Zap Your PRAM Secrets: Part Two

Here’s the other secret about Zap Your PRAM: it wasn’t difficult to organize and didn’t cost a lot of money.

I suspect that when we total the bills for beer and food and T-shirts and airfares and hotel rooms, silverorange and I will each end up kicking in about $1500. That’s $3000 in expenses to house, entertain and feed 35 people for 3 days. I think a class of grade 4 students could handle that funding burden.

So, note to bureaucrats: next time an eager group comes to you with a $300,000 funding request to host a conference, point them back at this post and ask them to explain themselves.

Now, to be honest, Zap Your PRAM wasn’t a lavish conference. Speakers picked up other speakers at the airport. We carpooled to the Saturday night dinner down the road. We didn’t have organza bags embroidered with images of Anne to give to attendees. We asked our speakers to speak for free. We asked a lot of our speakers to fly themselves here on their own dime. But nobody complained.

If we had gone a more traditional route, and sought funding from government and corporate sponsors, the degree of soul destruction we would have had to endure while prostrating ourselves would have eliminated the benefits of any largese such funds would have allowed.

As to the organizational work: the conference was conceived in a series of hour-long meetings in places like the Formosa Tea House. It gestated inside the silverorange intranet. And then it just appeared.

If you leave out tasks like “picking up the keg” and “stringing ethernet cable through the trees” and “rearranging the chairs,” I would hazard a guess that there were less than 2 or 3 hours of “work” that went into arranging the conference, along with an additional couple of dozen hours of “hanging out” and perhaps a dozen more spent on things like answering email and lining up speakers.

The conference had no employees, no volunteers, no organizing committee, no bank account, no formal meetings (i.e. with uncomfortable chairs, white boards, and agendas that nobody really wanted to go to in the first place). We had a website, a weblog, four organizers, and a collection of eager, helpful and enthusiastic friends, family, and colleagues.

Already others have started to think about doing Zap-like things themselves. Please, do it! It’s easy, it’s fun, and you’ll be glad you did.


Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on October 29, 2003 - 02:29 Permalink

On the money Peter. Less is more. Intimacy is powerful. A kitchen party verus the Nuremburg rally?

One of the best weekends of my life and I have had some good ones. Thank you

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on October 29, 2003 - 02:32 Permalink

Oh and the Formosa? I wonder could we think of having a regular lunch. Say every 3rd Thursday/Friday or any day of the month at 12 or 1 at a restaurant. The deal is if you are free you go — no obligation just a strong likelihood that you will meet some nice folks?

This way the conversation keeps building

Alan's picture
Alan on October 29, 2003 - 16:28 Permalink

Is there anyway, acknowledging Peter’s quite correct comment on the doom post-gathering blogs usually face, to put it on-line? Not at all exclusively but it is all a bit like a discussion about a great party just attended by people still under the other kind of influence.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on October 29, 2003 - 16:34 Permalink

I’m assembling the video tape and things will be online ASAP.

Alan's picture
Alan on October 29, 2003 - 16:51 Permalink

Are you considering a blog to bridge “Zap” to “Son of Zap” where the information to date can be accumulated and built upon?

Chris Corrigan's picture
Chris Corrigan on October 30, 2003 - 01:47 Permalink

In August 2001, my colleague Laurel Doersam and I hosted 80 Open Space Technology practitioners in Vancouver for three days for the ninth annual OSonOS conference. We used Open Space Technology of course, so meeting expenses were minimal, basically a room with a circle of chairs. The conference self-organized, saving us from having to arrange speakers and pick up their tabs. We arranged accomodations at the University of BC, where the cheapest room rates were $40 a night. Conference fees were $200.

We spent $900 on the room rental, $200 for a soundsystem, and about 30$ a day per person on food for people. People made their own arrangements for getting here, and arranged carpooling and accomodation sharing on a listserv. We held an opening evening reception at a local pub, who were only too happy to reserve the whole back section of tables for us. We probably spent about $200 on assorted supplies.

So for about $4000 we hosted an international conference. Our revenue was $10,000 and we donated the profit to helping people get to the next conference in Australia. The trickiest part was handling registrations, but between us it’s doubtful that we put in more than two weeks of work in total.

It CAN be done. If you know of a government agency paying $300,000 to do a conference, let me know…