As the Debian group is increasing their marketing efforts, they have held a Debian Event coordination meeting – the minutes are now available and gives a good perspective on how they approach the public.
It took a while, but here is the report on our event coordination meeting
in Essen, Germany, last weekend. It also includes links to the newly created
Event Coordination meeting, Essen, Germany
Friday 11th to Sunday 13th of August, 2006
Andreas Barth (aba)
Susanne Ebrecht (miracee)
Gerfried Fuchs (alfie)
Meike Reichle (alphascorpii)
Alexander Schmehl (Tolimar)
Martin Schulze (joey)
Martin Wuertele (maxx)
Martin Zobel-Helas (zobel)
This is a report on what was talked about while this meeting. It also
includes our results: decisions we made, howtos and lists we created and
our plans for the future. Things of general use, such as lists and howtos
are put in the wiki This report is sorted by topic rather than
chronologically, but all things in here were discussed during this weekend.
1) Review of past events. We first collected opinions on what we think went
good or bad in past events, so we know whether we see the same problems.
Things that we think are good:
– Debian is very present, we visit a lot of events major as well as
small local ones.
– There have been some quite good things coming out of events, such as the
tripple arch DVD
– We have quite a lot of good and interesting merchandise, most of which
also sells pretty well.
– Most people are very satisfied after visiting our booth. It's manned by
experts rather than “marketing droids”. They don't give you sales
answers, and know what they are talking about. Often booth staff will
sit down with a visitor and help them fix some computer problem, even if
it is a tricky one
– In major events there's also people from related projects (FAI,
debian-edu, debianforum.de, sometimes debian-med) present.
– Debian booths are always well visited
– Most major events have a dedicated Debian track (DebianDay)
– It's mostly not a problem to get people to staff a booth.
Things that we think need improvement:
– Often booth staff see an event mostly as a social get-together, not as a
place to present Debian. They thus tend to prefer talking to other
Debian people over their “event duties”
– Some Debian booths have been too merchandise centered. It is not the
main point of a Debian booth to sell stuff, also, the success of an
event visit can not (only) be measured in sales
– The booth often doesn't look inviting. People are working on their
private laptops, sitting and relaxing or even turn their back to the
visitors, talking to fellow booth staff. Tables are mostly arranged in
a line, creating a barrier between booth staff and the visitors.
– There is often a lot of private stuff (bags, jackets, private laptops,
garbage, …) lying around the booth because people use it as a drop-off
point. Also the tables should not be “naked” since they are often dirty
or chipped. Instead some kind of table cloth should be used.
– The Debian tracks/DebianDays are often not advertised enough, especially
when they are not in the main program. Also the speakers there sometimes
have to be “persuaded” to give a talk (“We can get a track of our own,
if we get it full”), and thus lack enthusiasm or preperation
– Logistics are often short-term and chaotic, (too) often Credativ is
simply assumed to take the Debian stuff with them
– Debian-internal event advertisement is lacking
– Debian-internal ressouces (wiki.d.o, lists.d.o or debian.net mailing lists)
should be used for organisation/coordination
– Some think the debian booth is often not recognisable enough, lacking an
eye-catcher or something to make it recognisable as the debian-booth even
from a distance
2) What is the main aim of going to an event?
We discussed that question and came to the conclusion that events and
our aims there can be separated into three different groups:
1) Large community events such as fosdem, CLT or Linuxtag (in earlier
2) Smaller local events
3) Business events such as Systems, LWE or CeBit
Each of these event types has a different main reason for us to be
there, different things that we would like to present and also different
FAQs. The FAQs can be found at 
2.1) Large community events
Many visitors there are already experienced with Linux/Debian and often
also do some kind of contribution themselves. Going there has mainly the
aim to refresh social contacts, meet up- and downstream and other
interesting people. People there don't usually have to be told about
Debian but are often interested in how they can contribute or have
rather specialised questions.
