GUADEC Planning HowTo

This page is out of date. See GUADEC/HowTo

Thanks for your interest in hosting GUADEC! What follows is an attempt to summarize what we have learned from previous years. The GNOME Conference evolves quickly and every place/year is different, but still there are common opportunities, threats and milestones you shouldn't overlook.

Also, don't miss this /CheckList made by GUADEC organizators AND attendees.

Basic Steps

If you want to host GUADEC, the steps go like this:

  1. Read the check list to see if your location is suitable

  2. Submit your intention to bid
  3. Place your bid

  4. Attend the current GUADEC
  5. Discuss your bid with the board by email, phone and/or in person

  6. Your bid will be accepted or rejected: if it is rejected, ask for feedback
  7. Start organising…


GUADEC is primarily focused on the GNOME desktop, applications, development platform and the larger GNOME-related community.

However, we leave space for other activities if they have still a link to the GNOME project (i.e. other free* sub-meetings). They are interesting and useful for the GNOME project since they bring context and potential new contributors.

GUADEC needs to be receptive specially towards activities proposed by the local groups. As an example, in GUADEC 2006 we hosted a 2 days workshop about i18n issues related with minority languages. They were almost unnoticed by the majority of GNOME contributors, but the sub-meeting itself was a success.

Important: never compromise the main goal of GUADEC by hosting more sub-events than you can effectively afford.


The primary goals of GUADEC are:

  1. To have fun meeting friends (Seriously! If you fail at this it will be difficult to succeed in the following points).
  2. To allow developers and contributors to have high-bandwidth discussions.
  3. To highlight new ideas and cutting edge developments.
  4. To get new contributors and involve current contributors in a higher level.
  5. To set the direction of the project for the coming year


  1. To create media awareness out of the usual circles
  2. To involve corporate partners and facilitate an approach to the community
  3. To spread free software to the surrounding region


You need to find a sensible equation based on days, rooms, activities, participants and staff+volunteers.


In normal circumstances expect 500 participants at most during the whole conference, being around no more than 350 at a same time. See /Attendees for figures from previous years. Promote early registration so you can fine tune your numbers as the date approaches.


After GUADEC2006 we know 3 days is too short but 7 days full of activities are perhaps too much. Seems that a week with a free day for free activities in between would suit most needs. Keep 3 days clearly identified as Core GUADEC so people with agenda constraints know where to point to.


See /Venue for more details…


  • Better no more than 3 at a time.
  • At least 1 plenary session a day is recommended.
  • Leave space for free-form and spontaneous activities.
  • Leave space for simply free time, people get busy themselves very easily.
  • Offer at least 1 official social event and think for suggestions for half of the nights or so.
  • Remember that the Board and the Advisory Board are going to have long meetings, they are few people but very probably involved in the organization and sessions.
  • Think of lunch as an activity and leave time for it, a lot of GUADEC activity happens combined with food/drinks.


See /Team for more details…

Channels of Communication

The worst you can do is to get closed in an office and produce a brilliant GUADEC. The GNOME community loves GUADEC, many want to know about their planning process and many want to have a say and take part in the organization.

The second risk is, though, to get lost in the several channels of communication GUADEC has...

Mailing lists

Your team will have something like a structure with 3 levels. Some people will be present in several levels but most of them won't know much about what are doing the other sub-teams (again, put remedy with documentation and leadership). This is organized in three mailing lists:

  • The core GUADEC committee meets at guadec-planning, a private mailing list. The sensitive topics kept privately are primarily money, sponsors and keynotes. Move to the public lists all the rest unless you have a good reason. From time to time you will need to report to the GNOME Foundation board.
  • guadec-local is where the local team is coordinated. Move here all the discussions about topics you can't solve by email from the distance: venue, equipment, providers, local volunteers, local groups, local authorities... Use your local language in this list and report summaries of basic advances in English to or guadec-list.

  • The rest of topics not private and not local are discussed in guadec-list.

guadec-list will be your primary resource to get global contributors, many people will help from their homes and will be able to keep helping as soon as they reach the GUADEC venue. However, the key issues will be solved mainly in guadec-planning and guadec-local or in local meetings. Keep healthy all the channels and this will surely lead to a healthy conference.

Website is your interface with the community and, hopefully, also a place where the community meets and warms up before the conference. Ask all the questions there and make sure all the questions you get from other sources are well documented in the website.

There is still a tradition of people asking questions in guadec-list. Although this is not bad and it's quick to answer, you might end up answering the same question several times. The recommendation is to answer once in the web and point there if you get the same question again.

Local Meetings

This is a key aspect. Start meeting at least once a month as soon as possible and keep the meetings in the agenda even if Mr X or Mrs Y can't attend the next one. Announce the meetings in your local community and make them open and friendly to newcomers.

