Friday is without a doubt the busiest, most “high-maintenance” day of the event. No matter how detailed your preparation, last-minute difficulties and unforeseen issues will arise. We recommend using this page as a sort of checklist, but the most important thing is to keep a cool head and an even keel. Ensure you have enough volunteers to help manage the more high-maintenance parts of the day (registration, dinner, pitches, etc.)
Above all, keep in mind that Friday is designed to be inherently chaotic: you’re getting 30-130 strangers together and telling them to share their most cherished ideas and join hands with one another. The most important thing is to try to flexibly manage the chaos, without over-engineering it.
Use the Eventbrite (or your ticketing platform) mailing list feature to send one last reminder e-mail to all attendees. Some things you might want to touch on are:
Any special resources offered by the local or global sponsors.
Timeline of when registration starts, food is served, and when venue is expected to close for the evening.
Special parking instructions or how to enter the building if you have accessibility needs.
How Friday pitches will work. Directions to the venue. Registration reminders such as bringing a student ID. If pay at door option was enabled, reminder to bring cash—exact change preferably.
Continue with last minute promotion via Twitter and Facebook, etc. It’s important not to go radio silent as soon as the event starts. These will prove to be extraordinarily useful throughout the entire weekend.
Contact some local news or media representatives, inform them of what’s happening and invite them to the event. This can also be done either Saturday and/or Sunday morning. You’ll often have more success attracting media if you can tell them “it’s happening right now.”
Arrive at the venue at least a few hours early to prepare the space.
If you have 50 or more attendees, you should try to have at least two people manning the registration table at all times.
Make sure there are outlets at the registration table as you’ll likely be using your computers to check in via Eventbrite. There is an Eventbrite application for iOS and Android as well if you prefer to use your mobile device or tablet. Download app here.
Have at least one table for event and/or sponsor swag.
If you have allowed attendees to pay at the door, have a cash box and sufficient change on hand.
If you printed out name tags beforehand, have them laid out alphabetically so people can sift through and find their own. Otherwise, have markers handy so people can write their own. Some teams like to color-code name tags by area of expertise (developer, designer, business, marketing, social media, funder, etc.). If you do, be sure to have a “key” visible.
Set up the layout
Visualize the setup for Friday pitching; make sure there are enough chairs to accommodate all attendees and extras for press, etc.
Set up enough tables for food in an area where you’ll avoid bottlenecks (i.e. not in front of doorways, hallways, etc.)
Anticipate the migration of teams to their workspaces that will happen later. Make sure you have enough desks/chairs, whiteboards/flip charts, and post-its.
Have enough trash cans placed strategically near high-consumption areas.
For temperature control, check with the venue provider if the A/C shuts down after normal business hours.
Wi-Fi! Go over these basic, but fundamental, things with the venue owner/caretaker. Test the Wi-Fi password and connection speed, and get a contact number in case anything goes wrong.
Check if any doors lock or if there are any “no-go” areas after normal business hours and communicate this to attendees.
Check the bathrooms and make sure they’re fully equipped for the weekend.
Call any speaker/sponsors/guests of honor to confirm that they’re on schedule. Ask speaker to show up at least 15 minutes early.
Set up a running Twitter feed/slide show to entertain arrivals.
Get the tunes on! It’s important to start the event off with great energy, and music contributes a lot to the mood. Remember: it’s not a conference, it’s an un-conference! Here’s some playlist suggestions.
Coordinate the introduction speech with the facilitator. Some points might include:
“House-keeping” issues such as the Wi-Fi login, venue security protocols, venue closing time, etc.
Local sponsor recognition.
Organizing team recognition and volunteer thank-you’s.
Registration and Food
As the attendees arrive, have one or more people checking people in (and checking student IDs) and someone else ushering everyone inside to grab food, drinks, and be merry. Encourage lots of mixing and mingling and facilitate introductions. Networking is one of the greatest benefits to Startup Weekend, after all!
Give a 30 minute warning to get people eager to start. About 10 minutes before estimated start time, encourage people to take a seat.
Managing each of these processes will be the responsibility of the Startup Weekend facilitator and should be coordinated ahead of time, but assisting the facilitator with crowd maintenance during these times will be key.
After the ideas have been announced, teams will typically continue forming for 1-2 hours. At this point, all that’s left is to ensure each team has a space/desk(s) to call their own (the more teams that get settled and begin to work on Friday night, the better). Once the dust has settled you can relax and begin to think about coffee and breakfast for Saturday morning.
Common mistakes you can make on Friday:
- Forget to thank your Local Sponsors and Global Partners and point them out in the room
- Let speakers/sponsors/yourself ramble on and on (use a timer!)
- Have more than one speaker... Seriously, entrepreneurs can’t sit still very long no matter how interesting the person speaking might be. No one came to listen to speakers anyways.
- Force people to sit through more than 20 pitches at a time (take as many breaks as necessary)
- Rush voting. The more discussion of ideas, the better the teams that are formed.
- Forget to play music. It is so critical in setting the atmosphere