Intro: How to Host a Van Slam
When people with similar interests get together to talk about their projects, the results are almost always even better future projects! So when some makerspace members were planning on converting their vehicles into comfortable places to sleep, they decided to make an event out of showing off the results.
Thus VAN SLAM was born - an event to showcase the ingenuity of Yukon's diy car campers. While vans are obviously a large component, the event has included trucks, compact cars, homemade trailers and even an ambulance.
YuKonstruct’s second Van Slam in May of 2016, brought together over 80 car camping enthusiasts and 10 vehicles featuring DIY alterations. Many participants borrowed off the ideas of others at the first installment and had come up with new innovations and improvements for 2016.
Projects shared included magnetic bug screens, slide-out tables and solar-powered LEDs, just to name a few.
Why should you host your own Van Slam?
- It's fun!
- It's an opportunity to show off the cool stuff people have made
- Meeting with other people who have converted their vehicles is a great way to get ideas and advice on making your own even better
YuKonstruct is the first makerspace in Canada's north. Our mission is to provide access to shared space, quality tools, available expertise, and a collaborative environment to help makers build anything!
Step 1: Planning
Just like organizing any other event, you need to start with a plan.
1. Choose a date and time for the event
When selecting your date, you'll want to consider the following:
- Weather - Since showing off the vehicles will almost certainly take place outdoors, you want to select a date when it will be nice enough for attendees to want to be outside. If, however, the weather is too nice, most camping enthusiasts will want to go camping instead of gathering in a parking lot. YuKonstruct has hosted its Van Slam's in September and May, and due to the unusually warm spring this year, several participants skipped out of the event in May to enjoy the wilderness.
- Camping season - Having hosted the event in both the fall and spring, we feel that the spring is better as it gives people ideas before or right at the start of the camping season. Many potential participants, may, however not be ready to share their ongoing projects in the spring. The benefits of holding the event in the fall are that makers have finished and perfected their camping projects over the course of the summer season.
- Participant/volunteer availability - While you can recruit most of the volunteers and participants after you have set the date, make sure you have a few key people available on the day you choose.
- Other competing events - Before finalizing your date, check your local events calendars to make sure you haven't picked a day when most people will be busy with something else (for us that means avoiding large music festivals and holidays).
For timing, we have had success with scheduling the event from 1pm to 4pm. Three hours is a sufficient amount of time for lots of milling about and mingling before and after presentations by each vehicle owner. Scheduling the event between lunch and dinner has worked well for us, but if you have food trucks participating, you may want to up their odds of getting business by planning the timing around typical meal hours.
2. Book the location
This step was easy for us since we knew we would be hosting the event in the makerspace's parking lot and yard. If you do not have your own space to host the event, you will need to find a suitable location. Any large parking lot that will let you set up for the day should work, but you may want to consider whether there are washrooms available and if there is a place to take shelter in the event of bad weather.
3. Recruit volunteers and participants
Start finding other people who sleep in their cars. Put a call out on social media and ask your friends if they know anyone with a cool camping set-up. When you see an interesting vehicle parked next to you, invite the owners! If there are any local organizations of outdoors enthuasiasts, contact them to ask if they know anyone who would like to participate. Reach out to your favourite food trucks and invite them as well.
Step 2: Promoting the Event
1. Create a poster for the event
If you have a volunteer with an interest in graphic design, this is a great job for them! Choose an image to represent your event and make sure the poster includes all the important details (where, when, what and how to contact you). For the 2015 event we used this great icon icon by Simon Child.
2. Post the event details online
We created an event on our website's event calendar and also made a facebook event. If there are websites in your area that post calendars of events, you may want to have your Van Slam added to their calendars as well.
3. Send out a press release
Invite the local media to your event by sending out a press release.
YuKonstruct uses MailChimp to send out emails. MailChimp has lots of great templates you can use to create a good looking press release.
Step 3: Day of Logistics
Give yourself some time to set up before the event.
Since our Van Slam starts at 1pm, we ask participating vehicles to arrive at 12:30 and we start the set up around noon.
We set up a table with coffee, water, juice and snacks.
As our parking lot and yard are used to show off the vans, we have arranged with our neighbours to use their lots for parking. Make sure you put up signs directing attendees to where they should park to avoid any confusion.
Get a few volunteers to be on traffic control duty when the vehicles start to arrive, so you can get all the participants in place.
Assign one volunteer the job of MC, to announce when the vehicle tours will start.
Our schedule looks like this:
Noon - Set up starts
12:30 - Participating vehicles arrive
1pm - Official start, attendees arrive slowly. Milling around and informal tours.
2pm - Formal show-and-tell of all of the vehicle modifications
3pm - Tour of vehicles ends. Tour of our makerspace is offered. More milling around and opportunity for people to chat one-on-one
4pm - Clean up
Step 4: Make It Fun!
- Balloons! Nothing says "special event" like balloons.
- Window markers - We use washable window markers from the dollar store to decorate all the vehicles. Participants at our Van Slam all write their vehicle's names, and what makes them special on the car windows
- Swag - This year we laser cut special YuKonstruct Van Slam souvenir key chains for people to bring home
- Hands-on activity - Plan a workshop or activity where attendees can make their own car camping accessory. For our first event, we made chalkboard vanity plates.
Step 5: After It's Over
After your event, make sure you thank all the participants and volunteers!
Take down the contact information for all the vehicle owners so you can invite them to your next Van Slam.
While it is still fresh in your mind, take notes on what worked well and what didn't, so you can improve on the event in the future.
You can read more about our Van Slam events on YuKonstruct's blog: