Why Community Matters When Planning an Umbraco Festival

If someone asked you to define the importance of community what would you say? For us, community isn’t just integral to our business, it’s a way of life.

Community is having a body of people you can connect to, share a collective interest and passion with and who will help, guide and support you.

Tech companies don't exist in a bubble; they draw from and feed into a larger community...

Ryan Holmes, the CEO and founder of Hootsuite once said, "Tech companies don't exist in a bubble; they draw from and feed into a larger community [and] ideally, the relationship is symbiotic."

At The Cogworks, we share this same mentality. As a leading Umbraco Gold Partner we are invested in maintaining our position as Umbraco specialists and leaders in web design and development, but we also know that we would never trade the power of the Umbraco community for the narrow belief that we should keep our competitors at a distance.

As Rob Conway aptly puts it: "the tech community is a closely knit group, which is why it's so powerful. All of these companies have an affinity for each other, even if they compete with each other."

The power of collective knowledge share is fundamental in the Umbraco world and it’s an open source platform for this very reason, if it were a paid product you would be buying your way into an exclusive community, but by being free it makes it an open community for all users to join. It's also the reason we have been running the Umbraco UK Festival for seven years now and have gone on to launch our first Umbraco Poland Festival in Krakow this year.

We don't run the festival to make money or to look good, we do it because we all get equal value from the community and there is an altruistic outcome for all involved.

This year we celebrated what was our biggest Umbraco UK Festival yet, with over 300 attendees, two days (a hackathon and festival day), three different streams (beginners, advanced and business) and not to mention more Twitter comments and positive responses than ever before!

By also hosting talks and workshops that covered additional aspects such as UX, design and Agile methodology this year as well, we were able to reach beyond our usual crowd and also adopt an even larger audience into the Umbraco fold.

The value we hold for the community is so far reaching we even had it as an underlying theme this year. One of our very own developers, Marcin Zajkowski, an Umbraco Master and passionate community member featured as a key speaker discussing the power of community driven self development. In addition, we introduced our first 'community space' session where anyone in attendance could get up and talk or share information with the community, and to great success!

We believe it was these new additions that added to the incredible response we received post-festival. Here are just a few comments that warmed our hearts:

Niels Hartvig

Still high from the awesome #umbukfest Friday. Thank you to the community for the vibe and to @cogworks for making it happen in style #h5yr
Ravi Motha

@KrisDeminick evolution is good, first time speaking was fun, but meeting up with people irl the best part #umbUKFest love these people
Anders Burla

What a great #umbUKFest. Had a blast - thanks for being an embracing and loving community! Now heading up north with @peteduncanson #umbraco
Mike Keen

Excellent day at #umbUKFest, recharging the motivation for Umbraco and its community! Enjoyed playing spot the Umbraco celebrity!
Naeem Sarfraz

Well done @cogworks, pulled off a great event. The @umbraco community have got something good going. Thanks for having me #umbUKFest
Roger Dunbar

What a fabulous day at #umbUKFest thanks to @cogworks for organising and all those who gave such great talks! Community room place to be!

Beyond community spirit it must be said a lot of hard work goes into the day too.

With each festival comes heightened expectations. Choosing the right venue and having the right speakers on board is just a small part of it. The make or break of a festival is all in the details - selecting the right speakers, choosing the schedule times to fit the energy of the day, ordering the right amount and type of food, making sure you have a tight schedule and behind-the-scenes team, timing merchandise and providing enough, making sure the design is innovative and that the theme carries seamlessly throughout, scheduling the social media campaign from the beginning right through until after... the list is endless.

It’s no small undertaking so it’s important to know that before you consider running one (or even a meetup) you will need: enough time, a tight team of super passionate and efficient people, an amazing lineup of speakers and drive and really, a whole lot of motivation, which in our case, always comes back to the community. They are our fuel.

Choosing the right venue and having the right speakers on board is just a small part of it. The make or break of a festival is all in the details

After the festival concluded, we ran a series of community blogs to celebrate the fun from the day with our Umbraco attendees. The purpose of this series? To engage, give back and share the love with our community. We even roped Umbraco HQ in for a video chat too. If you’re interested in reading them, see our blog for more.

At the end of the day, what we hope to convey is that running the annual Umbraco UK Festival is not about pulling off a fancy event, it’s about community. If you genuinely wish to host one in the near future, don’t go into it fainthearted or for the wrong reasons, do it for the love. The Umbraco community responds to authenticity - to give, to share, to support, to be genuine is the embodiment of the Umbraco way, it is the friendly CMS and it is where it is today thanks to the power of the people.

But of course, that being said, the community can’t continue to grow and knowledge share without event organisers to power it and give it a voice and platform. Which is where a game plan and bunch of super passionate people become key assets - the event organisers keep the magic alive, we are fundamental to the process and we are the ones who make or break it. So if you are hoping to become one, here is a few practical pearls of wisdom from us to you...

  1. Authenticity is key - Don’t run one to look good or for profit purposes. If you’re passionate about Umbraco, then people will buy into that and that only.

  1. Be consistent with your brand messaging - Make sure your event has a clearly defined purpose and promote it consistently across all aspects: social, branding, merchandise, venue, partner sponsorships etc.

  1. Make it accessible - Don’t limit your crowd to being just a developer stereotype. Make sure the talks, tone and lineup are accessible and engaging for everyone of every background. You then have the potential to reach more people and make the community stronger.

  1. Do market research - If you’re new to running an event, ask the community which talks or speakers they would like to see? Or if you’ve run one before, look back at what worked and what didn’t in the past and build from there.

  2. Create a campaign plan - If you know your event is six months away, get moving. Make a plan for every stage of the festival life cycle - and keep in mind the social media lifespan should run throughout the whole cycle.

Sam Bailey

Sam is the Social Media Manager at The Cogworks London HQ and is known for asking all the important questions such as - 'But what should we hashtag this?' Her day-to-day activities include encouraging her colleagues to eat doughnuts so that she can Instagram them...needless to say this makes her very popular in the office, and when she's not force feeding people doughnuts or making them pose with unicorns, she spends her time raising the profile of The Cogworks and Umbraco, with a focus on the new emerging community in Poland. Outside the office you will find her watching crime shows and calming herself down with yoga (seriously though, she's pretty good).

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