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SWO5 – You Going? GREAT! Now What?

Jun 14

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Saturday, June 14, 2014 9:10 PM  RssIcon

StartupWeekendOttawaLast weekend I participated in Startup Weekend Ottawa.  I’m doing a four part series on my experience, this is four of four.  I hope you enjoy it!

Last week I volunteered at Startup Weekend Ottawa and I had a FANTASTIC time.  I would like to share my experiences with you in a four part series.  This is turning out to be less of a “Review” as it is “Preps For Next Time.”  I hope you enjoy it as much as I had “preparing” for this blog series.


My Experience Volunteering


My Advice for Rookies\Noobs


What Do You Need To Participate?


You Going? GREAT! Now What?


Bonus – Closing Thoughts and Last Minute Tips

What Do You Need To Do

Last weekend I volunteered at Startup Weekend Ottawa (SWO) and had a BLAST!  This is the third blog post in the series.

If you are thinking of participating in the NEXT (rumored to be in the fall) Startup Weekend Ottawa (GOOD for you!), but after you hit the Register button….what do you do next?  I’ve tried to break down a few key timeslots and some suggestions for you.  I hope it’s useful to you.

  • a few days before the BIG weekend

    • figure out if you want to pitch an idea and if you do
      • think about a 1m elevator pitch
      • don't develop it.....too much, if you're coming with an already 50% developed idea, you're kind of missing the point of the weekend, you're supposed to be developing the concept into a project together as a team, not solo
    • if you're a dev, get your ducks lined up
      • do your OS\IDE updates\patches, last thing you want is to be caught doing an update over a flaky wifi
      • see about getting access to a server
        • wouldn’t it be GREAT if you could just whip up a website and have a place to point your NEW domain name to for your demo?
        • YOU could save the day if you have a server ready to go
        • make sure you know the url, username and password :>
      • get some urls\favourites of free\royalty free graphics, sites, icons, etc
        • every team was doing google searches for graphics, save some time by having some pre-canned favourites ready to go
  • the night before, the day of, just before coming

    • plan on comfortable clothes, nothing fancy, being comfortable is the key
    • charge your devices
      • don't forget to pack your cables
    • pack an extension cable, power bar, even a NIC cable (just in case the wifi is sketchy, you'll be your teams' savior if you have internet and nobody else does)
    • pack a dry-erase marker and eraser, if you have access to them
      • wouldn't hurt to throw in a pad and pen either, hey, they work even when batteries die or you're doing updates over w...........i.........f...............i............ (sooooooo slow :>) DOH!
    • brush your teeth, it has one HUGE advantage, it’s a trick to give you a bit of self-confidence as you introduce yourself to new people, you're not worried about your breathe anymore
    • just before you leave home\work, check for any last minute emails or notices on the website for times, locations, juuuuust in case somethings changed, if nothing, great!  if something has, you'll be able to help others AND they'll remember you for that!
    • get a good night's sleep!
  • when you arrive

    • register, early, get your name tag and hopefully they'll still have your shirt size :>
    • drop your bag in a place you're comfortable with leaving there, leave the laptop packed and phone in your pocket (with one exception coming up in a few bullets)
    • walk around the venue
      • find the washrooms
        • two reasons, you'll need'em and it's an EASY ice breaker to help someone else when you see they're looking\asking
      • see where the "green room" is
        • usually the room where the organizers, volunteers, mentors prepare stuff and unwind, you might need to find someone specific and that's where they could be
      • check for doors and fire exits, you're going to be there all weekend right? have to be safe
        • at the very least, you might need some fresh air, and knowing where the unlocked doors are can really help
      • see if wifi is available and if it is, snap a picture of the password with your phone
        • tomorrow, people will ask "what's the wifi again?" and you can be the hero
      • see if everything is on one floor or multiple floors, access via stairs or elevators, are the elevators fast\slow? are any of the doors locked\restricted access?
    • say HI to one person, start talking to someone, anyone!
      • once you do it once, it only gets easier to say hi again!
      • the focus here is to meet people, say hi, introduce yourself, the more people you meet now, the easier it'll be ALL weekend long!
    • if you're going with a careful not to latch onto that friend and make a "clique" for the whole weekend, you won't get everything out of that the weekend has to offer unless you spread your wings
  • during

