipit CDs , Handout CDs and Software

The nature of being able to order quantities of CDs from shipit has changed however it should still be possible if you are part of an approved Ubuntu loco team to order a number of shipit CDs. There are also conference packs available and again depending on if you are an approved team or un approved loco you will get a different conference pack.

What to wear.

Depending on your location , finances and time scales you may want to arrange to have some Polo or T Shirts created with the suitable Loco Ubuntu Logo. Be clear though if you expect people to pay for these or if you will be “funding" them to give away. Remember though to fit the expectations of the exhibitors and organisers so suits might be more appropriate than slacks. Know your crowd and be clear with volunteers about what they will be expected to wear.

Posters, literature and flyers

If you are not the creative sort then go for less is more on the stand if you dont have time to create and build good literature and art then dont halve do this part of the process. Have a look at spreadubuntu there is a lot of artwork done there already and is available for you to use.

Where as if you have the time and the opportunity, if the stand allows it , create large scale posters detailing who you are. Keep a clear theme and colour content through all associated documentation if you can since this will add to the “motif" of your stand and makes it clear to visitors what documentation is available. Most visitors will drop, discard or bin handouts which have been delivered without attention. Use Flyers to write notes and advice to questions answered and hand these to the visitors since this adds retention value to the flyer.

The stuff you forget about

Its always the little things which you forget which make the biggest difference to the success of your day and it cannot be stressed enough the importance of rubbish bags and Gaffa tape so here is the list of the “other items" which inevitably prove useful on the day.

Gaffa Tape

Black Bin Liners

10 port 100Mbit switches with appropriate 2mtre Cat5 Cables

2 8 way Trailing Sockets with 10 appropriate Plug to IEC connector cables

Blank CDrs

Gaffa Tape

Clipboards for writing on

A4 Notepads for writing in

A box of Pens

2 or 3 Sharpies

Gaffa Tape

A collection of Tie Wraps cable ties and cable tidies

Gaffa Tape

Blue Tack



A Big Roll of Paper Towel

84Ltr Really Useful boxes

Put it together

Prior to arriving at the show make sure you have completed the wiki page relating to planning specifically the where and when that your expecting things and people to be. This is where having the check list is very handy as you can see at a glance what has been done and what is left to do. Make sure that badges have been ordered and will be available to the relevant people.

Expect to provide a mobile phone number or contact number to all your key volunteers and organizers. Assemble every item in the boxes and make a clear note of what and how much has gone into each box. You can use this at the end to help audit the event. Copy those notes and print off the wiki page as a plan and your set for the event

Step 2. Arriving at the Show.

If you are preparing for a long multi day event you should consider arranging for a courier to collect your boxes and have them delivered to yourself at the show. You will need to arrange with the courier how you will be collecting them and how they will be received. Having a third party manage delivery and collection of all the stand materials will on the day of breaking down feel like wisdom of the ages as it removes stress and lets you enjoy the organising.

There are five very important items that you will want to establish prior to opening boxes and setting up equipment and these are

  1. where are refreshments so that coffee, teas, juice can provide sustenance and sanity.
  2. where are the toilets to relieve you of number 1(s).
  3. where are / will be the rubbish bins for you to put the rubbish you collected in those rubbish bags.
  4. is the stand space and fascillities exactly what you expected , if not then dont make a move on unpacking as you may be in the wrong place.
  5. Where can empty boxes and unwanted items be stored to be recovered at breaking down.

From here it is important to make sure that everyone is working according to one plan so make sure that people are clear and no potentially working against each other in the setup or completion of the stand. Be prepared to delegate and to ask for help but if someone is doing something that needs doing then let them finish.

Use of Gaffa and Bluetack and Pins

Remember that your using and occupying a space which will be used again by other members of the public and it is important to use with consideration anything which may leave a mark or damage paint or leave some residue. Leave the area as you got it if not tidier. You want to be invited back again. Be respectful of the area and mindful that you are a guest here.

Taking care of rubbish.

Set up a rubbish bag to place junk , empties and rubbish into but keep it hidden and out of site. Make sure people know where it is and to use it.


Get photos of the event and the people who are helping you. Take a photo at any opportunity and especially before , during and after the stand is in use. Publish these on blogs, wikis and on your LoCo team report and provide links in announcements on the mailing list. Pictures speak a thousand words apparently so use them to show the community whats been done and can be achieved. Send write ups and photos to any sponsor who made it possible for you to attend the event.

Let people know whats hapening

Don't expect everyone to have a clear idea of what your doing and where things are so make sure you give a clear description of what you expect of people who help out on the day. Make sure volunteers know about where to put rubbish, where to write notes , where to collect money or update the stand from. If you have a plan and a process in place then be clear if your expecting others to follow it. As a side note to volunteers and helpers you may feel have a “better" doing things but unless its shared with everyone else its more likely to confuse than compliment the efforts of setting up.

