An SAP Inside Track is a local grassroots community organized event where SAP Community Network members come together to share knowledge, expertise and network. Often these sessions are web-casted and recorded for space and time shifting.
Organizing an SAP Inside Track looks like a big task, but with the help of this page and some SAP Community Network friends, it can be done with relative little effort and gives it back many fold. This looks like a lot of information. It makes it seem like it's hard to organize an SAP track. It does take some work. Below are some of the things that everyone has learned from doing it. It's a guideline. You can easily do something different, and then ADD to this page.
Check out these examples of past SAP Inside Tracks . Contact the organizers of the past events, they will be more than happy to help as they can, and offer advise if you have any questions.
Try to get as many helpers as you can. Local user groups may be the best resource for that. Do a joined one with them.
You could also check out on SDN, they top contributors for your country and get in touch with them, no doubt they would be thrilled to help you out too!
Co-organizers are very helpful. Doing an event at two locations at once gives you the ability to share some of the speakers. It is not something you need to do. But it will help with getting the Rock Stars to your event. They may be closer to one location than the other. Plus it is a lot of fun.
Selection of Date
Many participants are enthusiasts who, if their companies are too conservative to support participation in a community event, attend during their spare time. To make it easier for these people to attend, consider selecting a Saturday. Check whether there are other SAP related conferences (ASUG, DSAG ...) at the same time.
On the other hand the SAP Inside Track is work relevant and people can take that day as an education and networking opportunity, which managers should encourage to do. Find out with the group of people that you are organizing what works.
You can add that to the Google form when you look for people that help you organize: Would you prefer Saturday or Weekday? Comment:
Also consider just starting with an evening or half day if a whole day seems to daunting.
Location and Venue
Supplying conference rooms for an SAP Inside Track is an excellent opportunity for your employer to present itself in a positive way to SAP professionals. This is a strong argument if you want to persuade your employer to sponsor the event.
Check out with local SAP if no dedicated venue is already available for Partners and Social Events.
For example, in Belgium, SAP Belux and its Partners have a great place called 'SAP Lounge'.
Parking and travel information
Think about parking space for your attendees, and inform them about the easiest and cheapest opportunity to park their cars.
Also inform them about alternative ways of getting there. Provide a sheet with travel information and make it available to them.
Also perhaps include a #sustainability touch and ask attendees to share they mean of transportation.
You could add a frame like this :
> Coming with a car? Why don't we save energy, petrol, carbon monoxide and a bit of mother earth > let's share a seat? List your point of origin and number of open seats.
Count me in (add your name!)
Pick Up Point
Brussels Area (Overijse)
Max 6 - optimum 5
Jesus Eik (Parking near SMART dealership) towards E411
3 (no guarantee yet)
Try also to reach out to non-SAP Community Manager, IT Professionals (PMI, IT Governance, etc.), local Press, local authorities etc. It is wise to 'share the SAP love' with neophytes.
Your Xing, Linkedin networks could be a valuable asset when reach out to these people.
It is important to reach out to the maximum of people and show how SAP has set the Communities as a leading example in its field of expertise.
For example, for #sitbru we managed to get leading European Union (EU) Communities, Brussels Solvay Business School Professor and a few journalists.
Diversity and Code of Conduct
The more diverse the people who come along, the better the event will be for everyone. In order to attract a diverse range of people, they must feel safe coming to the event - sadly, this is not a given these days and so a Code of Conduct for the event should be considered. A great example you can use (and link to from your event page) is here: http://confcodeofconduct.com/
Create your own Inside Track logo / banner with this nifty link/tool from Nigel James:
In the URL replace Your%20City%20or%20Country with the city that you are having your Inside Track. Take a screenshot and save it as your logo/banner.
Create a wiki page, and post updates on Twitter (common hashtag are #sitxxx whereas xxx stands for country or city).
Post an SCN blog like 'Your Invitation to your SAP Inside Track (my location)' which points to your WIKI Page.
Update information frequently so that everybody will see that (or if) your project is alive. Do announcements on Facebook, LinkedIn, XING, Facebook, create a video blog.
If there is an active local SAP user group, coordinate with them early on, so that the Inside Track can be part of their newsletter or other announcements. One of the user groups that is strong in the US is AUSG. It's a great place to spread the word of your Inside Track.
Also SCN wants to support your event through the official SAP Community Network channels on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and Youtube. Please contact Sylvia.Santelli@sap.com to find out how to promote through SCN social media channels before, during and how to show off your hard work after the event with photos and videos.
