Pre-event cultural information gathering

AdaCamp was a two-day unconference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture. This page is part of the AdaCamp Toolkit, which helps you take AdaCamp’s tools and practices and apply them to your own event. You can re-use the text of this page under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license with credit to the AdaCamp Toolkit.

AdaCamps were held on four continents and in five countries. When holding events outside of your local cultural context, you will want to check to what extent your event’s cultural assumptions hold.

It will always be best to consult with someone with cultural fluency in both your culture and the event’s local culture, preferably on a paid basis. But this checklist will provide an initial guide to some questions you could to ask before holding an AdaCamp-like unconference in a cultural context you are unfamiliar with.



  • Is there an expensive and cheap time for air travel within [country/region] and to and from [country/region]?
  • Is there a pattern of extreme weather in [region] you want to avoid (eg, hot summers, cold winters, rainy seasons)?
  • When is the existing conference season? Will holding your event during it help people justify attending your event too, or compete for their time?
  • What is the local schooling and university calendar? (School holidays can make travel expensive and scheduling an event during exam times will exclude students.)
  • Is there a time of year when local food vendors or accommodation providers shut down entirely due to holidays or observances?
  • When are the local public holidays and major observances and festivals? Is it beneficial, normal, unexpected, impractical, or exclusionary to hold an event during these? (Pay especial attention to the calendars of minority local religions and cultural groups.)
  • Can you hold it during standard working hours? Do local employers typically let junior and mid-level employees in your community attend events like yours as part of their work duties?
  • Are there standard non-working hours? Do junior and mid-level employees in your community have typical days off (ie when are weekends, and how widespread are they)?


  • What are the local business hours? What are the typical hours for conferences?
  • Is there a tradition of a long daytime break (eg siesta)?
  • Do attendees expect events to start at the advertised time? Do attendees expect events to finish at the advertised time? If not, how much earlier/later will they expect?

Event management

  • Are unconferences common in this region? Will most attendees to be familiar with the format?
  • What ratio of registration to attendance should you expect? How much should you over-fill?


  • What languages are likely to be spoken by attendees?
  • Are there likely to be local people who are qualified to attend, who don’t fluently speak [the organizers’ main language]?
  • Is there a single shared language that attendees are likely to be fluent in?
  • Should the event should be multilingual?
    • To what extent? Eg. website, applications, email communications, plenary sessions, unconference sessions.
  • Do the local languages have a formal/informal style (eg. tu/vous)? Is it clear which would be used in an unconference environment, or should you clarify preferred style in your opening announcements?
  • Do the local languages have grammatical gender that applies to people? Are there gender-neutral variants? What are some ways that genderqueer and non-binary people prefer to be spoken to/of? How about plural forms? Should you advise attendees in the opening announcements?

Meals and food

  • Do conferences commonly serve a substantial breakfast?
  • What time is dinner usually eaten, especially at restaurants?
  • If late dinners (after 7pm) are the norm, what would local attendees expect to do beforehand?
  • What are the most common dietary restrictions in this area? (eg. gluten-free, vegetarian, kosher, halal)
  • What is the common local term for “vegetarian”? Does it typically include any of the following: eggs, dairy products, fish/seafood, white meat? Are there terms for variants that include/exclude some of these ingredients?
  • How practical would it be to have an all-vegetarian menu (in the sense of no seafood or meat)? How practical would it be to have a mostly vegan menu? Will caterers be accustomed to this request? Are there specialist vegetarian or vegan caterers?
  • What is the best website to find restaurant recommendations (eg Yelp)?
  • Is there a food bank, soup kitchen, or similar charity to take any leftover food?

Transport and accommodation

  • What forms of inexpensive accommodation represent a minimum safe place for single people to stay? (eg. are hostels generally safe?)
  • [If people are likely to travel internationally for the event] What level of accommodation would be familiar to a non-adventurous traveller from [another region]?
  • How would most attendees to get to the venue? Are some forms of transit considered preferable to others?
  • How should you allow for traffic conditions in your scheduling?
  • Is it considered safe for women to travel alone at night? What steps should you advise attendees to take for their safety?


  • Are wheel-accessible features common in venues (eg ramps, elevators, automatic doors, disabled parking, accessible toilets?)
  • Are wheel-accessible features common in public spaces (eg kerb cuts, smooth sidewalks, accessible public transit)?


  • Are recycling and/or composting common in venues? (eg. business offices)
  • Is cycling common? Is bike parking readily available?

Politics and local oppressions

  • Are there any major news events or issues related to your event’s purpose you should be familiar with?
  • Are there local racial/ethnic/cultural oppressions you should be familiar with?
  • Have there been any recent sexist/*ist incidents in the attendees’ community that you should know about?
  • Are there standard spoken or written acknowledgements of local oppressions (eg indigenous land ownership acknowledgements) that you should incorporate into your website or opening address?


  • How much do similar local events (eg. 2-day community-oriented conferences) charge for attendance?
  • Is it likely that attendees can pay online? What means will attendees be comfortable using to pay online? (eg. credit card, Paypal, other)?
  • How do people pay for local services such as transport, childcare, etc? Will you need to carry and manage cash?


  • What is the prevalence of laptops/smart phones? What proportion of attendees will bring these devices to the event?
  • How widespread is (mobile) Internet access? Will attendees be able to check their email for event updates after leaving their home to travel to the event?
  • Is there a particular social network that many local people will be active on?
  • Where do events in the local community normally put their communications? Email, or on a social network, or on the web or other?


Search for “cultural competency checklist” and “cultural competency [region] checklist” for resources on non-members working with members of particular cultures, and common cultural differences.