How many live events have you attended where the speaker compiled and ran a cool demo app? F5 F5 F5! The room buzzes with excitement. The code compiles and runs without error. “Oohs” and “ahs” give way to applause, which morphs into probing questions and excited suggestions. Time draws short. The speaker unveils a URL where attendees can download the demo app binaries and code.
And then… Janitors move in. Attendees file out.  A small circle of geeks forms around the speaker for a few minutes. Email addresses are exchanged. Within minutes, the room is empty and silent. What a let down!

You don’t have to let the fun end. Persist it on gotdotnet. Recently, I created a pilot project on gotdotnet CodeGallery to test out this concept for CodeSlam. It worked well enough to encourage me to try it out for other events.

In my experience, three forms of pre- post-event communication and collaboration occurs between attendees and speakers:

  • Unstructured - Speakers often communicate with a few event attendees by email or IM before or after an event. In such cases, information that could have been shared with the world often gets lost in email.
  • Semi-Structured - If and when one-on-one communication becomes too costly, speakers sometimes revert to using an online group on MSN, Yahoo, of other similar sites. These “flash forums” serve a vital function but they are scattered across the Web and rarely last long or produce anything of great and lasting value.
  • Structured – In some cases, speakers create a forum for pre- or post event-communication and collaboration on a site like gotdotnet Workspaces or CodeGallery: venues where event attendees can discuss and download related resources such as documentation and code, log bugs against demo apps, and with adequate permissions, actually evolve the demo codebase in a new direction. Questions, answers, comments, bug fixes, and code are all preserved for posterity that are usually available to the general public.

Plan Ahead! If you are organizing or speaking at a live event for software developers and IT pros, I urge you to consider adopting a structured approach to pre- and post-event communication and collaboration by creating a Gotdotnet Workspace or CodeGallery venue where:

  • Prior to the Event
    • You can post event schedules, slide decks or talk outlines, sample applications, courseware, and other resources.
    • Prospective attendees can signal their intention to attend, review the event agenda, and ask questions ahead of time that will save time during Q&A for new questions.
  • During the Event—I’ll turn this on you… What can we do to make CodeGallery and Workspaces work as a platform for communication and collaboration during the course of an event? I have a few ideas but I want to see what you come up with first.
  • After the Event
    • Speakers can answer questions they weren’t able to answer during Q&A.
    • Attendees can ask questions that didn’t occur to them during Q&A.
    • Attendees can download, discuss, and log bugs against the demo app.
    • Speakers can solicit feedback from attendees regarding the presentation.
    • Attendees can collaborate with speakers and other attendees to make the demo app better or build a new one from scratch.

By the way, if you get to attend a Microsoft conference or other event in the near future, don't miss an opportunity to check out a few of my favorite speakers: Richard Hundhausen, Don Box, Doug Neumann, Dan Fernandez, Eric Lee, and Chris Sells.