As most of the time local SAP don't even know about these events (read 'Make local SAP aware that Communities and SAP Mentors exist and do matter !), also get in touch with SAP to promote internally your event. For example, SAP Belux has internal news called 'TAM TAM' sent out every Monday internally.'
If at all doable, you could also challenge local press, ICT specialized magazines to publish your invitation to the SAP Inside Track.
Coffee and Water are most important. In Germany most people prefer sparkling water.
Special dietary requirements? When is the best time to ask people if they need special dietary food? In Arthur Hailey's novel "Hotel" people get served the vegetarian meal only after everybody else has their food. We learn that if the "special" food is displayed too early, everybody else will change their orders after seeing it. There's something to learn from this, but I'm not sure how to apply this to SAP Inside Track food planning. (Have vegetarian option)
Food planning for an evening event is difficult. Please ask all attendees whether they attend the evening event - many will leave after the sessions.
Evening reception is nice, with some wine and beer, it should be available right after the closing session.
On a shoestring you can just go to the next local pub and geek out over a beer.
Perhaps add a local flavor/touch to the SAP Inside Track. For example, Belgian folks would bring Belgian Pralines.
Might sounds silly but make sure there are enough refreshment throughout the day.
See "Location and Venue". If you need money, e.g. to pay for a location and food, try to locate local corporate sponsors.
A great (official SAP) Partner that you could reach out to is SAP PRESS which provided us a free courtesy 10% on all books for our SAP Inside Track Attendees as well as a few free books to give away during the event !
Make sure you're not picking a date where every hotel in the city is full because of some other event.
It's always a great idea to get in touch with local user groups or even co-presenting with someone from the local user groups.
Using Google forms you may create and send invitations to your inside track. Here's a link to a sample Google form:
Spreadsheet with completed form data: http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AvU65O2jrWpadFlTU1V0Y0puTUR6LWNxN29RUkJfbUE&hl=en
You may copy the form but please do not use the same form for your own inside tracks
Example snapshot of the form:
A wiki proved to be useful at SAP Inside Track Bonn .
Add right away questions whether a person would like to present and what the subject is, that way you track that from the beginning.
After people sign up - send an e-mail confirming their registration. If they don't know that they successfully registered they may not get travel plans ready.
On your WIKI page include the sessions, the presenters, and the topic. It generates even more people coming to the event. If they don't know what is offered, they don't come. Put the agenda out as soon as possible. If you can put together more than one track with different interest groups then more people will come. You will have the advantage of smaller groups that are very interested in a topic. If possible get them to put their interests down in your registration form.
Try to identify top contributors in the local area, they would probably be thrilled to share their expertise and knowledge.
Try perhaps to add a welcome 'keynote' with a few words regarding 'SAP Communities and SAP Mentors: What's in it for me? How to convince my Boss to let me access it?'
If at all possible, try to avoid 'common subjects', dare to innovate with new topics or updates or a new vision.
Dare to open to other Communities, share experiences and learn from each other.
> Example : #sitbru we had a great session with European Unions Social Media specialists..
Be pro-active, perhaps add a 'duplex' session if SAP Inside Track are falling the same day and might have similar topic.
> Example : #sitbru Session 12 : Certification C5 report and survey first reactions (Duplex with session #205 SAP Inside Track Sao Paulo 2010, Brazil)
Challenge speakers to add a session abstract so that attendees can best decide which sessions to attend.
Make sure to leave enough time between sessions as session can be a bit longer and speaker would need to connect as well.
Set a morning and afternoon break (Session Time Buffer) to also allow networking and/or demo opportunities.
> Example : #sitbru we used the break time as 'buffer zones' as we got carried away and of course were not always 'on time'.
Be flexible. Have a general session that you can cancel if you need more time. Sometimes things do not go as planned; it's nice to have that extra slot that can be taken out. Allow a lot of time for Networking. Make sure to split the people out of their groups they came with - if possible. It is interesting even if the person next to you does something else in their job. For example an ABAPER and a BASIS type person. That is still a valuable contact.
The focus of the event should be on local talent that want to share their expertise. Great if you can bring in one or two rock star SAP Mentors like Thomas Jung.
Especially remote presentation should be kept to a minimum (except of course for session like #sustainability by James Farrar )
Remote presentations are nice for Rock Stars. BUT make sure that you have a great place to show them. Think about how large the screen is, and using full screen. Think about if you leave your laptop setting for too long it will go to your screen saver. Sometimes the person at the laptop does not know your password. Make sure you set the time out for longer than the speech. Have someone there to coordinate questions via the chat. Have them spend some time trying to generate some interest on the "streaming" side of things.
