Who ever said organising a TeachMeet was easy? It looks fairly straightforward doesn’t it? Pick a venue, advertise it, get people to present. Well, let me tell you, it’s a completely different matter!

It all started back at TeachMeet Bett when I turned to a colleague and said about running a Hampshire event. After a few discussions he decided he couldn’t spare the time to help organise it, so Gideon Williams (@gideonwilliams) stepped in and we started the plan.

First thing – venue. Would it be in a school? Primaries probably wouldn’t have the space or parking or equipment, but secondaries would be a bit scary for us primary school teachers. Neutral venue it is then. Library? Conference centre? What about St Mary’s stadium? Brilliant (except the Southampton FC connection obviously!)

We’ve checked out the room, it seems like it should hold 100-120 comfortably and should have enough power for us to go ahead with it all…The questions then became: Do we want tea and coffee? How many bottles of water do we want? What time is breaktime?

Sign-up – We decided to do a few things differently with TeachMeet Hants, and I’m pleased to say that these are now being shared with other TeachMeet events. Firstly, I thought that the wiki was a bit complicated. Yes I know it’s just login and add your name etc, but I thought PrimaryPad would be even better and I think I was right. We had a blip where we appear to have lost a few people, but generally, it’s been very good.

Freebies – Secondly, we weren’t sure if people would come. In our wildest dreams we planned for 100, hoped for 75 but expected 50ish. We’re looking at possibly reaching 100! Scary stuff. To get them to come along, we wanted freebies. Every teacher loves freebies right? But who to ask?

I am always very honest with people, probably too honest, but I wouldn’t feel right giving away free stuff or promoting products that I don’t believe in. So I contacted some companies that I knew or people that I knew supported TeachMeet. Along came Rising Stars, Scholastic, 2Simple, Vital and BrainPop. Between them we have around £500 of free stuff for every attendee. Truly incredible and I am very appreciative of all the hard work and support these guys have put in. We really couldn’t have the event at all without their support.

My job this week is to put all of the pens, postits, CDs and yes, badges into the bags to hand out to everyone when they arrive. Throughout the night there will be competitions and one of the jobs still to do is to write an agenda/script to ensure I don’t forget anything! What if people forget to signup to a trial to PurpleMash? What if they don’t leave an email address for us to gather feedback? What if they don’t fill in their BrainPop card? All of these questions have been whizzing around my head for days. I’ve been emailing sponsors today to get good quality logos for the sponsorship presentation that will be cycling through before the event and also at breaktime.

Presentations – I planned on doing a 7minute talk along with everyone else, but I think that now it will be lots of smaller talks instead. I saw the excellent Drew Buddy (@digitalmaverick) do a similar thing at a TeachMeet recently. In between presentations and while the next presenter was preparing to come on, he kept the action moving with little suggestions of websites and tools to use. I plan to do the same thing as the evening progresses.

Camels – Other things that they don’t tell you on the ‘How to organise a TeachMeet’ course (if there was one) Have you got a camel? It’s a bizarre tradition of TeachMeet that if you go over your 7minutes, you get a fluffy camel launched at your head. John Davitt appears to be to blame, but I have yet to hear the reasoning behind it. We decided to go with a hog instead as the hog is the ‘official’ animal for Hampshire.

Advertising – The obvious way is through Twitter. People on Twitter are already turned on to the fact that TeachMeet is a useful resource. Unfortunately we clash with a TeachMeet in Bradford, but I am sure there will still be people watching us online. We have also sent emails to schools via our county mailing list and schools communications, we’ve messaged 1200 teachers through the VLE (although many haven’t opened the message as yet), we have mentioned it through our VLE training sessions and we have set up a facebook group to share it with ex-uni friends! (www.facebook.dj/tmhants) It’s been exciting, but a bit nerve-wracking. What if people don’t turn up? What if they think I’m a sad geek? My friend did mention this to me, but I think she’s still coming! One thing that was evident at TeachMeet Bett was the amount of non-teachers e.g. consultants etc that were there. If you take out a small handful of consultants and another small handful of people from our sponsors, 80%+ should be teachers at TeachMeet Hants, something I am very proud of!

Streaming – One job still to be finalised is how we will stream the event. We’ve been playing around with a number of streaming sites and services and hopefully we will have an answer. We want something free, allows people to chat to each other while watching us and also allows for recording so people can watch it back later. Is that too much to ask? We’re getting there and hopefully many people will watch online and watch bits back later.

There’s still a few details to sort out, but we’re definitely winning. Would I organise another one? Definitely, but probably on a smaller scale! We need a large event like this to kickstart it here in Hampshire and then next time, maybe we can split it for primary and secondary.

So, if you’re around on Thursday 20th May 6-9pm and have nothing to do, feel free to join us in person or online. We look forward to sharing ideas with you!