Checklist for Organizing an OSS Summit

I have had a leading role in organizing an open-source summit since 2018. In total, that is 6 years and more than 8 summits (multiple locations in some years). In 2023 Beam Summit reached more than 500+ people in a beautiful waterfront venue in New York City.

Organizing a summit of that scale requires careful planning and coordination. Here is a checklist of the key tasks involved, along with some tips for ensuring a successful event.


  • Start planning at least 9-12 months in advance, ideally right after your last summit.
  • Estimate the number of attendees based on previous years' attendance numbers, and factor in both organic growth and inorganic growth from marketing campaigns.
  • Decide on the key features of the summit, such as the location, in-person component, and virtual component.
  • Decide on your primary revenue sources, such as sponsorships and ticket sales.
  • Consider other costs, such as marketing, meals, and social events.
  • Come up with a rough budget range based on the above information.

Financing (Partnership & Sponsorships)

  • Start this process at least 6-9 months before the summit.
  • Partnerships are a key source of funding for open-source summits. Create a pitch that explains the benefits of sponsoring your event, such as access to developers, product conversions, and cross-promotion opportunities.
  • Identify key companies to reach out to, such as earlier sponsors, companies that have had many talks at your summit in the past, and companies investing in the underlying open-source project.
  • Find the right contacts at these companies, such as those in the open-source program office (OSPO), developer relations (DevRel), or marketing departments.
  • Tailor your pitch to different company sizes & budgets and offer a variety of sponsorship levels.
  • Meet with potential sponsors and be open to feedback. Even if a company is not able to sponsor your summit, they may still be willing to offer valuable advice.
  • Consider offering an affordable sponsorship tier for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This can be a way to attract sponsors who are committed to making the open-source community more inclusive.
  • As a last resort, you may be able to offer a company free sponsorship if they can provide valuable contributions to the summit, such as a keynote talk or a workshop. However, this should only be done in exceptional circumstances.

Financing (Tickets)

  • Start this 3-6 months before the summit.
  • Decide whether to offer tickets for free or for a fee. Free events are often perceived as lower quality, so it is generally recommended to charge a nominal fee (e.g., $99).
  • Even if you are offering free tickets, you should still use a registration system to track attendance and stay within venue capacity limits.
  • Consider offering different ticket tiers for add-ons, such as workshops or early access to the event.
  • Offer discounts or free tickets to students, early bird registrants, speakers, and sponsors.


  • Use a reliable platform to manage registrations, schedules, and call for submissions. This is a worthwhile investment that will help ensure the smooth running of your event.
  • If you plan to have a virtual component to your summit, work with a professional company that can offer a high-quality platform.
  • If you plan to publish videos of the event, work with professionals to record and edit them. High-quality audio and video will make your content more engaging and accessible.


  • Start planning the content for your summit at least 3-6 months in advance.
  • Pre-announce your call for submissions well in advance, with a due date of at least 6 weeks before the event.
  • Based on the number of submissions and the profile of attendees, decide on the number of tracks and the schedule for the summit. (2 or 3 tracks works well for a 500 people summit.)
  • Select the highest quality submissions, considering factors such as speaker experience, topic relevance, and diversity.
  • Confirm with each speaker that they are still able to attend the summit.
  • You will need to find keynote speakers yourself. Reach out to a few influential people in your domain, ask if they would like to attend as a keynote speaker. Try to accommodate their requests to make it easier for them to attend.
  • Leave some time for impromptu content, such as lightning talks.
  • Do not forget to thank the speakers for their valuable time, a thoughtful gift will go a long way.


  • Start marketing your summit at least 3-4 months in advance.
  • Decide on your target audience and create marketing materials that appeal to them.
  • Use a variety of channels to promote your event, such as social media, email marketing, and online advertising.
  • Cross-promote your summit with sponsors and speakers.
  • Launch valuable tools and benefits (e.g. learning tools, tutorials, credentials, books) ahead of the summit.


  • It takes a significant amount of work to keep track of all these processes. Ideally, have a single dedicated person working on the summit year-long.
  • Also have a committee (e.g., from the OSS contributors) to support the execution and help with decisions.
  • Communicate regularly with sponsors, speakers, and attendees. Transparently share the progress and decisions with the larger OSS community. After the event, share an impact report with the community.

At the event

  • Have fun, and make sure everyone is having fun. This is an important goal for any event organizer, but it is especially important for an open-source summit. People are coming to learn, network, and be inspired, so you want to create an environment that is conducive to that.
  • Plan some fun activities. This could include mini-games, hackathons, or other social events.
  • Offer free swag (books, t-shirts, hats, tote bags, magnets etc.), and a variety of stickers.
  • Create enough social space for people to network (e.g., contact info on badges, coffee breaks with plenty of time and snacks, a sharing tag to use on social media).
  • Be prepared for emergencies and have contingency plans where possible, because things don’t always go according to plan (e.g., last-minute cancellations, audio/video issues, catering issues, etc.).

I hope you will find this useful for organizing your event. Feel free to reach out with your questions or feedback. I wish you lots of success with your event!

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