In the toughest moments of the conference you are going to get a lot of help from people that attended these meetings. By meeting face to face you create good quality links that are not easy to match through online channels alone. Also, local volunteers are very well equipped to help in local issues/solution - which are the majority of unexpected issues and found solutions during the days of the event.

Local meetings are also a great way to get new people involved to the project. Free software enthusiasts discover one day that GNOME is meeting in the town and some of them decide to show up. If they get excited they will tell to friends and so on. Celebrating a GUADEC unnoticed by the locals is easier than you expect, and the difference is made mainly by the local volunteers you get in these previous meetings.


There is also a #guadec channel @ Very useful for small bits, quick responses and small decisions.

It has also been used as a place for meetings, with logs that are then sent to guadec-list. Their effectiveness depend mainly on your capacity to make a good agenda and facilitate the meeting, plus on the attendance. Not an easy task, and it's probably better to invest the efforts organizing good local meetings.


Hire an accountant, unless you find a contributor fond of accountancy tasks (unusual). In fact, even if you find someone happy to do the GUADEC bookkeeping hiring an accountant is a good investment.

GUADEC can move a budget of 150.000€ with dozens of invoices, and hundreds of small and medium payments made in several countries under different concepts. You don't want this in the hands of a volunteer that can disappear or get burnt next month (or after GUADEC, when you will most need her).

You specially don't want this task in the hands of the coordinator. The coordinator has power, and who has the power shouldn't have the money. And the other way round, your accountant should be powerless to decide if we buy another pen.

Keep all tickets and ask for full invoices whenever possible. Make this call extensible to contributors, sponsored participants, speakers and anyone you will need to refund. You can easily get a loss of >3.000€ just for getting normal tickets instead of invoices with deductible VAT taxes.


Read more about acquiring and working with sponsors…

The Travel committee currently deals with sponsorship requests so that you don't have to! Dealing with sponsored participants is time-consuming. You want their travel and accommodation booked in advanced (cheaper, better). You want them to take care of their own asses, following a clear procedure that includes requesting proper invoices from travel agents and finding themselves the cheapest options.

The travel sponsorship budget is usually €30000.

Sponsored participants should be a natural source of volunteers: help them to help you.


Make available a template that participants can fill with their own data. Limit yourselves to send the documents provided to the corresponding embassies by fax or mail.

Be careful with with people from unusual countries nobody has heard before. If they follow the steps send the fax anyway to the embassy, they are prepared to decide on visa requests better than you. But don't waste your time with unknown people getting rejected, people making changes in their "team" and requesting new faxes to be sent etc. This is a problem you can't solve either.

It is a good idea to have someone in your team dedicated to deal with visa & travel & accommodation, since they are very common tasks affecting to very similar people.

Call for Papers and Schedule

See /Talks for more details.


See /Press for more details…

On-site Management

This section would require a whole book... Let's point the most important aspects and let's try to complete it before the next GUADEC comes.

  • Volunteering revisited - most of what you saw before the conference will change during the event, expect new people and build new leadership.
  • Room management / speakers - if you are methodical with this the rest can't be too bad...
  • Internet / Sound / Video - ... except the core equipment, that needs to be properly working (specially if you are not dealing well with rooms / speakers)
  • Accommodation - In GUADEC2006 this was a bog topic, depends if you assume responsibility on this or not.
  • Transport - Same thing
  • Internal communication + Crisis management - You will soon realize that it was easier and quicker to get responses from people in a mailing list before the conference than from people in the same building during the event. Your capacity to communicate and make good decisions will be also lower due to... well, you'll see. ;)


Still to be explained:

  • broadcasting
  • documents
  • post-event

Also, I need to review an email from Carlos Fenollosa and another from Thomas Wood with ideas and materials to help GUADEC organizers. -- QuimGil

Other projects

We can learn from others when organising the conference. Not saying we should do the same thing, but other foundations organise annual conferences.

  • KDE: Free registration for contributors, corporate registration opens later. 2 days user & sysadmin, 2 days developer meetings, 5 days hacking.

  • Debian: Free, $100K sponsorship (wow!) and 14 talks over the week (2 days with talks, 5 days meetings & hacking).

  • Apache: ApacheCon Europe (Stuttgart, 7 weeks after us!) Early bird registration is €769 or €719 for a group, 3 day conference, all talks & tutorials, 5 parallel streams of talks over 5 days (2 days tutorials, 3 days talks).

  • Perl: YAPCs: Registration typically around $70-100. 3 days, 3 streams.
  • Python: EuroPython: 3 days, registration €70 (speaker, early bird) to €270 (off the street, on the day) - only staff go free.


GUADEC/PlanningHowTo (last edited 2015-11-21 10:01:53 by DavidKing)