How do we plan and run the convention?

General ideas for the convention and online Sonoj: brainstorming

The list of equipment and inventory can be found here convention_equipment.

The mailing list administration is described here: Sonoj Mailing LIst

See also: Corporate Design , Speaker Guidelines for LecDems

Where to announce and get peoples attention? othercommunities What to write to whom Mail and Text Templates


Earlier than 6 months

  • Find the very first one or two speakers, so you can release the website non-empty. Most likely from the local real-world community or very activce and regular online members.
  • Get the Chaos Computer Club Cologne votum in writing that a Sonoj Convention can happen at the given date.

~ 6 months before

  • Announce date (middle weekend of autumn school break in NRW)
  • Release new website
  • Open visitor registration
    • Provide rules, requirements and resources to visitor, with agreement-checkbox. Including permission to make video and photographs of them and use them in promotional material for us.
  • Mail to with early-bird-announcement
  • First marketing to the very core target group
  • Establish moderated privately organized offers for places to sleep. If possible try to find commercial offers with reasonable prices nearby. This is the key to keep people on sunday.

~ 4 months before

  • Begin announcement phase with the mantra: 1) Visitor-Registration 2) Looking for Speakers 3) Building the online community. Politely mention that we are based on voluntary dontations and how to send us money.
  • Let different independent people do announcements for you, from their perspective in their words.
  • Aim for a persistent, spread out, distributed message flow. Don't put out a giant wall of text to all places at once, especially if those places are frequented by the same persons.
  • Add all vistor registrations to
  • Every new speaker on-board is worth a new mail to

~ 2 months before

  • Begin asking directly for visitor registrations or “keep your weekend free for an online convention”.
  • Send extra information for every event with participation: challenges, workshops, lightning-talks. Inform the audience how to prepare and what to bring.
  • Continue with reminders and updates to all the marketing- and announcement-places.

~ 1 months before

  • Continue with reminders and updates to all the marketing- and announcement-places.
  • “Now it's really time to register as visitor, or tell us if you changed your mind.”s
  • Check equipment, like the Sonoj DisplayText banner or Aluminium Sign for damages. Repair or order replacements.
  • Restock supplies of name tags, buttons, stickers etc.
  • Organize T-Shirt production
  • Create or update a simplified map of the local area for the website and as phyiscal handouts, which shows way to supermarkets, train stations and other points of interest. But don't lure people away from us! :)
  • Buy the insurance policies
    • Haftpflichtversicherung für Veranstaltungen ( → HVS )
    • Veranstaltungs-Technikversicherungen ( → HVS )
    • Or check for their new combo-insurance

~ 3 to 2 weeks before

  • Get announcement on Chaos Computer Club Cologne website. It is customary there to announce rather short term. We write the text ourselves, they only forward / edit.
  • Close and finish speaker search
  • Create and publish schedule on the website, after asking the speakers of course
  • Mail to all speakers, which must be explicitly answered with “Have read and understood”.
    • No payment
    • No coverage of travel costs
    • Possibly offer of a private place to sleep (→ type and extent to be agreed separately and privately)
    • Offer shuttle service at Cologne Bonn Airport and Cologne railway stations
    • Urgently offer to talk to all speakers again about their talks and contributions for quality assurance and to give feedback for improvement.
    • Inform about video and audio connection capabilities, music equipment that is available and overall make sure that the speakers have everything they need and that they have to bring as little of it as possible themselves.
    • Ask the speakers for material that the audience can use in advance, e.g. music, videos, text articles, downloading resources for a workshop, installing programmes, etc.
  • Forward all information for preparation to the registered audience to
  • Mail to Chaos Computer Club Cologne that the Convention is indeed happening soon and request their part in cleaning, tidying up and putting valuables and personal belongings in a safe place.
  • Ask local community to help clean and prepare the venue the evening before the convention ( see below)
  • Organize the convention food, paid by Sonoj funds or by donations. Ask for volunteers from the local community to prepare or buy food. Don't create a conflict with the stuff the ChaosComputerClubCologne is already selling (chocolate bars and “hacker drinks”), everything else is fine.
  • Create and select a playlist of music that has the right licenses and is pleasent to listen to. This will be used as music for the live-stream during breaks. Don't use the results of the one hour challenges!

