This guest post, authored by longtime MozFest Volunteers AV Dan and Paul, is the final part of our MozFest Volunteer Cookbook series.
When volunteering at a big event, it is important to look after yourself so that you can actively contribute and walk away from the event proud of what you have done. Towards that end, here is some tried and tested advice for Volunteers supporting the next in-person MozFest.
Taking good care of yourself will help you best support MozFest and its participants who come from around the globe. Here are some things to keep in mind as you get ready to Volunteer at an in-person MozFest:
- If you are volunteering in person, make sure you know how to get to the venue each day and how to get home again. Be aware of any transport maintenance works that are planned and make sure that you have a backup option.
- Make sure you have had a good breakfast.
- Stay hydrated during the day - your body and brain functions better. Water is the best option. Sure, some people may rely on energy drinks and the coffee at MozFest is famous, but water is what will keep you going.
- Make sure you get some lunch and try to avoid lots of chocolate and sugar during the day. Sweets will lift your energy levels, but you will crash down afterwards and they can dehydrate you.
- Make sure you get an evening meal, especially if you are working the next day. It is very easy to focus on getting to a party, but far better to make sure you have had a good meal in the evening. Make it fun - get a group of volunteers out for a meal.
- Wear sensible shoes. Yeah, I know, obvious, but this is not the best place for your shiny boxfresh trainers with all the activity and bustle of the festival going on around you.
- You may only have one volunteer shirt for the event, so wear an old t-shirt underneath and change that everyday instead. It will soak up sweat (ewww!) and keep you a bit warmer in the evenings.
There will be a lot going on at MozFest, including lots of lights and sounds. If you need to take a break to chill out for a bit - please be sure to do so. Likewise, it’s definitely best to take a few minutes to calm down and come back with a fresh perspective. You’ll feel better, and your fellow Volunteers will understand completely. Similarly, later in the festival, if you know that you are going to be helping with teardown, make sure you have a slower afternoon beforehand and take some time out to relax before the big push to put stuff away.
MozFest is all about building: remember to build yourself up so your reserves of energy and enthusiasm last all festival long.
MozFest’s organising team comprises skilled and seasoned event professionals who ensure ample equipment and supplies are provisioned and delivered to the venue in advance. During an in-person MozFest, it’s the responsibility of the Volunteers to ensure that all of these resources and supplies make it to the people who need them throughout the event.
Key to the success of this endeavor is some quick planning at the start of each day with your team - you will feel a great deal of urgency once the event begins! Get to know your fellow Volunteers and agree on roles (based on skills), areas of responsibility, and a timetable for checking in and breaks. You may also want to hide away a few items in reserve, like an extra pack of giant sticky notes, in case someone needs them later in the festival.
Upon arrival at the venue for pre-event build and set up, walk the entire space at least twice to learn its layout, secure access to the storage area(s), then get to work checking all equipment and supplies to familiarise yourself with quantities of each item. Ask the organising team if items appear to be missing immediately so that last minute orders can be placed.
Some items will be consistently needed together for use at sessions, so these are worth preparing in advance. The two most valued time-saving bundles to create are:
- Labelled boxes containing pens, paper, sticky notes, and masking tape.
- Sets of TV screens, power cables, power strips, and HDMI cables, numbered as a set with marker on white masking tape.
Speaking of tape: from pre-event setup to breakdown, you will need a lot of it. White masking tape is useful for labelling and attaching signage to walls without leaving marks, whilst duct tape is essential for securing cables to the floor to make an area safe from trip hazards.
When it comes to TV screens, always hide the remotes in the flight cases that screens arrive in, and deny their existence to anyone who asks. These are never needed as everything can be controlled with hardware buttons on each screen, and just go missing or have their batteries removed which costs Mozilla its deposit.
The most precious piece of AV equipment is a display adapter of any type (especially USB-C) to HDMI. Members of the AV team take note: use permanent markers to label each adapter, keep these in a secured location only you know, and sign them out/in with a name and email address.
To summarise, the best preparation for MozFest is familiarity; with your team, the venue, supplies and equipment, and the schedule.
MozFest is all about building. The foundations are the strong ties forged with your fellow Volunteers. Help each other to ensure everyone gives their best and avoids burnout during the festival.
Roll up your sleeves. Get stuck in.
The Mozilla Festival is an amazing kaleidoscope of activity, colour, light and sound created by people from all over the world coming together to make the web a better place. Everywhere you look will be people talking, discussing, presenting and learning, as well as those taking a break or figuring out what to see next. Mix that up with a venue covered in posters and displays and you have a very special event.
