Richard Lucas 13th December 2017
The yearly OMGKRK X-MASSive party is a fixture for the Krakow Startup community. Our 2017 event is tomorrow 14th December 2017. Details here
This blog post recalls the history of how these huge parties started, and shares some lessons for anyone wanting to organise major events on tiny budgets.
X-MASSive parties built on the existing communities of Hive and MSFBCC. The smaller Hive Xmas party in 2012 is described here (with photos here ). This was an experiment I tried with Hive and MSFBCC to see what was possible.
Hive - founded by Piotr Nedzynski and Ela Madej - was a key part of Kraków's eco-system's development and had critical mass even back then. This party was fun - about 100 people came - and gave a sense of what was possible. A key lesson:
Lesson 1 Work with organisations and people that are well organised and credible.
But it was hard to get the word out. The OMGKRK Facebook Group was small back then (now it has over 5000 people) and not everyone was on board (or was keen) for larger scale events.
After 2012 I thought there might be room to scale up. I had a plan, partly based on a great TED-ster Derek Sivers' talk How to Start a Movement. I knew the event needed followers and momentum - as Derek Sivers says "The first follower turns the lone nut into a leader" and I didn't want to be a lone nut. A new event - where the participants are part of the product - requires social engineering.
The plan was simple, and worked so well it is worth sharing. On 23rd November I did a Facebook post suggesting a meeting about organising a repeat party on a much bigger scale. I tapped my personal network of community leaders and asked them each individually - in the space of 20 minutes - to post their support, saying which organisation they represented. The list was :
Marek Przystas Duckie Deck
Adam Filipowski Livetramp
Anthony Carapinha Couchsurfing
Chris Kobylecki Innovation Nest,
Pawel Kontek AIESEC
Marta Ryłko Open Coffee Krakow
Weronika T. Adrian Creative Cracow
Filip Dębowski Hub.raum
Joanna Nowak Startupdigest
David McGirr, Jamie Stokes Krakow Post
Ola Bienas Colab
Jonathan Ornstein. JCC Krakow
The date was fixed, and everyone in the meeting to greater or lesser degree started promoting it. This created momentum.
Lesson 2: Create Momementum
Anyone looking at the event with no prior knowledge would see that the representatives of about 3000 people were already on board. As Derek Sivers says later in the same TED talk, "As more people join in, it become less risky", and finally, they will be part of the "in crowd" if they hurry - and left out, if they don't join in.
Lesson 3. Line up your support before you start.
The event took off like wildfire. 100s of people started signing up. As each milestone of attendees was achieved more buzz was created.
Community members whose first reaction was that "there is no demand for a social event where people are just going to talk to each other" moved to warning me that "events of this size need a special licence". Now it was important to make sure that those who attended enjoyed themselves.
Lesson 4 Ensuring great event experience.
Making sure that those who attend have fun is vital. I've written about making events buzz extensively elsewhere, and since then done workshops for TED and consulted to other events. and learned a huge amount from my TED and TEDx journey. There are lots of details - but most important was a team of well prepared volunteers to take care of welcoming guests.
We also had a MVE - Minimum viable event - approach.
Lesson 4 Be pragmatic. The best is sometimes the enemy of the good
As more and more organisations joined in our event page began to fill up with logos. Graphic designers were freaking out, but we went ahead anyway. It was important to see the funny side of small startups with bigger logos than world famous organisations like Google for Entrepreneurs.
The party itself was well documented. There are plenty of photos here and on the event wall.
I am not aware of a post-event appraisal but.... the event has proved sustainable, and is now in it's 4th year - so I guess that means something. Not everything was perfect. There weren't enough bar staff and the not everyone agreed about the format.
Giving credit where it was was due was important. I made a slideshare in which I gave the following credits including names (Ania Filar, Marek Przestaś, Karla Vega) and organisations (with the money they contributed (in złoty) as below
Badges <3 Vocabla
Balloons 400 Presspad
Catering 1000 Growth Republic Untitled Kingdom
Welcome Drinks Colab 700 Google ??
DJ 314 Duckie Deck
Icebreakers <3 Richard Aiesec and Aegee
Photo booth 1500 Innovation Nest
Posters and Graphic design Duckie Deck 584
Prizes ? Google ??
Santa Hats 480 Richard Lucas
Volunteer team. Aiesec and Aegee
web site <3 http://xmas.omgkrk.com Aliaksei Kulbei
so the overall costs was less than 4000 zloty (about US$1000) at the time so, if you see any of these organisations or people, don't forget to say thanks. If you want to organise a mega event at low budget, this article gives useful tips, or feel free to get in touch.
Happy X-MASSive 🙂