The week before

  • Finish preparing Challenges and Workshops
  • Thursday or Friday: Also tidying up the C4 rooms ourselves, cleaning, setting up chairs and preparing the venue. Lending a helping hand to the VOC (Video Operations Centre).
  • Prepare hard-copies of the schedule to hang up in the venue
  • Print name tags, if already known. Anyone can still just write their own during the convention
  • Pack equipment
  • Procure gift bags for the speakers (now that it is known who it is).
    • The equivalent of a small bouquet of flowers after a music concert.
    • Price (or appearance of price) should remain low. Avoid the impression: “You have money for that but not for my travel costs/accommodation”.
    • Something locally Cologne (souvenirs: key ring, postcard, poster “Dom in Noten”, USB stick with logo, branded notebooks, bookmarks…), if available with Sonoj reference (we have to have it made beforehand). Nothing embarrassing, nothing distasteful,
    • A confirmation letter/deed/certificate or whatever you want to call it that the person was Sonoj Speaker. True, we are not an official organisation that counts for anything. why not. Good quality paper!
  • Last mail to with all the important stuff, including preparation stuff.


Friday is preparation day of the venue. Some people already meet informally at the venue, but it's not open end.


  • Welcome Speech (15 minutes)
    • Thanks to: all speakers, all helpers, VOC in particular, OSAMC, all donations, food preparation
    • Two minutes what the convention is about, thematically. What's FOSS, why is it good?Because it is practical for the user. Portable, compatible, available. Source code access and ideological freedom in the FSF sense is just the last bonus. Sonoj is not “Free Culture” though. No forcing the music to be free and cheap. We care about the production process.
    • Optional: Let Chaos Computer Club Cologne Boss speak a few words, why we are welcomed in their venue. (Because Technology can be used to create art)
    • Briefly explain the venue: Where are the bathrooms, don't access the basement, what does cost money, what is free.
    • Mention Lightning Talk slots again
    • Mention workshops and challenges again and to have your own gear ready for that
    • Remind to get your name tags, buttons, stickers etc.
    • Invite the locals to the OSAMC as well
    • Ask for donations, show the donation-box
    • Demographic Survey: Show of hands to get an impression of the age group, background (“tech or music?”) and other quick questions (FOSS or don't care). And interpret the results live vocally for the video recording.
  • Then all LecDems, talks and presentations, see Schedule on the website.
  • Evening is “party”. Reserved to talk, network, “chill out”.


  • Maybe one or two LecDems but mostly workshops, challenges, panels and discussions
  • Audience helps to rearrange the room for participation: bring in the tables.
  • Somewhere in between the internet video stream may end. All activities are local-only then. Say “bye” to the internet for the camera.
  • In the end anyone still there helps moving the furniture around and cleaning up.

Tasks and Roles on all days:

