Booking is probably best handled via EventBrite or similar unless the hosting organization has a well tried and tested mechanism of its own. The booking system's mailing list needs to be available as the standard mailing list to delegates and we should not rely on a secondary source as we did for the first meeting. If delegates have paid their money, they must get all the emails! Early agreement will be needed on how booking is to be handled: will the hosts handle it or will a third party deal with it? Remember to account for booking service fees.
The booking process should ideally include a questionnaire to gather some information essential to future actions, including:
- preferred name, affiliation and personal pronoun
- preferred email address
- whether the email address can be shared on the delegate list
- T-shirt size (to inform the order and to check against when handing them out at registration) At HC2015 t-shirts were included in the price for everyone and sizes ordered according to a standard "spread". This worked fine. In 2016 we again collected size information.
It will be useful to have more than one person on the organizing group with access to the (eg) EventBrite booking information. Having only one person able to extract the current booking data is a bottleneck.
Despite our best intentions, we frustrated many delegates to the first Connect by being very late with information about a block-booked hotel. We must try not to repeat this. Ideally we'd want to have a tentative scheme in place almost before booking opens so that we can invoke it as soon as we meet the minimum number. Ideally, again, this number would be extensible in stages as bookings roll in. We may then need a secondary scheme in place to involve a further hotel(s) as numbers increase. We succeeded in this for Connect #2 and 2015 with the primary hotel available from the start of the booking availability.
Negotiated rates should cover the immediate period of the conference and out to the nearest Saturday night (inclusive) so that travellers can get the benefit of "Saturday night included" cheaper fares where these apply (eg transatlantic).
Normally hotels will require that a block booking guarantee a minimum number of rooms and these will be charged for even if unoccupied. There needs to be early agreement on who is organizing the block booking(s) and underwriting the potential cost. The hotel's cancellation policy for the block booking should be clearly understood and agreed to. For Connect at Case Western the hotel required a guarantee for the first 25 bookings only - we eventually filled the hotel! In 2015 we filled our allocated blocks at two hotels. In 2016 we sold out a substantial block too.
To avoid confusion, there should be but two top-level wiki pages.
The wiki page that will serve as the root of all delegate information should be clearly signposted from the wiki home page: probably a bullet under "Hydra Connect Meetings" (additional to the standard link from the "Hydra Connect Meetings" page) and the link repeated in a temporary header at the top of the page. This root delegate page should become the "one-stop-shop" for all delegate information - as such it need to be laid out clearly and regularly maintained by the organising committee. As the event approaches, and during it, a colored box at the top of the main wiki page might usefully be employed to highlight the meeting and make prominent the links that attendees will need.
The second top-level wiki page, the root of all things organisational, should be easy to find on the "Hydra Connect Meetings" page - perhaps under the link to this handbook.
All pages further down the two trees should be properly linked and not just left floating as child pages which can be difficult to locate in a hurry.
The root page for delegates should clearly signpost and link to pages dealing with:
- "What is hydra Connect"
- how to book (in case they came to this page before finding the booking system)
- local hotel(s) and any special arrangements with them
- the conference venue (how to get there, parking, accessibility etc)
- registration: when and where
- what meals are provided for; where to get lunches etc
- the local area (likely weather, places to see, eat)
- information about code of conduct, Hydra policies, who to contact if...
- the program
- plenary sessions
- named contributors should be given early notification of what is expected of them by way of talks, posters, demos, screencasts etc
- hopeful ad-hoc contributors should be given info about opportunities: "if you bring a lightning talk you can bid for a slot on Thursday" etc
- unconference groups
- prior information to the organisers (a wiki page is not ideal, see below)
- name (as they want it on their badge)
- affiliation and optionally job title
- email (for info - this should not be used as the basis for mailings - see below under "Booking"; we should ask explicitly whether we can publish this address)
- dietary or other special needs
- arrival/departure dates
- hotel block?
- shared house?
- workshop preferences
- unconference ideas
- social events and inclusive meals
- social media links
We should try to find a way of gathering pre-conference information from delegates that is not a wiki page requiring a login. A Google docs spreadsheet open only to those with the link might serve. This page and the necessity of filling it in should be clearly signposted from within the booking system.
The root page for organisers might usefully reflect some of these headings - hotel(s), the venue, the program, as well has having a list of organisational meetings and their minutes. The text of emails sent to lists and delegates would usefully be recorded here.