Due to this we should mostly give information on how to help/contribute
to Debian and what we expect/need from up- and downstream. Also these
are good events to present subprojects and explain what makes Debian
different from other Distros and what its “specialties” are. People
will probaly not be too interested in presentations of the very basics
but rather on internationalisation or things that are new in Debian.
2.2) Smaller local events
These events mostly atract people who are new to Linux or think about
switching and want to get a first impression of what they are up to.
They often have basic questions, and there is great interest in direct
live support (“Can I bring my PC?”) and general information.
At such events the presentation should mainly center on the user
friendlyness of Debian, it's broad userbase, places to get help (mailing
lists, irc, sites like debianforum.de). There should be some general
information material on Debian/Linux/FLOSS and also on migration from
other OSes (mostly windows). Reference cards (like the one from
debacle) are also very handy. Also FAI CDs/DVDs are very handy for
2.3) Commercial events
At such events, Debian has to give a reputable impression. Our main
interest there is to find commercial users or cooperations and refresh
already existing business contacts and cooperations. They are also a
good place to find sponsors for stuff.
To achieve this, presentation there should center on things that are of
interest to large sites (FAI, virtualisations …) and highlight
Debian's commercial independance, security and stability. Also we should
present the possibilities of customizing Debian and existing CDDs. It's
also possible to do cooperations with already existing business
partners, but we have to watch our neutrality then, so we do not favour
one or the other business partner.
3) Debian Days/Debian tracks
We found that sometimes DebianDays are not visited too well or by the
wrong audience. We think that usually if there is a dedicated DebianDay
or Debian track it mainly aims at contributors and advanced users and
should thus only be organised if
a) Enough of such people are to be expected
b) We have enough good speakers to fill it without organising talks just
to fill up the program. If that is the case, it is better to have a
few good talks in the main track, than to have a mediocre extra track
Also such extra tracks are often not advertised as well as the main
track but their organisation and advertisement is left to the according
project. If that is the case we need to prepare schedules to put out at
the booth and a few posters. This needs some preparation, so it's
important to check on that well beforehand.
4) The event box
We had a long discussion on the idea of having an event box that
includes all things useful for a Debian booth. There were some arguments
against it, such as that most things such as hardware, office supplies
etc can also easily be organised locally and the cost of sending them
around is too high for that. An other possibility was to also include
e.g. the video projector in such a box, this was dismissed though
because of the high risk. We prefer the projector to be transported
separately in its bag. On the other hand there are a few things, such as
awards, book samples, banners etc that it might make sense to send
around but there is not much use in buying a dedicated box for them. In
the end we figured that it would be best to have a kind “virtual box”.
This means to actually have a collection of useful things for Debian
booths, that can not be easily bought locally. These things will not be
sent around individually but we will pack them together with whatever
merchandise people asked for. For this purpose we will get a few metal
or plastic boxes to send around merchandising + the booth things and
that will also be used to send the kit and leftover merchandise back
5) Merchandiese Committee
At the moment there is no centralised way of organising our
merchandising stock. What we have is stored in many different places and
there is only a rough idea how much of what is where. Also a lot of what
we have is paid for by individual people or by comission from a vendor.
There are also some things that were ordered by individual people but
do not sell well.
We will try to improve on that situation by creating a merchandising
team, that will keep an overview on how much is there and order new if
necessary. Zobel and joey will also write a database with a web frontend
for keeping track of the existing merchandise.
All financial transactions will be made via the FFIS.
The merchandise team should consist of: Tolimar, zobel, Ganneff (joerg
Jaspert), maxx and Meike. We will also investigate international
cooperations e.g. with the UK, who have some great T-shirts.
6) Event Reports
After an event there should be a report on how things went. There should
be not only the official public report on w.d.o/events but also a more
detailed one to events-eu that can also be used to prepare the following
events. Additionally we think it would also be good to have a private
report that gives information that is useful to us but should not be
made public. We agreed to create an svn repository for these reports.
The reports will be accessible to all event coordinators, but not
publicly. Tolimar will create a svn repository for that on alioth.