Creating a timetable to let others know where people will be, when they can help is a great way to make sure there is someone there to help at all times, there is no point in having 5 people at one time and then nobody for the next 2 hours. Share the workload.

Step 3. Being at the Show

The stand is up, the flyers are out and the demonstration equipment is up and running the doors are about to open. So what should you look out for on the stand .

* Don't Crowd and Dont gather and chat. Make it easy for visitors to walk up to and towards your stand. Recognise when you and your volunteers have gathered and are just talking amongst yourselves its nice to chat but you'll be missing opportunities in speaking with visitors which was what brought you to the show in the first place.

* Make eye contact. This is quite challenging for many but most visitors if they want to ask questions will be trying to establish eye contact and will be creating many little signals which define them as trying to start a conversation.

* Use good open questions to engage with you visitors. This means you want to avoid conversational traps which lead to being cut short or halted in the opening a conversation. Sales men understand this as asking open questions. Some good examples are

  1. What brought you to the show today ?
  2. Whats been your experience of open source / ubuntu ?
  3. When was the last time you used open source software ?
  4. Whats your current operating system ?

If your offering a LIVE CD for people to experience Ubuntu avoid using words like demonstration or sample CD. There can be an assumption that what is on offer is a cut down or restricted version.

Keep checking your demos because people like to be clever.

Pay attention to slide shows, documents and screen displays for any stray “visitor" introduced material.

Step 4. Wrapping up and Tidying up from the show.

* Time to get tidy and those rubbish bags are looking much like a smart idea.

* Collate material and tidy and note monies and write up requests and place them somewhere safe remove computer and electrics away first since this is the time of day accidents are more likely to occur so reduce the risks of visits from the foul up fairies.

* Get the kit back to storage and off the stand. Tidy up and make good.

* Make sure to thank your volunteers and the organisers and let people know where and when they will see more data. Do it in person on the day and still follow up by email the next week with a link to photos and report on the event. Buy drinks and have curry if possible.

Step 5. Writing up and concluding the show.

All is not yet done but take a moment to sit back and be happy that all went well and the event is complete. Now gather the materials the photos and the conversations and just like in Step 1 tell the community and your local team all about the event and remember to thank everyone whom helped.

Template For Organising a stand

Taken from the work of the UKTeam at Linux World Expo

People Responsible for making it Happen

Detail main contacts, names of volunteers and their roles here.

Provide information about what how many people you will need for each day. that in mind.. .okay .. now back to you guys.

Contact Details











Help with Setting up the Booth

Before you commit to this please consider that the end of a Show is often the time when the most help is truly appreciated.

Contact Details





Staffing of the Booth on the Days

Everyone of us will want to at some point wander the Show and visit the speeches, talks and discussions so bear it in mind before committing to being all day on the stand. Similarly someone who can run the refreshments in provide cover for breaks and absence is also required. Can people confirm which part of when they expect to be on stand. It will be first come first served so if your preferred time is blocked, please consider if you can be available at another time.

Contact Details





Attendance and Schedule







Wbat they will do

Any thing else

Things required before we arrive

Well we can list the obvious here but if there is something we have not thought of something in hindsight that would have been useful, smart or just plain obvious now we consider it then lets put it here.

Things we will need on the day of setting up

Well we can list the obvious here but if theres something we have not thought of something in hindsight that would have been useful, smart or just plain obvious now we consider it then lets put it here.

  • tools? Hex allen keys?, adjustable spanner?, flat blade screwdriver large & small, cross head screwdriver large, small. Small hand-torch. Glue, string, Gaffa Tape.

  • cables. USB, firewire - things to connect people's gadgets to computers.

Things Now Boxed ready to go





Box A

84Ltre Box



Things required during the Event

Well we can list the obvious here but if theres something we have not thought of something in hindsight that would have been useful, smart or just plain obvious now we consider it then lets put it here. If you bring anything please make sure it's clearly labelled.

Tidying up and clearing down the booth at the end of the day

Rubbish bags, detritus, someones unclaimed laptop or powersupply mark it up here and make sure its managed.

Help with Setting up the Booth

Activities and Deadlines.

Make this section the To Do list for actions leading up to and during the event. If you order stationary, flyers or schwag note when and where you expect it to arrive.

Basic Calendar

Some Date

UbuntuAtConferences Emailed Shipit to ask for conference pack




BuildingCommunity/RunningCommunityStands (last edited 2010-08-25 13:34:08 by 109)