Create a Startup Scene: Leverage Template Events

The theme of this year’s North Carolina Entrepreneur Summit is “Creating a Scene”. During today’s opening session, I asked myself how attendees could effectively create a scene.

One answer: template events.

Attendees for the summit include entrepreneurs, economic developers and government employees ranging from large, urban cities like Raleigh and Charlotte to small, rural communities like Cherokee and Chatham counties.

While larger cities may have the resources to plan, organize and host their own custom events, smaller cities can benefit from the trail blazed by others with template events. Even larger cities can find it valuable to tap into the network and resources of the communities that have grown up around these events.

What is a Template Event?

Template events are events that follow a proven formula. Template events provide:

  • A Structure
    A framework you can follow for how to plan the event, host the event and do post-event wrap-up, usually collected into an organizer’s guide.
  • Support Services
    Services ranging from pre-built web sites and advertising to financial management and support staff.
  • A Network
    Conferences, online forums and peer groups that help you connect with organizers in other cities to share resources, best practices and mentorship opportunities.

Template events reduce the effort needed to throw an event, increase your chance of success by using a tested model and provide a greater value to your local community than can often be provided with custom events when using limited resources.

While some template events use a franchise model to control their brand and support the core organization, others are open, defined through wikis, web sites and discussion forums.

Examples of Template Events

Examples of template events we’ve hosted in Asheville, or thought about hosting, include:

  • Ignite
    A lightning talk night focused on sharing inspiring ideas using a 5-minute, 20-slide format. Ignite nights inspire attendees and help presenters improve their presentation skills by focusing on technique, content and timing. Ignite events are sponsored at the local level, but O’Reilly Media sponsors the global IgniteShow.comweb site which showcases Ignite videos from various cities and provides a guide and forum for throwing an Ignite event.

    Resources: How to Produce an Ignite EventWikipedia: IgniteIgniteIgniteAVL

  • Startup Weekend
    A weekend-long event aimed at teaching entrepreneur skills and starting new businesses. Startup Weekends connect entrepreneurs together, teach them new skills and develop relationships with potential co-founders & employees. Startup Weekends are organized locally, but managed by a 501(c)5 non-profit based in Seattle that provides a web site, organizer’s guide, financial management and trained facilitators.

    Resources: Organizer’s GuideWikipedia: Startup Weekend  - Startup WeekendAsheville Startup Weekend

  • Innovation Nights
    A product launch event aimed at increasing the profile of local products & startups using social media. Innovation Nights showcases local products to a social media savvy crowd and serves as a launch event for products incubated at local incubators, accelerators, Startup Weekends and other startups. Innovation Nights provides a web site, planning guide and communication templates.

    Resources: Be a Local HostInnovation Nights

  • TEDx
    An evening of inspiring local talks loosely around the themes of technology, entertainment & design, based on the global TED conference held in Long Beach and Palm Springs. TEDx provides a longer format than Ignite talks, helping to inspire attendees and providing presenters an avenue to present their ideas. Presenters tend to be a bit more polished than Ignite presenters.

    Resources: Organizer ResourcesWikipedia: TED  - TEDxTEDxAsheville

  • BarCamp
    One or two-day unconferences where attendees create the sessions for the conference. BarCamps usually have a technology focus, though not always. BarCamps provide a venue for attendees to share their knowledge with others and learn presentation, moderation and teaching skills. BarCamps are organized locally, but follow an open format defined on the BarCamp wiki.

    Resources: How to Organize a BarCampWikipedia: BarCamp  - BarCamp

  • PechaKucha
    A lightning talk event using a 20 slides for 20 seconds each format. Similar to Ignite, but topics usually focus on design, art, architecture and other creative fields. PechaKucha nights showcase local creative talent and hone presentation skills for presenters. Nights are organized locally, but managed through a “handshake” agreement with the global PechaKucha organization.

    Resources: Start a PechaKucha CityWikipedia: PechaKucha  - PechaKuchaPechaKucha Night Asheville

Leveraging Template Events

Template events can be used to amplify your local efforts to build a scene by leveraging the work done by the creators of each event and other organizers around the globe.

To leverage template events effectively:

  1. Start with One
    Don’t try to organize multiple events at once. Build your scene one event at a time. Finish your first event before starting your next event. Once you gain momentum you can be planning multiple events at once, but it’s difficult to do more than one first-time event at the same time.
  2. Build Momentum
    Once you’ve thrown one event, focus on another event. Build momentum. Aim to host one event per quarter, and eventually, one event per month. Smaller, regular events create a scene more than larger, once a year events.
  3. Create a Portfolio
    Focus on a single audience for your initial events. Don’t try to address everyone’s needs. As you expand, address the different needs of that audience by hosting events which target those needs. This will naturally draw in others and expand your audience without causing you to lose focus on your initial audience (hopefully).For instance, within your portfolio, consider events that improve presentation skills like Ignite or Pecha Kucha, along with events that create new businesses like Startup Weekend and events that promote finished products like Innovation Nights.
  4. Foster Leadership
    Once you’ve built momentum and have a portfolio of events, remember that no one event matters. Another event always lies around the corner. So loosen the reigns and use template events to train new leaders. Be a mentor, but allow them to make their own mistakes. The framework of the event provides training wheels to help them grow into experienced community organizers.
  5. Experiment
    Don’t be afraid to play around with the formula for an event. Your best events will come from template events that you’ve tweaked to your local culture and community.
  6. Connect with Others
    Reach out to others who have organized template events in other cities to learn best practices and get mentorship while organizing yours. Once you’ve completed an event, share your experience with others so they can learn from you too.

What template events are you thinking of throwing in your city? What events did I miss listing? Post links to your local events or other template events below.

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