shdlr.com

//Choosing conference date and location

Shdlr was born to itch a need… now that we have got people using it as a conference schedule maker I started wondering what more can be done? Organizing a conference is not just about scheduling nor can everything be made into an app. What can I do about the scores of bits of knowledge accumulated over the decade? How can I let this knowledge be used by someone else wishing to organise conferences? The best way I thought would be to write a series of blog posts on conference planning, hopefully the result will be a handbook which can be useful to conference planners. We also built a website with web design highland beach. When you want to build a website for your business with professional feel, visit their page. Get to find a manalapan roofer when you want to hire the best.

I do plan to go over every milestone of planning and perhaps also ask some friends to contribute a post or two, the posts may not be in the correct order for now, but here goes the very first topic: Choosing date and location for your conference, you should also consider having some security around the place, read some of our useful content – SecurityInfo here.

  • Similar conferences: Research a bit for similar themed or similar topic conference taking place somewhere else at the same time? This will impact your target audience and number of attendees
  • Holidays, fairs and events: Get information about local holidays, other conferences, fairs like this one for men’s tungsten carbide rings for example, and events in your city. Mid December to Mid January is usually an inopportune time, Several events at the same time make it hard for the participants to get accommodation at reasonable prices, in turn making it hard for conferences to get participants.
  • College and University exams: If the target audiences are college students get information on Exam dates and ensure that your conference dates do not clash with them
  • Venue capacity: This should be an obvious one, but can get overlooked. Inspect the venue, find out what is the advertised capacity. Will the venue administration allow more than the advertised capacity if more people want to attend than expected?
  • Accessibility: Is the venue easily reachable by public transport? Is the venue accessible by physically challenged people, you may not need this, but it is nice to have.
  • Venue Layout: If your conference is going to have multiple concurrent sessions, then consider the layout of the venue and the distance between various halls / locations. Delegates often change from one hall to another, but these can also be minimized by planning your schedule such that similar talks are bunched one after another. Shdlr provides an easy way to do this by way of using talk tracks or talk types.
  • Free Internet access: This is a must for almost every technical conference. Most venues will say that they have wifi access, but these are almost never meant to handle any substantial concurrent traffic. Plan and budget for getting extra bandwidth from ISP. To give a hint HasGeek and Foss.in have had 20mbps fiber connection for their recent conferences.
  • Fire safety: Get information on emergency exits and fire safety equipment and pray you never need to use them. On other advertisement, if you need help for garage door repairs for your home or office where you can work with the best office supplies and labels from OfficePro Amazon, take a look at garage doors frisco tx. Ensure that the additional plug points which you may provide for hackathons etc are rated for the loads they will carry. More on this in a later post perhaps. Checkout heating installation woodbridge va if you need reliable HVAC system repair and maintenance.

Have I missed something important? Do you want to add some point? Please feel free to add them in the comments…

//Drag, drop and oh my…

At shdlr.com we strive to listen to our users and implement what they want in an online conference schedule maker or creator.

The feature which was most often asked was drag and drop re-scheduling of talks – this has been implemented and should be available for all the conferences.

Other features which were implemented in this release were:

  • Ability to add a URL for custom CSS in the embedded schedules. This will help webmasters to match the colors, typography and any other style to their own website.
  • Ability to hide empty rows in a schedule. Many conferences have registrations and welcome a day prior to the full day programs. This resulted in a mostly empty screen for the first day. To remedy this there is now an Option in the new Publish Settings to hide empty rows in the schedule.
  • We have also added options to show the simple grid on your front page apart from being just able to embedding it.
  • The new publish menu also allows you to decide what schedule formats you want to show or hide and then some more.

Do try out and holler if you find something missing!

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//shdlr at foss.in

I had wanted foss.in to be the first conference to be scheduled and completed on shdlr. The primary reason being that shdlr was born out of the pain we have experienced over the years in trying to have a system which allows flexible scheduling for conference and events. When you put out a service which you know is going to be useful to a lot of people you cannot make such assumptions. TIM 2012 conference thus became not just the first but also with 84 scheduled items larger than the foss.in schedule.