Here's a list of things we think should go into these reports:
1) To be put at w.d.o/events
This is the most general one. It should give some overview information
on how things went and have an overall positive tone.
2) To events-eu
This report should include the following things
– An official thank you to the booth staff, the event organisers and our
– Feedback on the booth from the outside plus our own opinion
– Frequently Asked Questions
– What kinds of visitors/which other projects where there, who staffed
– Numbers on the visitors
– What should be improved next time
– Will we go there again next year
– Feedback for the event organisers (enough signs? location, booths …)
– What booth did we have? (size, location, what was presented)
– Talks (how many visitors, quality, topics)
3) Intern report
This report will be stored in a svn repository on alioth. It will be
private and only accessible to other event coordinators. This report
should include the same as the -events-eu one plus
– Financial information (how much was sold, how many donations …)
– References, what do we need to follow up on. Possible new cooperations
– Sleeping possibilities, who is willing to host people, where can one
go for dinner
7) Misc decisions
7.1 Kensignton locks
It's mostly no problem to get enough demo machines for booths but they
are mostly badly secured. We will thus buy a few Kensington locks that
can be sent to events along with merchandise and other stuff.
We discussed the posibility of buying a simple shelf for the booths, to
present either merchandise or information material. The problem with
such a shelf would be that it is even if it can be taken apart still
rather bulky, which would make sending it around pretty expensive. Still
especially on large events it would be very useful.
We thus decided that zobel should look for a cheap shelf that would fit
with a booth. This shelf will be stored with credativ. It will not be
sent around on Debian expenses though. People going to an event can have
it if they want but they need to find an own way of getting it there.
7.3 Debian Tux
We discussed whether it would be a good idea to have Debian branded
tuxes since people often ask for some kind of Debian cuddly toy. The
idea seemed nice at first but it quickly turned out that such a tux
would be very expensive in the making and it is unlikely that we would
find a store to cooperate with us to sell them since cuddly toys
generally don't bring too much profit. Also they are pretty bulky and
thus difficult to send around and store.
We then discussed only having a few to put up at the booths as
decoration and to see how they are received. Tolimar will investigate
the possibilities there.
7.4 Debian Banner
In order to have an eye catcher and make the Debian booth better
recognisable from the distance we decided to buy some kind of banner. We
decided against a “classical” landscape format one since they are
difficult to put up and require a lot of space/a wide booth. Instead we
will get a vertical one (or two) with a frame to put it up. Such a
banner would only require a little space but still be an eye catcher.
Alfie will investigate prices for such banners. If they are reasonable
we might even have two made: One with the logo, one with some general
promotional text (nothing that can get out of date though). There's also
the possiblity to get the banner sponsored, and include a “banner
sponsored by” note in one (small!) corner. One possible sponsor could be
7.5 etch press kit
Tolimar is collecting press material on etch at . This will be
useful for people wanting to write about the upcoming release but also
for booth staff, since not everybody may be familiar with all the news in
7.6 Debian Talks
We decided to review and update http://www.debian.org/events/talks
7.7 The glass vitrine
We discussed whether it makes sense to keep the glass vitrine, since it
is very heavy and bulky and thus very expensive to ship. Additionally
assembling it is pretty difficult. We agreed to keep it anway, since
it can be used for presenting merchandise as well as information
material. We need to find a new storage place for it though.
7.8 What to show on the video projector
We need something to show on the projector when it's not used for demos.
So far we mostly showed bb but something fancier would be better. Meike
and Tolimar will create some kind of “Debian slide show”.
7.9 Foil stickers
There is a large demand for foil stickers (like the ones seppy does).
The merchandising team will investigate on the prices and order them.
7.10 Event coordination in the German-speaking area
We made a list of all upcoming events and discussed who can take care of
them or at least go there and give a talk/help at the booth. The results
of this can be found at . We plan to continue this page as a central
overview on upcoming events and to organise the Debian booths there.