That is a key thing you need to remember, this is an event. There are crowds, there are safety issues, people may have accidents or get a little lost. For all the awesomeness, we want to make sure that people have a safe enjoyable time. A key part of that is the volunteer team and how you help MozFest be a success.
- Make sure that you arrive on time, know where you are supposed to be and what you need to do. If you are not sure - ask. There are never any bad questions and we all want to make sure you know what you are doing.
- Help people. If someone looks lost or there is something that could lead to an injury, or has a question - offer to help. Be the person that takes a step forward and makes a positive difference to someone's day.
- Try to avoid spending your shift looking at your mobile phone (unless it’s related to Volunteering) - I can assure you that what is going on around you is far more interesting.
- Work as a team - because you are doing the job you have been asked to do, other volunteers are elsewhere able to do other tasks. Everyone is important.
- Have a good understanding of the schedule and what the key events are such as big guest speaker talks or sessions that may be popular. Know when they are and where they are likely to be.
It’s time for the teardown.
MozFest is all about building. Building communities, projects, software. Building a better web, or at the very least building the tools necessary for a better web. Building an event, creating sessions and spaces and themes. MozFest is all about building, but one of the hallmarks of how successful a MozFest is is how successful we are at packing it all away – ready to be unpacked again to inspire others in the future. Nobody volunteers at MozFest to pack the event away, but as the last part of the weekend, doing this well means you can leave the venue with your head held high.
- The first consideration is knowing that the work is hard and that people may be tired. People need to think clearly to be safe and efficient.
- The second consideration is that you need to plan the teardown phase early. Starting on this at 1700 on the last day of the festival is too late.
- The third consideration is that teardown should not unduly impact attendees and spaces at the Festival.
- The fourth consideration is to not underestimate how long this could take.
Early on in the Festival (or even beforehand), have a list of names of people who are prepared to stay late to pack the event away. Make sure you have any dietary requirements.
Early on Sunday afternoon, identify a space in the venue. This needs to be close to lifts and away from crowd thoroughfares. This is where the screens will be packed away. It needs to be able to handle the empty flight cases, tables with monitors on them, and packed flight cases. There is nothing wrong with having a quiet word with the Wranglers for that area to understand when it is going to be clear by, but understand that this is different to the end of the last session – people need to leave in their own time.
At about 1500 have a planning meeting in an office or space away from the event. Venue staff and senior Volunteers need to be present. The meeting is closed door. From that meeting:-
- Confirm who on the venue staff is looking after any specific venue areas of concern (for example, removing posters from an area where there are existing posters that should be retained).
- Confirm access requirements (doors to be unlocked and the use of a lift control key to have priority on any elevators)
- Make sure everyone is aware of timings. The festival is still ongoing, so we do not want people starting too early on teardown. We also need to know when any closing party is taking place.
- Make sure that food is arranged for those staying late. Pizza is often ideal, but be sure to accommodate Volunteers’ dietary needs.
- Make sure there is a team to handle the AV teardown (the monitors). One person needs to be in charge of this. They need to know exactly how many monitors need to be found and may need tools to remove stands and brackets.
- Confirm where Mozilla retained items should be stored. This includes banners, signage and high value artifacts that need to be retained.
If Volunteers are not needed for teardown, or are not required for the closing party, they are not required on site.
Teardown starts after the last finishes and the party has started. Music, food and drink will draw people out of spaces, but it is vital that participants are not forced out in any way.
When teardown is coming to an end and everyone apart from MozFest staff and Volunteers are on site, it is time to do multiple sweeps of the site. This involves small groups of two senior Volunteers going from top to bottom, into every single space and room. They look in different directions, look high and low. They need to look at all the random unusual places where items should be. Keep doing this until a space or floor is cleared. Nothing wrong with being paranoid in this task.
With this done, everything packed away and tidy, time to get a drink and look back on a good weekend.
In general, also remember to:
- Wear an old t-shirt under your volunteer shirt - it helps make the volunteer shirt last longer
- Have a good breakfast and make sure you get some food in the evening.
- Stay hydrated
- Keep your laptop and computers charged.
- Keep track of updates and latest announcements.
It’s essential to take care of yourself while taking care of others at MozFest!
If you have any questions about Volunteering in-person or online at MozFest 2022, join us on the #volunteer channel of the MozFest community Slack. We would love to have you there. You can also keep up with all the latest news about MozFest and opportunities to Volunteer and contribute there by signing up for the festival newsletter.