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How To Plan Your Girl Geek Dinner

June 1, 2018
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Budgeting

With a Girl Geek Dinner, the sponsoring company provides the venue, catering (food & drinks), speakers and sound system, in addition to sponsorship. An in-person dinner brings attendees into your office where they can get a feel for your culture; planning event logistics requires resources, and attendance is limited to girl geeks locally. Girl Geek X provides sponsors a professional video production crew and video asset of the event.

With a sponsored virtual event, the host is responsible for providing speakers. A virtual event provides an opportunity to reach a global audience, those who have obligations that make attending evening events difficult, your remote employees, but 1:1 networking is limited.

For sponsors, Girl Geek X manages all promotion and registration, and provides guidance / consultations on planning your event and speaker preparation.

77% of girl geeks attending an event are open to hearing about new job opportunities. The video output of your event will become your single best asset for recruiting diverse teams — providing potential candidates not only with a sense of your company’s culture and what type of team they would work with, but also demonstrates a clear commitment to creating opportunities for women to be visible within your organization.

Girl Geek Dinners are a fantastic way to team-build by connecting with women throughout your organization to put the event together, to put women onstage as speakers and role models.

Email sponsors@girlgeek.io to learn more about partnering with Girl Geek X. Thank you!

Programming your Girl Geek Dinner

We recommend speakers giving lightning tech talks (7-15 minutes) from a variety of women working at your company in roles including engineering, product, operations, sales, marketing, finance, etc. Q&A by moderated panel discussion afterward is a great way to wrap up the programming.

Please ensure that your girl geek speakers are diverse across vectors like age, ethnicity, and experience level. The Girl Geek X community loves seeing diverse and inclusive women of color / underrepresented groups as speakers onstage!

Sometimes, girl geeks at the company give talks offstage at demo stations around the venue, like a modern-day science fair. Highboy tables are a great height for girl geeks demoing their work with posters and / monitors.

We gently discourage organizers from having male speakers except for the opening remarks (because most tech events are full of male speakers anyway) at Girl Geek X Dinners. We welcome all geeks at the hosting company to attend, network, recruit, listen to talks, etc. – and we recommend your company’s staff wear their company t-shirts at the event. Special shirts for the event are often worn by company staff/ERG (employee resource groups).

Here are guidelines from our CTO Sukrutha Bhadouria:

Sponsoring a Girl Geek Dinner is a way for attendees to get a sneak peak of what it will be like for them to work at the company — what differentiates from a product, design, and technology perspective.

1. Consider Your Audience!

Do:

Talk topics should cover a range of topics that map to the type of attendee you are trying to hire. Do you have an inspiring female exec or mid-career expert at your company? Have them give a talk like:

“Movin’ on Up: 10 Ways to Become an Engineering Leader”
(talk topic by Kimber Lockhart, Engineering Leader)
-Or-
“No One Cares About Delighting the User”
(talk topic by Cindy Alvarez, UX Researcher)

Don’t:

Stay away from topics that are about “what it’s like to be a woman in tech”, “work / life balance”, “bringing your authentic self to work”, etc. Our attendees want to hear from women onstage about the incredible successes accomplished women have achieved, and how they got there.

2. What Is Special About YOU As A Company?

Do:

Share with the audience why your company is different and innovative. Do you use Machine Learning to improve the experience of your customers? Do you use Functional Programming? Is there something unique you do to connect with your customers? Does your design team follow interesting / current design patterns?

Don’t:

Avoid repetitive topics, or themes that aren’t fresh and exciting. This means don’t talk about what it’s like being a woman in tech. With our events being as frequent as they are, we want the takeaways to stick with our attendees as long as possible! Talk about your professional expertise to your industry peers.

3. Give The Full Story!

Do:

Have your speakers cover topics that ultimately tie in to one final takeaway. Is there a big product announcement that could be the theme of the night? Include demos and examples in your story. For example, Netflix sponsored a Girl Geek Dinner and celebrated going global — the talk topics tied into the theme of how they had to build their platform, modify their recommendation algorithm, data centers, design their test environments and deployment strategy when they went global. The food had a global theme too!

Don’t:

Try not to have a panel of women with all the same job type or experience level in the company. Also, a diverse set of ethnic backgrounds on the speaker roster will be appreciated by attendees.

