Organizing Demo Nights

After seeing the success and impact of Code for Boston’s Demo Night 2019, my brigade was interested in learning how we might be able to replicate the event.

With some conversation in the CfA Slack, pointers from various brigades were shared:

  • Code for Boston, @SFbrigade, and OpenOakland voiced experiences from hosting their own demo nights before
  • CfB started off with 2-3x per year, but recently tapered down to 1x per year; but if resources were no issue, they’d like to have them more often
  • Experience from @whereshj is that, like other things in this volunteering realm, it requires time and focus to maintain a healthy system/routine
  • Link to CfB’s 2019 Demo Night livestream
  • "For demo nights, we’ve found the key is consistency and brevity. We box each team’s presentation into a 5-3-2 format: 5m for presenting, 3m for questions, 2m to muck around with the AV setup between presentations. That way, we can reliably schedule 10 demos in an hour (or whatever time you want). 5m to present forces teams to focus on the key aspects of the projects, and we ask them to describe: the problem they’re solving, their approach, their team and partners, and their solution. " @whereshj
  • “If you roll out with like 15 min demos plus questions etc, it will drag.” @whereshj
  • “We occasionally have a headliner or a special guest, like someone from our local partners, who we may give a little bit of extra time to. For example, we had a data scientist from the state digital team come and talk about a data story they made on the opioid crisis and gave her more time.” @whereshj
  • “if you have a break, tilt it towards the beginning of the event, rather than the end, otherwise people will leave and it will be crappy for the remaining presenters.” @whereshj
  • “One thing that I think was successful for us is that we tried to create a different atmosphere that takes the projects which often work separately and brings them together to celebrate the Code for SF community. Logistically, this included better catering, beer and wine, and of course, inviting past partners and sponsors.” @gregboyer
  • “Code for Boston had demo nights in Dec 2014; Dec 2015; Feb 2017; and Dec 2019, so not quite once a year. The other events keep us on our toes too. Our projects generally get to a good point after 14 months, so that kinda matches the demo night cadence.” @thadk
  • “This [partial demo nights - start with some demos, then breakout into project work] is what OpenOakland does. We do it every month and it’s more a progress update to the group. It helps everyone feel up to date about where all the projects are at and helps with accountability. Only a subset of the projects will feel like they have meaningful progress to share each month so just those teams share and then we break out. We’ve also found them be incredibly useful for new folks who often want a slightly deeper look into a more broad swath of projects. The frequent cadence means any new person is gonna see a demo night pretty early on and it helps them discover projects they might be interested in.” @gaurav
  • “A year is a long time to go without a public display of the work without it being appreciated by the community, both inside Brigade and outside” @whereshj