Running a booth at a conference

May 7, 2014

I have been an openSUSE advocate for years now & it’s always been pleasure to talk for the Gecko at events, seminars etc. Prior to that the word advocacy was much an ambiguity to me. If someone would toss about project advocacy or technology evangelism, I might not have understood at first. The advocacy I do right now, I owe a lot to the openSUSE project and folks in the community.

I was today watching the videos from openSUSE Conference 2014 and I saw Jos Poortvliet doing a presentation on “How to run a booth and present your project”. This reminded me of folks in the Linux User Group of Mauritius (LUGM), especially the new recruits, asking about what to do when we attended Infotech 2013. I was then able to share some advocacy skills and I could say everyone faired well.


Today I realise we have so much resources within LUGM that could be a reservoir of information if properly channeled during future seminar/conferences. Some of the points Jos emphasized in his presentation are about “having content” and “knowing the audience”. Jos classifies the audience in 3 groups:

The newbies are generally new to Linux/FOSS or might know nothing at all. For such an audience it’s always a good starting point to have a demo; like showing how to accomplish daily stuffs in Linux. Advanced users are most of the time already acknowledged to various FOSS projects and might be around with questions rather than seeking a demo. Experts are usually people having greater technical skills and might perhaps even be contributing to FOSS. They are usually the happy going folks who come to cheer & share their passion. It’s always a good thing to have some experts visiting your booth.

Within LUGM we in fact have already applied such tactics when setting booths. As seen in Infotech 2013, I attended a lot of people who were new to Linux, showed them demos on openSUSE & Linux Mint. Many students who were rather shooting questions about career propects, I was happy to clear their doubts. Whenever I felt overloaded with demos, I directed some of the audience towards other folks, like the cheerful UoM Computer Club. Some of them are kinda new to Linux too but their association with LUGM and MSCC already gave them much experience about FOSS & community, that helped them in talking to people & demo’ing cool tricks. Several other who showed up asking about licensing, we directed them to Ajay who is well versed in that subject. Kids asking for games on Linux were also directed to Ajay. Many young folks who wanted to know about penetration testing stuffs, we directed them to Nitin. That way we basically had a perfect mapping for info requests.

Jos explains several tricks about setting up a booth, the way to stand (not behind but rather in front of the table), how to start a conversation, what to do when idle etc. I believe the video will be useful to anyone who’s looking for some advocacy tips.