Hosts handle all of the logistics of organizing, finding a local sponsor, running a coderetreat and creating an atmosphere of fun and collaboration.
Read on to find out how you can support the facilitators in running a smooth event!
Table of Contents
- What’s hosting, what’s facilitating?
- Finding a venue
- Food and Drinks
- Code of Conduct
- Global Day Of Coderetreat
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Further Reading
What’s hosting, what’s facilitating?
We’re purposefully separating the duties of organizers into facilitation and hosting: A coderetreat is designed as a full-day workshop, and having to do both hosting- and facilitation-related duties throughout the day is very exhausting for a single person.
Facilitation is everything from explaining the format, responding to questions and providing guidance throughout the sessions, so it’s a full-time endeavour throughout the whole day.
Hosting means making sure that everyone has the resources they need to get through the day. From power plugs to the right lunch order, a host makes sure that the facilitator can focus on their moderation and the attendees can focus on their learning.
We’re focussing on hosting duties in this guide. Head over to the facilitation guide for more information on the role of the facilitator.
If you can’t find a second person to co-organize, it is highly adviced to keep the number of attendees low, less than 10. Make sure to not exhaust yourself, but rather focus on the necessities required to make the day work. You can appeal to your attendees to help you make the event worthwhile and sustainable.
Don’t let the amount of information on this page discourage you. We’ve aimed at providing as much advice as possible, explicating it out to the last bit. We successfully ran coderetreats with six people with less formalities and structure and they’ve been just fine.
Finding a venue
Finding a venue might be the most difficult part of your hosting duties. While officies are usually well equipped with meeting rooms, the fact that a coderetreat usually takes place on a Saturday might pose extra challenges, as companies might require security personnel to be present.
The company providing the venue should be regarded a sponsor and as such be given a short opportunity to introduce themselves. See our Sponsoring chapter for more information.
If your venue requires a third person to let you in, make sure that person is aware of the time and that you have their phone number. It is best to have multiple people able to open up in the morning.
There’s nothing worse than standing in front of a locked door on a Saturday morning!
- Central location, easily reachable by public transport
- Accessible (e.g. lifts, accessible bathrooms, level flooring)
- Preferably non-gendered bathrooms (single-stall)
- Large meeting-rooms or a large conference room
- Public WiFi (or guest access with enough tokens and without bandwidth limitation)
- Available on Saturday, from 8am to 5pm (an hour earlier to an hour later than official times)
The tables should be pre-arranged in a way that allows a pair to work comfortably on the same computer. A pair will naturally talk with each other, so you need to account for quite a bit of distance between pairs so they don’t disturb each other.
A classroom layout, or isles of tables for 2-3 groups have been proven sufficient, as they also give the facilitator some space to navigate the crowd.
A dedicated space for holding the retrospectives can either be in the same room with lots of space in front of it, or preferably an extra room, the hallway or even an outside space if the weather allows it.
We highly advice you to have people sign-up for the event in advance. Both the fact that it takes place on a Saturday, and that it is free of charge increase the likelihood of no-shows.
Most of these platforms don’t handle deposits too well. We found EventBrite, followed by ti.to, to be the easiest to handle deposits and the subsequent refunds. Be aware that you might need to pay transaction fees, even for cancelled orders.
A coderetreat is designed to be a low-barrier event to expose developers to development practices we deem helpful to advance their career. It is neither a commercial, nor a certifiable workshop. The best coderetreats are those that are most inclusive to anyone regardless of their economical situation.
As such, public coderetreats, and in particular events for the Global Day Of Coderetreat have to be free of charge in order to be listed and advertised on our platform.
In order to lower the no-show rate, charging a deposit of up to 10€/10$ (or a comparable amount) is recommended, though. That deposit must be refunded if the person shows up on the day, even if they don’t participate for the full-day.
A deposit of 10€/10$ works because it adds a monetary investment to the persons incentives of actually attending. At the same time, this also establishes a barrier to participate.
If you invite people explicitly (e.g. by reaching out to diversity initiatives), consider providing them with a special link / voucher code that waives the deposit. This will not just avoid the barrier put up by the deposit, but also underline your invitation.
Besides venue and lunch, there are usually no big costs occuring with events. It’s good to offer individual sponsorship (e.g. transit tickets) and mention that in your invitation, or having an extra budget for things like Post-It’s or Sharpies (see Raimo’s facilitation setup for some recommendations).
For these costs, it can be feasible to enlist a sponsor, but be aware that sponsorsing is akeen to an endorsement, so please make sure your sponsor aligns with our Code of Conduct, otherwise we will not list your event. It should also be said that a coderetreat is supposed to happen in a safe learning environment, so any recruiting endeavours or gamification (such as turning the coderetreat in a hackathon) are a big no.
The average cost of running an event in Germany can be calculated between 10-30€ per attendee, with the majority of costs being lunch and snacks. Sponsors usually need invoices for costs occured, so make sure you keep the receipts!
A sponsor may offer free giveaways, as long as they are useful. It is helpful to be absolutely explicit about the exact giveaways that will be provided. Arguably, items like notepads or pens that will be used by attendees throughout the session provide much more value to both sponsor and attendee than, say, bottle openers or branded t-shirts.
