You cant sell that ! Can you ?

Quite a long time ago, well actually it was August 2004 Steve Dobson and I were wondering about what we could do to generally increase the number or members in the Sussex Linux User Group. At that time I had never heard of Infopoints or the activities of other groups we were just shooting the breeze. Steve and  I felt that what we needed to do was find other computer enthusiasts and hobbyist and tell them about the Sussex Linux User Group. Whilst this was going to be an excellent opportunity to promote the use of Linux that was never to be the sole purpose for attending the BCF. Following an initial conversation in July of 2004 we visited a few of the British Computer Fairs venues which had been advertised locally throughout the region. We went with the view of understanding who was attending these fairs and what would be the feelings of the vendors towards the group having a stand at the exhibitions. As usual with all things Linux and User Groups we had an initial conversation about the idea and many people went into overdrive attempting to refine, reduce, resolve and otherwise repeat the various problems they felt would need to be addressed before we got started. I felt that this would result in little or no forward momentum and so I rang the BCF spoke to Leon and booked the stand. Speaking of which the issue of paying for stands seems to generate a little controversy. My personal view is that in paying for a space we are purchasing the right to be treated equally and consistently. If we found ourselves sited next to a vendor who decided to play their music too loud then we could rightfully complain that we have paid for a stand and expect a reasonable environment. It might be argued that many LUGS could not afford to pay for a space and es it could be argued but I just dont think its anything more than one more “lets raise one more point” point that we are all so great at doing in this community called open.

Conversations have been had about selling the CDs on the stand and as before my reasoning is thus. If we simply gave away the CD to people who asked about it, then we can expect that person to have little or no personal commitment to be interested in that CD. However if they have parted with cash for it then we increase the chance of the individual using the software. I cant see someone discarding the CD out of hand if they have paid for it. We charge £3.00 for a CD which ensures that if we only sell 10 CDs we will be breaking even for the stand. On average we sell 14 CDs per show. In general the sales breaks even or makes a little monies which is again reinvested into purchasing Sleeves and CDs and Flyers. This is not a operation which makes money but it can sustain itself and promote a LUG effectively.

So we booked the stand I told the group and we were committed to attending the show and we had not even settled on what we were going to offer or  talk about. We also took that time to discuss what distribution to provide and as usual the opinions were many and varied. Here again I felt that if we kept the message simple and plain then we would avoid having to make to many decisions on the day . We settled on promoting Knoppix. At the time the reasons were three fold.

  1. It had plenty of toys and interesting software installed by default on the initial ISO.
  2. It had a tendency to work really well on the initial batch of laptops and Computers on which we tested it.
  3. Ubuntu at the time was an unknown.

The early attempts at attending the BCF had us burning CDs and labelling them on the spot and handing them out as we went. As you can guess it was not the smoothest of operations. Without proceeding to go through all the trials and tribulations related to our operations I will skip to the end and talk about our current operations.

We purchase of preprinted CDr of which we pre burn at least 20 CDs prior to attending the show . We also have a standardised Float (monies ) procedure which allows us to count the starting value of the monies and the end value. Deducting the cost of venue hire and any other sundries ( CD Sleeves ) lets us see if we have made a profit, loss or broken even. Presentation wise we have a large black cloth to use as a back drop for the table. We have a few modern(ish) laptops on which we run demonstration systems. We have A4 trifold Flyers which advertise the club and how to use the Knoppix CD to install it. We have learnt how to get visitors into conversations by using questions such as; What has brought you to the Fair today ? or What are you looking for today ? We have learnt to avoid questions like Have you heard of Linux , or Do you use Linux ?

It been well over two years since we began this and we have seen the numbers at the LUG improve , we have seen people returning to ask more questions about Open Source software and we have been approached by other Vendors to help with distributing Linux and Open source software. We will continue to attend the shows and promote the club since the opportunities to talk about the Linux User Groups and the world of Open Source Software never diminish. Steve and I are taking time to create the “definitive” guide to running the BCF Fair meetings and how to generate cash to ensure they pay for themselves. We are both very happy to answer any questions about running and organising a LUG BCF Stand and I know that the organisers are more than happy to see more lugs become involved in the various venues.

Although Steve Dobson and I make every effort to attend each month we are extremely grateful to the other LUG members whom make the effort to attend and contribute and even help with direction and contributions through the day. Without that additional moral and physical support from like minded individuals Steve and I may have reduced our efforts.

If you are interested in a few pictures from the shows. Here you are but as usual my little camera phone got a little overwhelmed.


It is clear however in our group that Ubuntu is the new “preferred” desktop environment which we would wish to promote. And although I have discussed the lack of “toys”  we have moved to promoting Ubuntu to anyone who is asking about seriously using Linux on their Desktops. Hopefully one of the contributions the UKTeam can make to the UK promotion of Ubuntu is to create a new revision of the Live CD to include more of the toys and bells which make demonstrating Open Source a real buzz.

If your interested in the posts that got this all started.

This posting was from Steve to announce that we would be running the stand in worthing.

This posting was from Steve to let the Sussex Linux User group know what we planned and what we required.

This was a short report by me about the Fairs prior to our attendance we wanted to get a feel for how well we would be accepted.

Again thanks for taking time to read , an especially long post, and if you want to know more then join the list at Sussex Linux User Group and ask your questions.

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