4. Definitely Prepare For The Presentation!

Do:

Set up time for all speakers to rehearse their talks onstage at least once for practice, with time. Slides are highly encouraged! Please include the speaker’s social media handle on each slide, along with the event hashtag! If everyone has slides, have them all go into the same deck, so we don’t have to switch computers every time 🙂

Don’t:

Definitely don’t plan to wing it! Have fun with it and the audience will have fun too! The Girl Geek X Team is happy to join the speaker prep and dry run calls to provide feedback and support.

Event logistics

Photo credit: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle – “Tech women find opportunities in Girl Geek Dinners”

The average Girl Geek Dinner in the San Francisco Bay Area hosts 150 women in tech; the range has been <100 to over 400 girl geeks hosted for an event, depending again on company size / budget.

As the event is marketed as a dinner, attendees expect more than cheese and veggie platters! Heavy appetizers should include omnivore, vegetarian / vegan and gluten-free (GF) options.

Labeling dishes with ingredient list or what is vegan and GF as such would be extremely helpful during the dinner.

To avoid a very long line forming at the food table, we recommend placing food distributed across at least 2 food stations around your venue. Putting the vegan or GF food by the plates means it will be eaten quickly— and you may find hungry VG / GF girl geeks who won’t be able to eat anything at the event.

Drinks have varied from wine, beer and sodas, to specialty cocktails designed by organizing committee (themed to your company / industry and printed on menus at the bar).

The company’s marketing can also print out the co-branded creative onto posters for easels, or hang banners or decorations for the special event. Projectors are great as well for shining the co-branded creative, and having some lively music during networking hour playing on the speakers not-too-loudly is fun.

We recommend hosting the dinner event at your company, so attendees can get a feel for your office. Do you have open spaces for networking? A cafeteria or all-hands meeting area with seating can be used for talks.

If you don’t have a cafeteria/kitchen, catering from women-owned companies is recommended. We love Bini’s Kitchen catering, Reem’s California catering and Old Damascus Fare catering, to name a few of La Cocina‘s talented immigrant-owned AND women-led food businesses.

We recommend renting cocktail / high boy tables so attendees can eat while networking easily with other attendees. If your company doesn’t have enough space to host, you may opt to rent a nearby bar or brewery. It’s not unusual for a company hosting to take advantage of their patio or outdoor space, to set up a big white tent for food and networking.

When calculating your capacity / desired attendee number, imagine a sold-out standing-room-only event. The girl geeks are excited to be in a crowded room of like-minded women. Take your upper range for capacity. We will aim to oversell tickets by 30%-40% to accommodate for cancellations and last-minute no-shows, and to ensure a packed room day-of and successful event.

Sponsoring companies may choose to create a piece of co-branded swag to give to all attendees. The Girl Geek X logo has no style guide or brand guidelines. We are thrilled when sponsoring companies remix our two logos together for unique event creatives, which we see projected on walls at the event or printed on company staff shirts, event signage and swag.

Participants have loved customized: socks, notebooks, and adult coloring books. A writeup with a pictures of Salesforce Girl Geek Dinner socks as swag are at Salesforce engineering’s blog. We welcome your blog posts!

You can also opt not to make swag and donate the money to a worthy cause instead.

Download the Girl Geek X files here or click on the logo below:

On the week of your Girl Geek Dinner…

We recommend the hosting company to pre-print easy-to-read name badges. Ideally, the name badges are printing big and bold the attendee’s first name, last name, job title and company to help our attendees network at the event! Pre-printed name badges are super helpful alphabetically arranged at the door, so check-in folks can hand out badges at the door to save everyone time and avoid a long line at the door.

Networking can be facilitated by the hosting company by providing a fun networking “bingo” card for attendees to fill out, in exchange for a a bigger chance to win some cool door prizes. You can custom theme this “bingo” card to your company / event. Raffle prizes are also popular, as is providing a creative dessert after the programming to encourage women to stay and chatter.

Consider creating a photo booth / wall for this event — please feel encouraged to leverage the popularity of Instagram by creating “Instagram-worthy” places and activities. We actively encouraging blogging and attendees to share on social media using the event hashtag.

If you’ve read this far down, thank you for your interest in helping women network and learn from each other – and we hope your company can sponsor a Girl Geek Dinner at your office!