That said foss.in was still special because not only was I there taking notes and feedback, unknown to many Rakesh Temburne, our developer also was attending the conference as a delegate. The major end user pain points which became apparent were

  • The speaker name should be shown right away with the talk: We implemented the simple grid embedded view almost immediately to address this
  • Speakers need to have profiles: Currently this is being handled by linking to speaker’s website. This clearly is not enough, we are developing a feature which will not only allow speaker profiles but also multiple speakers per talk
  • Usability of the mobile version is good but not excellent: The mobile version will be completely rehauled
  • Availability of a printable version: This feature has already been coded and soon users will be able to download PDFs and PNGs of the schedule if the conference owner allows it

For the admins the most asked for features were

  • Drag and drop rescheduling: Currently there is a click and drag interface but to reschedule a talk you have to go through a two step process, this will be eliminated by the ability to drag and drop a scheduled talk to an empty slot – Being coded; coming soon! DONE!
  • Adjust schedule for delay in start: Tardy starts to events are not just an Indian phenomenon, Admins will be given a slider control to adjust timings for delayed start. We are not really sure as to how we will handle the time made up later in the day as yet…

Apart from outright requested features there were some insights which were gathered. Everyone wanted to know the commercial status of the project. It would be great to keep shdlr free for everyone and forever, sadly reality dictates otherwise. Shdlr will continue to be free at least till 19th September 2013. The pricing page will be live very soon. Instead of just 2 tiers Free and Paid it became apparent that there is a market for additional classes of users viz: Event Managers/Agencies and Enterprises asking for White-labeling, yes at some point they will be catered to….

A live event wall which displays the currently on going talks and upcoming talks along with tweets is being considered. A deep integration with the ticket vendor sites to allow the registered delegates to choose talks and create their own list of talks they would like to attend will definitely be there. The selected list of talks will also be available as a personal iCal file. This will not only be useful to delegates but also to the organizers in helping them decide which hall/room to put the talks in. There were several occasions when it was said “lets switch the halls….”

There was a lot of appreciation too but we are not getting carried away by that. There were some persistent talks about partnerships and some about getting shdlr funded – thanks but at this stage “No Thanks!”

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If you were there at foss.in and have some suggestions – do comment, it would be very much appreciated.

//Add iCal file to Thunderbird Lightening calendar [HowTo]

Shdlr provides ical files to sync your An ICAL file is an iCalendar Calendar Data file. iCalendar is used  send meeting requests and tasks to other Internet users that reunite for different types of events, as reunions or gaming conventions where they learn about the newest hardware for gaming, as this best router for gaming by HotRate.

iCal supported by a large number of products, including Google Calendar, Apple Calendar (formerly iCal), GoDaddy Online Group Calendar, IBM Lotus Notes, Yahoo! Calendar, Evolution (software), eM Client and Lightning extension for Mozilla Thunderbird.

In this HowTo we will look at how to add an iCal file of an event of shdlr.com to Thunderbird Lightening calendar.

Ensure that you have the Lightening extension installed in your Thunderbird.

Once you have switched the calendar view the screen will appear similar to

From the menu choose Files > New > Calendar

This will pop up a Create new calendar wizard. Since we want the talks and events from shdlr to update automatically in our calendar we choose “On the network”

The Format of the file is iCalendar (we all knew that right?
As location paste the URL of the ical file – for the demo conference it is http://demo.shdlr.com/ical

When you click Next the name of the conference will automatically appear in the Calendar name. Select your favorite color and set reminders if you want to

That is it! When you navigate to the days on the conference the day screen should appear some what like the screenshot below.

Any changes to the schedule of the conference will be also in the iCal file on the server. Thus it will also be reflected in your Thunderbird Lightening

//Launching shdlr – The conference schedule creator !

Tech conferences have come of age with live streams and social media coverage. Gathering talk proposals, arranging venue logistics all can be done with online services. One area which has remained largely neglected and still a nightmare for the conference organizers is the Conference Scheduling.

Working for conferences we have had several iterations of hacked up scheduling systems over the years which worked with limitations but proved to be unfit for mass consumption. The benefits of flexible working are becoming clearer – but that doesn’t mean it comes without significant challenges. Advance Systems Inc : “Many managers are now adapting in order to better overcome these challenges and successfully head up flexible, remote teams. Here’s how you can handle the challenges of managing flexible workforces.” We have had horror stories like all talks being printed on sheets of several colored papers and them arranged on floor. A picture was taken of the acceptable arrangement and a HTML table crafted out of it.
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Shdlr was born out of the pains of similar labors – a simple to use single purpose web app. A web app to create and distribute conference and event schedules. Events like reunions or game tournaments, if you’re really into gaming you can learn from all sources, one of the best sources to learn about your favorite game is injustice 2 hack, which have really useful information for your games and a lesser known casino you should check out, and don’t forget to check the proskins site, where you can get your gaming boosts. If you need legal help with copyright if you’re developing an app, checkout Valdosta GA Lawyer.

