Businesses are a big part of the Python community, and sponsorship is a major way for companies to show their support and enable us to keep PyCon affordable. Sponsorship allows companies to interact with individuals, raise awareness, recruit, and even sell some product.
We increased the sponsorship rates significantly this year, to bring PyCon more in line with other conferences of our size, and the sponsors responded generously and in great number. Sponsorship was at an all-time high: three times the budgeted amount. Among other effects, the exceptional response from sponsors enabled us to offer catered lunches on all four sprint days, and allowed us to record all of the scheduled talks. The results are beginning to be seen in videos published on the web.
Interesting aside: the lanyard sponsorship was a very popular option; several sponsors asked about it. Next year we'll have to add a significant fee on top of the simple production costs.
There was a mix-up in the timing of arrivals of conference bag inserts versus Expo Hall materials: not everthing was there when we needed it for the initial bag stuffing on Wednesday evening. We ended up re-stuffing the remaining bags on Thursday, and we made supplemental packets (including the conference T-shirts!) for those who had already picked up their bags. While we made every attempt to get all materials to all attendees, inevitably some did not return for their supplemental packets. My apologies to the sponsors who were affected. Next year we will ensure that all swag bag inserts will be on hand for the beginning of the stuffing session.
We filled one ballroom (the "Expo Hall") with booths for sponsors & vendors, with two other vendors in the Atrium/lounge together with the registration desk. This was new this year -- the most PyCon had ever had before was a few tables in the hallway.
The sponsors had a variety of giveaways which were popular. The usual suspects -- literature, CD/DVD-ROMs, and T-shirts -- were well represented, but there was much more. At the Symbian Press (Forum Nokia) booth, the authors of the Mobile Python book were giving away copies, and I got them to autograph mine. Wingware was giving away little balsa wood glider kits -- very apt. Rackspace had fortune cookies and elastic yo-yo-like things resembling multicolored jellyfish, which were very addictive. Lucasfilm had Star Wars Lego pens as well as decks of playing cards with different movie characters on each card -- very cool. IronPort Systems had little tins of mints -- tasty! It was good to see White Oak's squeeze-brains again (I still have a few from when PyCon was in DC; one is stuck to my monitor at work to remind me to use my own brain), and even their magnets were cool -- once we made sure people would keep them away from their laptop hard drives!
Note to sponsors: if you come up with great ideas for swag, it will be used! The more interesting and/or useful, the better. (For some reason, geeks tend to like toys and T-shirts. Or maybe it's just me. ;-)
From speaking with many of the sponsors, the Expo Hall was a great success. And next year, we hope to have more space so we can have more and larger booths.
Van Lindberg did a fantastic job coordinating sponsorship this year. You too can help!