Event Guide

Here are helpful tips for organizing an in-person mapathon, from recruiting participants, logistics on the day, to follow up.

Also, there are even more good ideas for event planning on the OSM Mapping Weekend HOWTO wiki page.

Teachers & instructors working in a classroom setting should see TeachOSM for guidance on bringing OSMGeoweek projects into their classroom.


Students are a primary audience, but the event can also to professionals/citizens who likely to have GIS/OSM skills or interest. And reach out beyond geography and GIS; particularly for students studying international affairs or international students, there would be interest in international humanitarian efforts. Outside of school, there may be local meetups or OSM groups with whom to coordinate.

Nearly all of the strategies produce results by either connecting to unique groups or reinforcing the message to the point that people committed to participating. Put your marketing hat on. For each email, flyer, calendar posting customize it to what would be of interest to that group. For instance, to international students, emphasize that they would gain skills that would allow them to assist when humanitarian disasters strike their own countries; to the OSM enthusiasts promote it as a humanitarian OSM event, etc. The MapGive Why Map Video is a great starting point for all.


Event Calendars

Personal appearances


Registration and Agenda


It is often helpful to require registration, even for no-cost events. Although there is no fee for participation, having participants register beforehand gives a very good sense of how many people will show up, and additional event details can be provided on the registration page. Plus, this provides a way to track who attended and acts as a failsafe in case something comes up that requires a change in venue, rescheduling, or cancellation.

Eventbrite has worked well for us, and is free of charge if the event is also. Eventbrite has some nice features that allow management of the tickets/event. Sometimes, events like this charge a nominal fee to encourage people to actually show up if they register. On the other hand, it is seldom necessary to turn away an unregistered attendee.


It can be helpful to start with an OSM beginners workshop at the front end of the event (for an hour or so), then have experienced OSMers join in. Or perhaps assign an experienced OSMer to a small group of people during the first hour to work with them closely.

Venue Logistics


Based on registrations and level of promotion, find a space with appropriate capacity. Not everyone who registers will show up, and people may come and go during the event as well, so capacity can be lower than total expected attendance. It’s helpful to have some overflow areas prepared, just in case.

With many laptops whizzing away, some rooms can get a little warmer than usual, keep this in mind. Try to set up the room to have a as much space as possible while maximizing the number of seats for our participants.


This may be obvious, but a reliable internet connection is a requirement. Test out internet ahead of time, if you can.

Computers and Power

Usually best to ask people to bring their own laptops. This has both the benefit of not having to secure a computer lab for the day (which generally do not allow food/drink in the lab room), and there is a subtle message that says “you can do this on your own computer, anytime, anywhere.”

Helpful to remind people to bring an external mouse (usb/wireless) because digitizing with a touchpad can be frustrating. And, it is important to have power available to for each laptop. Round-up a bunch of extension cords and power strips. Go in before the event to map out the power supply strategy and identify where all of the outlets were and how many extension cords and power strips are needed, and how they would be laid out on the tables. In addition, have a few extra laptops for those that do not have laptops they could bring.


Try to secure a little money to provide free food and beverages for the event. Buy plenty of soda/water, various snacks, and pizza to keep people happily mapping all day. This in an important thing to offer, if you can, because this is both a draw to get people to participate, and hunger/thirst are not a reason to leave.


Create a little ambiance during the event, for example, play music from the region you’re mapping. This was designed to both create a connection to the culture of the region that we were mapping, and to give a little energy to the room.

If the location has any cool technology to share, arrange to have a demonstration. Or if in a historic or important location, arrange for participants to spend time exploring the building.

On the projection screen, put up the live OSM edit feed at http://live.openstreetmap.fr/ or http://osmlab.github.io/show-me-the-way/ . This gave a nice feel that the participants are doing something that was part of something bigger, and something that others around the world were also working on at the same time.


Connect with various other OpenStreetMap networks, like HOT, MapGive, and Mising Maps. Make sure they know when the event will be held, and which task you’ll be working. This is was helpful for leveraging social media to promote the event and tweet out pics and progress throughout the day.

You can also ask prominent individuals in the community to come and speak in person, or Skype in during the event and project, to give an overview of mapping efforts, and to emphasize the value of the work the people were doing. This is a nice touch that allowed people to feel connected in a very real way to a larger effort).

In addition to your event, think about coordinating activities at other locations through networks of colleagues. Share the information in these guides, and kept them updated on any relevant information encountered during planning.


Emphasize the fact that we were not just putting lines on a map, but were doing something that was helping real people in areas that have real needs. Include information in emails/flyers/personal communication that talk about the situation in the regions being mapped; for example, for a DRC mapathon, print a large, poster sized page from the USAID Fact Sheet on the ongoing complex humanitarian crisis in the DRC, and displayed it prominently at the event.

Follow on activities

Have a good follow up strategy for participants. Communicate the results after the event, and invite them to connect on the local OSM mailing lists and other communication channels. Invite to the next event.

Participants may be interested to hosting a similar event or start a group back home, in their department, etc. Transition into working with them soon after the event so that we can provide support, and additional training for them while the “iron is hot.”

A longer term goal is to work with the university to incorporate this as part of the university certification programs. Sometimes there are volunteering requirements. This would be a great way to bring in people who might not have been attracted to it otherwise, and to give them an opportunity to be involved in the planning of the event as well.


Interested in participating? Email osmgeoweek@gmail.com to learn more. Visit this site's Github repository