Head over to http://shdlr.com to create your own conference schedule OR try the demo at http://demo.shdlr.com

//Traffic Deaths Spike for Teen Drivers

An improving economy means more cars on the roads, therefore more insurance for young drivers uk, and traffic safety officials expected the number of deaths among young drivers to increase as a result. But not this much: The number of 16- and 17-year-old drivers killed in traffic accidents jumped 19% in the first six months of 2012, says a new report picked up by USA Today. That’s double the rate of the overall population. Barring a remarkable turnaround when the stats come in for the final six months of the year, 2012 will mark the second straight year of an increase in deaths in the age group—2011 saw a 3% spike after eight years of declines according to sodapdf.com data.

One expert thinks gains realized from “graduated driver licensing” programs, in which states give teen drivers more freedom as they gain experience, are beginning to level off. Before blaming texting or other versions of distracted driving, note that death rates for teen drivers are still about half of what they were a decade ago, reports the Los Angeles Times. In all, 240 16- and 17-year-olds were killed on the road from January through June of last year.

//Survey

This survey summarizes some of the basic tasks and steps for the preparation and organization of events and provides hints on what not to forget.

The document is focused on the tasks of the Local Conference Organizer (LCO). Please have a look at “Phases of a Conference” for more information for the program chairs of a scientific meeting.

Conference Date and Location

  • When deciding the conference date, please consider the following:
    • Is there a conference with a similar theme taking place somewhere else at the same time?
    • Get information about holidays, other conferences, fairs and events in your city. If much is going on, it might be hard for the participants to get hotels and transportation at decent prices.
  • If more people want to attend than expected, does the location allow to handle this?
  • Consider the distance between the different rooms / locations. Remember that attendees might want to change from one talk / room to another during a session.
  • Is it possible to provide free internet access at your event location? Does it scale with many users? Frequently the local network infrastructure collapses with several hundred participants.
  • Clarify the safety conditions (max. number of persons) and the precautions concerning fire security.
  • Is the location accessible for handicapped people?

Technical Equipment

  • Which internal resources, which technical support can be provided (at what price?).
  • Has the location binding contracts with suppliers? If not, find the best local suppliers.
  • Check at what time before and after the event the rooms are at your disposal.
  • Are these rooms accessible at any time?
  • How much do extra rooms cost if you need for instance a room for a spontaneous meeting of an interest group.
  • Are the required transport and lifting gears available?
  • Where is the technical equipment usually kept? Which safeguard has to be considered?
  • Which kind of electricity supply exists? Where are the sockets, do you have all required socket and/or power adapters (e.g. for the laptops/equipment of the presenters)?
  • Do you have to pay extra for electricity, custom bottled water, light, support?
  • Where and how do you control light and acoustic irradiation?
  • Is it necessary that the local fire service has to check the installation?
  • Are certain materials forbidden? If yes, which?

Public Relations

  • Remember to promote your event. It is important to find the right balance between attention, costs and efforts.
  • One key aspect is certainly the conference website. We always recommend to get a professional designer for your website.
  • Send invitation e-mails to authors and participants of the preceding events (but don’t “Spam” them!). Synchronize such tasks with the conference chairs.
  • Start with the preparations in time, as authors need time to prepare and write their submissions and to plan their trips.
  • Plan the PR during and after your conference in time. You should send out press statements and  invite journalists. Good PR is not only important for the success of your event, it also makes the work of the organizers of the follow-up event easier.