    • work, Work, WORK
    • enjoy the coffee, food, people, company
    • meet people, introduce yourself
      • simple as saying "Hi, I'm Peter, how are you?"
      • Robert, Mooky and Raja did that to me and I was so nervous talking to them but after 30s it was great! they broke the ice for me!
      • I tried did this with Tanya Snook (famous blogger, one of the mentors and co-organizer of UX Camp Ottawa) and she is a fantastic geek…uhhh person, down to earth, hugely knowledgable and easy to talk to…just like everyone else
    • as nice as it WOULD be to take pics and blog and tweet and get LinkedIn connections... there are people there doing that stuff, rest assured, you WILL have plenty of time afterwards to do that, just talk to people, trust that you WILL remember them and you will be able to connect to them afterwards, just concentrate on developing your project during the weekend
    • be receptive to possibly differing and opposing ideas to your own
      • that's politely saying, don't get your back up if you hear ideas you don't quite agree with
      • part of the weekend is using\developing your people skills and conflict resolution skills
    • people experience ALL kinds of emotions, understand that, respect it, be patient with people who might not work as fast as you, who might not GET it like you, take it as a learning experience
      • throughout the weekend, you have different deadlines and different people experience stress differently
      • try to recognize it and try to help out, either by steering clear of them, or trying to make them laugh, or just by listening
    • know when to "fish or cut bait" on an idea or path that's just not working!
    • GO with it when you DO have an idea that's got legs! Run with it!
    • Its going to be a long weekend, you know that going into it, don't be afraid of breakout sessions from your team, if the devs go off and code "over there" or your designers go over there to's OK!  Sooner or later you should reconvene to regroup, let it happen
      • there was one team doing that, I noticed it Sat afternoon, they were masters at it.......they won #swo5
      • I'm not saying it's essential to do this to win, I'm saying, it's ok for this to happen naturally, organically
    • when the mentors come around, interact with them....AND LISTEN to what they have to say! they have experience, that's why THEY WERE ASKED to mentor! 
      • Ok, so you might not completely agree with what they have to say, I get that, but at least respect their ideas (and time), they're there to help you,
      • in the same vein, if you need to pick their brain, go seek them out!
      • I was lucky enough to be Greg O'Donnell's "body guard" Saturday, and man, this guys on da ball!!!! Passionate, energetic, TO THE POINT! He can clearly see through the fog you might be trying to wade through, he gets you to think about THE PAIN POINTS to be successful with your idea! 
      • There's just no way you can think of EVERYTHING in the short time you have together before the mentors come around, that's ok! Go with it!
    • if you're a developer, keep your OS\lang prejudices in check (if you know me, that was hard this weekend LOL if you don't know me, I'm very pro-Microsoft) but it will serve you better, I promise you!
      • bring your skills to the games, but if you're team is doing ruby and you're an android dev....find another way to help your team! do graphics, do DB, do architecture, something....just don't whine or sulk
    • HAVE FUN!
  • afterwards

    • Sun night, get some sleep :> recoup :> you earned it! :>
    • give your partner a hug, they've missed you all weekend and held down the fort in your absence, let them know you appreciate it!
    • the next day, or during the week, reach out to people you met (ie LinkedIn)
      • try to avoid the bland default outgoing message...add something personal, "It was cool meeting you, wouldn't have been as much fun without you, hope to do business with you in the future, see you around!"
      • I've already gotten some of these and it's really uplifting
      • I know that's not your goal, but it'll help people to remember you positively
    • blog, tweet, Facebook about your experience!
      • the weekend was brought to you by volunteers doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, let them know you appreciate their efforts,
      • Don't forget the sponsors, like the caterers and facility hosts
    • talk about SWO with people you know, word of mouth is the best advertising!
    • figure out if you want to goto the next one, and continue talking about it
    • continue working your AND NEW ideas!
      • the weekend must have worn off on me, cause I’ve already bought, not sure what to do yet, but when I get some sleep, I will!
      • why An ordered set of elements (people, ideas, motivations) and none of them negative! LOL
    • see if you can some how-some way patronize the sponsors who helped make your weekend so enjoyable! I STILL remember the great coffee and the awesome penne with sausage Sat night from @LUNCHottawa

Now you have the inside track for advice on your next Startup Weekend Ottawa.  If you’re there, keep an eye out for me, and if you see me, please say hi and let me know if this was helpful.  Until then, it’s time to grab a coffee and get coding!



LinkedIn: Tanya Snook

LinkedIn: Robert Venczel

LinkedIn: Greg O’Donnell 

UX Camp Ottawa

Sam Chen on YouTube

Startup Ottawa Weekend site

Startup Weekend Ottawa Twitter feed (@swottawa)

Startup Weekend Ottawa on Facebook

LinkedIn = Paul Austin-Menear

Marketing BreakThroughs Inc. =  6 Things Businesses Can Learn from Startup Weekend Ottawa

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