If you are on the speaker side of the remote presentation, make sure that someone is running the SAP connect session. They should be watching for questions, and following the chat.
Badges / Lanyards with names of attendees are necessary. Adding some interesting information about the person on the badges is fun, and it is yet another good icebreaker.
Wifi is useful make sure that it is provided by the venue and accessible. Will there be IT support in case of problems?
If at all available, speaker desk should have wired internet access.
For speakers, have a plan B like a 3G card in case of 'emergencies'.
Perhaps also highlight on the registration page that WIFI is not confirmed and is subject to availability.
Test for the network protocols that are likely to be used in internet connections: RDP (for Amazon AWS cloud access), Youtube videos, and others. Ask presenters ahead if they are going to need any special internet connection that may be blocked by your local firewall.
Test for different computer, e.g. Apple.
Provide perhaps an extra beamer to project a Twitter Wall of your event.
Each room should have an assigned room host who is familiar with the technology and infrastructure in the room: sound, phone, beamer, network connections, electricity, office furniture, air conditioning, lights, windows, and so on. The session host should be present and support speakers while they set everything up and get ready for their presentation. The room host should also agree on signs for "10 minutes to go", "5 minutes to go" and "stop" with the speaker and deal with any source of noise and unrest during the presentation so the speaker can concentrate on delivering the actual session.
Get Online !
If there are SAP Employees that are helping with the event. Get them to learn SAP Connect well and have a web camera ready. If you also have a polycom in the room you are set for a lowcost webstream and recording.
- SAP Employees opens the SAP Connect session
- Every presenter dials into the session and shares his screen
- Audio is called via the Polycom. (Don't forget to start the audio conference in SAP Connect too, otherwise sound will not be recorded.)
- Stop and start the recording between the different sessions
Enables everyone to participate and creates a record of every session. Just perfect.
If you don't have a SAP Employee you can register at ustream.tv and use that for broadcasting and recording. Make sure that there is a person doing the recording and watching the chat. So the online participants get a chance that their questions are answered.
Caution: If using Adobe Connect, you might experience echoes and weird behavior (always the user's fault). Test in advance and perhaps if at all available, use a polycom !
If at all possible, record the most interesting sessions, edit a small 'executive summary' and post it to the SAP Mentors Youtube channel.
Make sure to have the lecturers agreement and make them sign the famous 'Release Form'. (Don't want to mess with lawyers now do you ?)
Make sure your attendees are remembering this event. Already think about promoting the next SAP Inside Track !
For example : #sitbru we ordered inexpensive stickers.
One for the session 'SAPCommunities, what's in it for me ? how to convince my boss to access it" ? : Proud Manager of a SAP Community Geek
One as farewell : I survived my First SAP Inside Track Brussels.
The Day before the Event
If at all possible, else; start a prayer for Sankt SAP !
Test wifi, power outlets for notebooks...
If you organize the event in corporate locations try to lock as many doors so that no one gets lost in the building.
Test the SAP Connect sessions including recording if you have for every room if you have breakouts.
It is a great idea to post signs once people get close to where the event is being held. Another good idea is to have someone direct them to where to park. A greeter at the door would help. It gives the attendies a sense of security that they are in the right place. A large sign on the door would help as well.
Be prepared for changes of the schedule. Have a couple ideas of sessions you can have if a speaker canceled. This is rare at Chicago we didn't have enough time for all of our speakers.
You need Helpers
Try to get any as many helpers as you can: reception desk, technical support, people who clean up afterwards... Ask the trainees of your company, perhaps you can get help from marketing people...
If you do SAP Connect have one dedicated person for recording and one for content/speakers.
After the event send out an evaluation to your attendees to gather tips and improvements for an even better SAP Inside Track Event next year! For Eindhoven (2009) we used Google Forms. You can copy this one for your own event.
There may not be time for an evaluation at the event. A follow up e-mail is a nice way to invite the attendees to give an evaluation. A form with buttons would help it be a quick evaluation that they could easily take part of the day to do.
Event Wrap up
After the event, perhaps make a full event wrap up, including sessions presentations, replays, live footage, pictures, twitter stats etc. If possible add the presentations to SCN - perhaps on your WIKI page.
I will show the Community how dedicated we are but also allow people who missed the event to chime in and perhaps to consider attending the next SAP Inside Track.
Perhaps a humble example of what I provided for SAP Inside Track Brussels : I survived my first SAP Inside Track (#SITBRU) : Event Wrap up
That's all there is folks !