Make sure you check-in with your sponsor about the giveaways they plan to offer.
Sponsorship is a trading agreement. You offer exposure in return for coverage of the costs occuring. Your attendees are a valuable audience to any company looking to hire software developers, so be sure you vet and pick your sponsor and the amount of influence they have on the event accordingly.
Shoutouts and presentation
It is common to give a sponsor a few minutes at the start of the event to present their company (along with the casual “oh by the way, of course we’re also hiring”). This is quite alright, but make sure that you’ve agreed upfront about the time allocated for this advertisement. Be vary of slides and long company intros.
It is also quite alright to tweet a thank-you message associating the sponsor.
In previous years, Global Day Of Coderetreat gathered global sponsors who’s logo needed to be put up on the slides at local events. The sponsorship money went towards charitable causes like CoderDojo. We stopped any initiatives on the global level, but you’re free to find a similar agreement with your local sponsor.
Food and Drinks
Running a full-day event must involve catering of some sort. Smaller events might be able to crowdsource a lunch buffet, but for less connected groups, lunch is best provided through catering or delivery.
Per person attending (including host, facilitator and any venue staff), you should account between 10€ and 20€ in cost for catering (Germany, other countries might vary).
No Pizza Rule
It is important to not serve any carb-heavy food throughout the day (hence the infamous No Pizza Rule). Salads or small bowls are usually quite appreciated and don’t turn the session right after lunch into a napping session.
Throughout the day, brainfood like fresh fruit or nuts is appreciated.
Notes on catering
Depending on how much time in advance you can spend on this, it might make sense to pre-order individual meals for your attendees. This way, attendees can choose their meal in advance and can raise and respect any dietary requirements they might have themselves. If you decide to provide individual meals, a small buffet might still be appreciated.
Code of Conduct
We’ve been praising Coderetreats as an extraordinary learning environment, where people can feel save to experiment, away from the daily chores of software engineering.
Just as such, establishing a Code Of Conduct serves as a framework for making sure that Coderetreats provide a safer environment for everyone, away from harrassment or derogatory behaviour. At the same time, they give you, the host, an explicit right of house should any violation occur.
“Just be excellent to each other” is too subjective, as much as it would be if it were the rule of law.
While we will not check if your event has a Code of Conduct, we strongly advice you to adopt one like the Community Code Of Conduct.
Make sure to make it obvious who to talk to in case of a violation.
Global Day Of Coderetreat
The host is responsible for a number of activities on the Global Day of the Coderetreat:
- Coordinate video conferences with other locations
- Take pictures of the event or record a short video (please ask for consent first!)
- Post updates to Twitter using our hosting tool
This is really important: Participation in global events and activities is entirely optional. Keep it simple, and only do what you know you can do well. If you feel overwhelmed, then don’t feel like you need to do that extra thing someone suggested here.
At a Global Day Of Coderetreat, it is tradition to join a videobooth with several other events all over the world (those links will be provided to you), just to give your attendees the feel of the sheer size of this event.
Another tradition is to check-in with other events, although this requires a good AV setup on both ends and usually just involves the facilitators checking in and reporting to each other.
A month before
- Create event page (ti.to, meetup, eventbrite, etc.)
- List event on coderetreat.org (see Register)
- Invite local communities
A week before
- Ask attendees about their dietary requirements
- Process cancellations of people who subsequently cancel their RSVP
- Update lunch order accordingly
The day before
- Print/create posters for Game Of Life (see Resources)
- Put up signs making it easier to get to the venue
- Print out and put up Code of Conduct and contact information
- Print out nametags
- Rearrange venue for pairs of two sitting on one table
- Update lunch order with latest RSVPs
In the morning
- Set up check-in area with nametags and the list of attendees
- Make coffee
- Set up the breakfast/snacks area (food, plates, napkins, glasses, juice)
A good way to occupy early arrivals is to put up this checklist with explicit instructions and ask everyone to lend a hand. People appreciate being asked to help out and it creates an atmosphere of contribution and collaboration among everyone.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a place where I can exchange ideas with other hosts and facilitators?
Yes! Join the
#gdcr channels in the Crafters Slack to particpate in discussion about organizing and running a Coderetreat.
I only have a few registered attendees, but the event is still a few months away. Should I be concerned?
No need to be concerned yet. A lot of Coderetreats don’t start to fill up until closer to the date of the actual Coderetreat.
Don’t let a small turnout stop you from going forward with the Coderetreat! You can hold a Coderetreat with about 10 people and still have a good day. In fact, sometimes people learn more at the smaller Coderetreats than they do at the larger ones.
If you are in this situation, then you may have opened registration too early. We’ve learned opening registration about one month before a Coderetreat (September 22nd for GDCR) tends to result in more overall attendees than opening registration at some other date. That said, you shouldn’t close registration if it is already open. Instead, think about sending out another set of advertisements on September 22nd. See When should I open registration for my local Coderetreat? for more information on this topic.
- John Smith has a great post on the specifics of what to think about when organizing a coderetreat.