As the slide above illustrates, organisers for Linux.conf.au 2011 had to work through a pretty extensive to-do list when the Queensland floods meant that the original venue was no longer available. In just 10 days, they managed to relocate the whole conference and associated events. Their experience reinforces two crucial points: the importance of having back-up plans, and the importance of being willing to change almost anything at the last minute.
Having a backup venue plan is an essential step for any large group event -- the odds of a whole city flooding might be low, but it would only take one fire or power failure to render many conference sites unusable. If you're responsible for organising an event, whether it's a work conference or a wedding, you should at least have a list of alternative main venues to contact if there's an unexpected glitch.
More importantly, you also need to be willing to be flexible even after kicking backup plans into place, since other factors may fall entirely outside your control. Two examples from the Linux.conf.au experience:
- Networking equipment for the conference was ordered but got stuck on a boat which was diverted from Brisbane to Sydney. The replacement supplier then had their warehouse flooded. Fortunately, enough switches could be salvaged to let the conference go ahead, while also helping support a Queensland business struggling in the wake of the floods.
- The entire partner program (entertaining the other halves of geeks who use their annual holidays to attend Linux.conf.au) and much of the evening entertainment had to switch to entirely new locations. As organiser Shaun Nykvist put it: "Some of our venues still have mud in them."
Despite these challenges, Linux.conf.au has been running well so far -- the biggest sacrifice seems to have been sleep for the organising team. Keep an eye on our Linux Week 2011 coverage for more from the event throughout the week.