  • Host / Announcer - Say the name of the next speaker, announce breaks and how long everything will take and when to be where. Hype up the audience. Remind them of the procedings of the convention. Politely remind them to look at the speakers and pay them at least courteous attention, don't look at your phone or laptop the whole time.
  • Receptionist - Sit at a welcome table, give people name tags and help them creating their own, make buttons, give handouts like a printerd programme (sheet of paper) etc. also manages the “Signature Year-Board
  • Counter and Food - Stand behind the counter, tell them what is free and what costs money, give out food, see that everything is the kitchen orderly and clean, have paper towels ready, collect dirty dishes and glasses and empty bottle from all around the venue and put them in the dishwasher. Make coffee, keep food warm. Important: if it turns out saturday evening that there will be not enough free food on sunday make a shopping trip while the stores are still open.
  • Facility Management and Gofer - See to it that there is always toilet paper, towels, soap, make sure the bathrooms are clean at all times (sorry, someone has to do it), keep rubbish bins empty and with plastic bags. Run to the store if we run out of food, coffee etc. Keep a broom at hand and watch the floors.
  • Assistant to the speakers - Treat them like honored guests and super stars. We do not pay them, that is the least we can do. - Two or three people that see to it that speakers at all time know where they are, that they have everything and help them quickly setup their gear before their time slots and quickly get it off the stage afterwards. Help them to wear the speakers microphone, or the handheld mic. Have access and knowledge to the crate with all kinds of cables, adaptors and music equipment, just in case. Have knowledge of how to setup different operating system to work with the external projector (in mirror mode) and what to do, install and configure very quickly if the speakers forgot to setup that themselves correctly. Same goes for audio connection to the venues audio-system. Also keep an eye on the clock before their time slot so they begin to setup in time while the previous time slot is ongoing. During the talk be present in the audience and visible to the speakers to signal them their remaining time, if they need it. You are also the intermediate between the VOC team and the speaker. Help if there is a language barrier, either actual one or a technical one. Get them a glass of water (or more) on stage. If they are not from around Cologne help them to find train stations etc. Pay with Sonoj money if they want to drink or eat something from the C4 venue stocks that cost something.
  • Money guy - Make sure the donation box is secure and emptied in regular intervals and the money brought to a safer place. Have money in cash ready for errants or trips to the supermarket, or if the speaker-assistants need it to pay for a drink or chocolate bar from the C4.
  • Impressions Collector - Make photos and short video clips of visitors and speakers, mostly what cannot be seen in the main camera stream. Interview the people for a few seconds to get sound bites how they like it and what they think of the convention. Optimally you are able to work through your material in the week after the convention and create a summary and “best of” for our press folder and archive page.
  • Live-Chat moderator. Watch the live online text chat during the talks, forward questions to the speaker by speaking them into a microphone, so it's recorded on video. Kick and ban people if they don't behave. Relay venue-announcements to the chat.
  • Master of Challenge: prepare the traditional music production challenge, be the host and moderator for it and explain rules and procedure. Present the results and winners. When needed help any people in distress during the challenge. Ardour export can be tricky! Maybe someone extra can do that though, if they don't want to parcitipate in the challenge themselves.
  • Master of Lightning Talks: People speak to you at the convention to regiister their lightning talks. Ask them what they want to show and decide if it is appropriate for the Sonoj Convention. Make an order based on how quickly setup and preparation can be done. The biggest risk with lightning talks is the overhead of boring preparation and setup times. Be strict about time limits and let the speakers know how much time they have. Politely but firmly interrupt them if they take too much time while presenting. Get the people to have their ready and running laptops in hand, connecting to the venues audio/video system with the press of a button. See if it is possible that several people share a computer and equipment, which means you need to tell them to speak with each other to figure this out.

The week after

  • Mails to Chaos Computer Club Cologne to thank them, ask if the venue was left in a state they approve of, invite criticism and complaints and point to a person to speak to (most likely the one writing the mail), ask to check for theft or vandalism so we can tell the insurance company.
  • Contact all speakers over their prefered communication channels, make sure they had a safe trip home, make sure they didn't lose or forget anything at the venue. Request their digital material so we can put it into the Sonoj Archive
  • Finish book-keeping, make spending of donations and money transparent. All physical receipts should be put into the physical archive and/or scanned digitally.
  • Put live-convention website into the dormant archive mode. Write the archive summary page
  • Let the VOC team mirror video recordings to Sonoj Youtube channel with OAUTH transfer automatically. LIkely that the old token is still valid.
  • Wait for the videos to be online, wait for the Sonoj Archive to be complete.
  • Create small press kit with short texts, photos and screenshots so that others can use this to base their own articles and videos on it.
  • mail to . Thank everyone again (see “Welcome Speech” above). Ask for complaints, suggestions, feedback. Request photos and videos if the audience made any. Tell everbody where the video recordings are and where the Downloads from the LecDems are.
  • Mail to to invite to the German speaking locals to the next OSAMC

These two mails conclude the Sonoj Convention.

Unsolved Problems

  • Setting up the computers and music equipment takes too long between LecDems. We need a way to speed this up. Maybe a “double buffer” system where one speaker has already prepared their equipment and we can exchange a whole table ot tray. Or have two tables, left and right on the stage (needs plannig with the camera and audio crew).
  • There is not enough time. Either reduce the time slots to hard 45 minutes, get people to stay on sunday so that actual LecDems have still visitors, start earlier in the day (no… sleep is important), or streamline the process to not waste as much time (see above). Or simply accept that there is a limit.
  • Live-Stream audiences need more opportunities to chat and interact with us. The platform has IRC integration, but we switched to a matrix account. Either update the platform for matrix compatibility (very unlikely) or simply reactivate the IRC channel. Maybe we can bridge that to Matrix and then switch off the bridge after the convention to keep it “pure”.