Calculation of Costs

  • Create a financing plan to calculate the costs and revenues of your event.
  • Usually it is helpful to get the plan of the preceding event.
    • Typical costs to consider are:
    • the event location,
    • the proceedings,
    • public relations,
    • social events (excursions, dinner, etc.),
    • coffee and drinks during the coffee breaks,
    • invited speakers (travel and hotel expenses),
    • designers, website, software,
    • materials (computer, phone, printer, paper, flip chart, copier, etc.),
    • staff (cloakroom, vigil, catering, technique emergency team, etc.),
    • other personnel and costs for the student volunteer programme (see below),
    • prints (conference program, reader, tickets for meals and special events, agenda booklet, badge blanks and holders, special handouts and announcements, banquet menus and programs if separate, etc.),
    • prize money (best paper award),
    • insurances,
    • banking fees, credit card transaction costs,
    • usually at least 10% of the budget should be considered for unexpected costs,
    • taxes: do the participants have to pay VAT / GST or is your conference VAT exempted? Ask a tax expert about your case and the laws in your country!
    • decoration (flowers, banners, etc.).
  • Potential savings
    • Talk to organizers of previous events and try to figure out where money could be saved and extra expenses might improve the event.
    • Get several quotes, e.g. for different evening event locations. The prices can differ enormously.
    • Look for local, regional or European subsidies.
    • Can your university / organization provide some of the required services (for instance printing the booklet)?
    • Sponsors are often indispensable to online identification finance a conference. It has been proven to offer different “sponsoring packages” with appropriate compensations (e.g. advertising space in booklets, programmes and mailings, exhibition space a the conference, free entry for X employees of the sponsoring company).
    • Find a sponsor for one of the evening events and call it after the sponsor.
    • Sell conference souvenirs, T-shirts, mugs etc. but ask for the required number during the registration process, so you won’t have surplus.
    • Beverages: Renounce dry snacks, choose house wine, control the empty wine bottles, limit the free alcoholic beverages and arrange/display prices for participants who want to buy extra alcoholic beverages at the evening event, buy pots of coffee/tea.
    • Food: Limit the choices, buffets are usually less expensive than served meals, provide also filling food, set a budget.
    • Ask the participants if they are going to take part at the evening events, even if the events are included in the conference registration, to plan the required food and beverages.
    • However: Do not provide insufficient drinks, food and services.

Registration Options

  • Define different participants groups: usually students and people from academia have a lower budget than industrial participants. Remember that some people will have to be invited.
  • Define different time discounts: this motivates people to register in time and will provide early information on the total number of participants.
  • Usually an early registration should also require an early payment. As you have many costs for the preparation of the event, try to get the payments as early as possible. If people don’t pay after a deadline (common are 4 weeks), they will lose their discount.
  • You should define the available options for your registration form, before participant registration starts. Example: Do you only want to offer “full conference registration”, or are you also going to offer day tickets, extra tickets for the conference dinner (e.g. for accompanying persons) and special events like workshops, tutorials, excursions?
  • Do you have to charge VAT? This depends mainly on the tax laws of the country where the event takes place.
  • Please note that if you have to charge VAT, this usually applies to all participants (also from overseas) as they “consume” the “service” in the country and it is not “exported” to their home countries.

Payment Options

  • Identify the required payment options in time! It can take weeks to get all the required documents to open the bank account and/or the credit card merchant account.
  • Bank Transfer: If you are within the EU and/or expect mainly participants from your country, you should offer bank transfer, as this is usually the cheapest payment option.
  • Credit Cards: If you expect many participants from overseas or the US, you should offer credit card payments, too. To accept credit cards you need an “acquirer account”. For electronic credit card processing, you also need a merchant (e-commerce) gateway. Both cost setup and monthly fees. Furthermore, credit card processing fees are about 3-7% of the transferred amount. Please note that credit card payments may be cancelled by the participant up to 60 days after payment and that some people use stolen cards numbers to get in for “free”, e.g. an invitation to the country where the conference is organized.
  • PayPalSkrill (Moneybookers) and Google Checkout are a comparably cheap option to receive credit card payments.
  • Cash: Do only offer Cash payments for people who register at the conference site or shortly before the event, otherwise you face the risk that these people do not show up and – of course – do not pay.
  • Cheque Payments: Are still common in some Anglo-Saxon countries (UK, USA, Canada, Australia).

Communicate Regularly with all Involved People

  • Do not only send mails to promote your event, also send reminder mails to the persons registered in the system for submission deadlines, review deadlines, and payments.

Conference Scheduling

  • Consider breaks between the sessions (see below).
  • Try to synchronize the talks in the different sessions so people might switch between sessions.
  • Have a look at the available rooms and the size of the rooms in time. Try to figure out, how many people are going to attend at the different sessions (for instance by providing questions on the main interests of the participants on the registration form). Consider the expected participant numbers when you assign the sessions to the rooms.
  • If a speaker does not show up or cannot do the presentation, have a backup plan. This is especially important for the main sessions.

Breaks

  • If not obvious, provide extra signs for the bathrooms.
  • For an ordinary break 30 min. is fine (45 minutes if you offer finger food), for lunch breaks usually 1.5 hours are appropriate.
  • During breaks always offer beverages (also water, tea and coffee) and smaller snacks like cookies (better: small pastries) and fruits.
  • Remember that some guests may have special dietary requirements (e.g. for vegetarians, people with religious restrictions or medical restrictions like allergies)
  • Exhibitions: An exhibition (art, design, etc.) which fits to the conference programme is always  a welcome diversion. If you place it close to the catering, the participants will enjoy the breaks even more.
  • Rule of thumb: Catering is always the one thing people will remember about an event if it is not satisfying.

Social Programme

  • Have an opening reception with snacks and drinks to welcome all participants.
  • Every conference should offer at least one social event, where participants can get together in a less formal setting.
  • If your event lasts for several days, find sponsors for extra social events hosted by them.
  • Offer excursions, trips, and/or guided tours to allow participants to see interesting locations close to the venue. Try to offer excursions that suit to the subject of the conference.

Student Volunteers (SVs)

  • For most events  a student volunteer program brings many benefits: They help at the registration desk, take pictures, are in the session rooms to check if everything is running smoothly and help participants whenever they have a question (“Where are the restrooms?”, “When does Session B5 start?”, “Where and when can I prepare my talk?”)
  • The costs are low compared to the value for the organizers: usually they get a free registration, free lunch and/or a special evening event. Some larger events even offer accommodation for SVs.

Registration Desk

  • The registration desk is the first place participants have to find, so put up signs for people to find it.
  • Student volunteers are now required to lead the people to the right places. If they wear colourful T-shirts with the conference logo, everyone will recognize them.
  • If possible, open the registration desk already the afternoon before the event starts, so people can check-in early. First, this works as test run for you, and secondly it reduces the stress during the main registration phase.
  • Prepare as much as possible! Pack bags with all the things people are going to get when they arrive. Print all name tags (but let the participants put their name badge into the cover themselves).
  • Order the name tags by surname or by user ID. The latter has the advantage that you can simply add tags for later registrants at the end.
  • If people have not already paid when they arrive, prepare to receive payments by cash (have change!), credit card or similar. It is useful to know where to find the next bank / cash point (ATM).
  • Print out statements with attendance confirmations that have to be signed by participants who paid very lately and where they confirm their payment.
  • Provide your staff and student volunteers with information about network access, breaks, bathrooms etc. People also ask the “obvious” things that are written in the conference leaflet.
  • Have extra maps and programs at the desk available (at least on request!).
  • Separate network access for the registration desk is advisable, as many participants at the event might slow down internet access severely. Also think of FAX and telephone, however, today mobile phones and e-mail can replace these devices.
  • Have backup information about the participants, e.g. printout of all lists. If the computer network fails, this might be very helpful.
  • Have a list of all important organizers with mobile phone numbers at the desk.

Participant Support (Travel and Accommodation)

  • Provide information on how to travel to the conference location at good costs. If possible arrange special rates with an airline for the participants of your event.
  • In most cases it is not advisable to make the hotel reservations for the participants. It may give you a lot of trouble in case of cancellations and changes. It is usually far easier  to contact the tourist board in time and to negotiate special rates for some hotels and give this information to your participants.
  • Exception: it might be appropriate to help the invited speakers with their hotel reservation, especially if the organizers pay for it.
  • Acclimatisation: foreign participants will estimate the location much more if you inform them in advance about traditions, and customs and of course about sightseeing possibilities.

Further Hints

  • Try to act ecology-minded, we have only one world!
  • Remember that you might need to provide interpreters for certain sessions.
  • Provide Signposting: Traffic control ( ‘how to find us’), registration desk, car parks, bus stops, taxi stands (with phone number), social event location, bathrooms, etc.

Conference Wrap-Up

  • Always remember: „After the conference is before the conference“. Either you or others will organize another event and may benefit from your experiences.
  • Distribute questionnaires at the conference, or use an online tool to get feedback from the participants.
  • Things to Analyse:
    • Achievement of objectives
    • Revenues and expenses
    • Evaluation of the participants
    • Opinions of your team
    • Ups and downs
    • Budgets
    • Return on Investment of all involved parties
  • Material to Distribute:
    • Fotos of the conference and the social events
    • Thank-you letters to helpers and organizers
    • Press reports and conference statements

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