Pop-up event playbook
When building new communities or introducing new folks to bitcoin, the question that pops up is always how best to do this. The challenge is usually that bitcoin isn’t as intuitive for the average person, and at times can even come across as intimidating for folks who have received a lot of mixed information in the past.
To get around this, we were looking for onboarding ideas to:
- introduce new folks to bitcoin in an engaging way
- introduce new merchants to accepting bitcoin in a practical way
- building communities in physical locations
The idea we came to was to throw a pop-up event where the draw would be a fun hangout with good food/drinks and interesting folks. We wanted the draw to be the event itself, and for bitcoin to be a happy 2nd fiddle.
For Bitcoin Pizza Day 2022 we tried out one such event and the results far exceeded what we could’ve expected for the day. We captured the experience of the event in a set of tweets that picked up a fair amount of interest from folks asking how they could do this themselves.
Coming from this, we decided that we could maybe make a playbook of sorts for hosting “the perfect bitcoin pop-up event”.
1/ So we got some folks together on Sunday and ended up doing a whole #BitcoinPizzaDay🍕 event here in Trini— arvin (@vindaRd) May 24, 2022
Pitch was: sats-only event, come hang out with us, if you don't have sats we'll help you get setup pic.twitter.com/0YEDIPGFeF
These are the steps we pulled together that we felt were key in pulling off a great event for bitcoin newbies. In a nutshell the steps were:
- Curate a great initial event
- Pick a merchant solution
- Pick an end-user default wallet
- Decide on an cash-in process
- Select some fun on-day demos/gimmicks
1. Curate a great initial event
We found that it was easier to plan an event concept first before we thought of how to mix bitcoin in. The goal here is to put together an event that folks would want to intend outside of any bitcoin experimentation. The usual elements for a good event apply:
- great location with good ambience
- music (live/DJ/playlist)
- engaging target audience
- a splash of bitcoin
For our Pizza Day event, we started with a set of potential dream locations and narrowed them down to ones that were available. We then locked in our local pizzaiolo and paired him with the event venue to ensure that he’d be able to run a pop-up version of his operation out of there.
Once these two elements were sorted, we then put together a peppy little WhatsApp message and blasted it out to friends and in friend groups of folks who we’d genuinely enjoy hanging out with. Knowledge of bitcoin was not a pre-requisite.
On the event night itself, we sprinkled around a few bitcoin props throughout the venue (a LittleHodler plushie, a CNC bitcoin “₿” cutout) to add to the general vibe of the space.
2/ We rented out this awesome little garden venue called Calabash, and invited our buddy who does these wild brick-oven pizzas to come make them live on-site— arvin (@vindaRd) May 24, 2022
The deal was, all pizzas and drinks were only available for sats! pic.twitter.com/L4tYyVDnCy
There are lots of formats for putting together a fun event. You can potentially find a local bar or cafe and try to negotiate the space for when they might usually be less busy (mid-week for e.g.). You can also look for places like food truck pods where you can then bring a group of willing buyers for one of their quieter afternoons/nights. You can even do these events as small home gatherings where you simulate a bar and a food stand and only bring together a group of close friends.
The key here is to put the event first so that even if bitcoin wasn’t an element folks would likely have a great time.
2. Pick a merchant solution
Once the event venue has been sorted and the merchants decided, the next step is to decide how you will be accepting payments in bitcoin. For this type of event, we would strongly recommend going with “lightning-only” options if possible to reduce the friction of in-person payments. We would also recommend finding a wallet that supports showing conversions in your local currency.
There is an additional element too where you can choose to optionally cash your merchants out at the end of the night so that there is no risk to them. The goal is to make bitcoin slip into the event as seamlessly as possible, and this can help support that for merchants who are still apprehensive before experiencing what bitcoin is.
There are 3 tiers of options for collecting payments depending on how technically capable you are and what level of experience you would like your merchants to have.
A simple custodial/semi-custodial wallet for each merchant is usually the easiest thing to get setup for receiving payments. Examples of this can be things like our Bitcoin Beach Wallet or wallets like Wallet of Satoshi that have no active backups and simply require an email address or phone number. The Bitcoin Beach Wallet also comes with a merchant page of sorts that can be useful as a “receive-only” option of accepting payments.
The goal here is to get the merchant up and running as simply as possible, and to remove the onboarding burden of having to think of liquidity and backing up the wallet. These elements can come later.
> Simple, but requires some effort
A step up from the custodial wallets would be solutions like Breez, Muun or Phoenix that allow the merchant take custody in a more non-custodial way. Breez is especially good here because it comes with a Point-of-Sale mode that adds a very professional feel to the event.
The challenges with this approach is that you’d have to work with the merchants beforehand to ensure their wallet are properly backed up, and you’d have to bootstrap some receive side liquidity for them so that they aren’t surprised by strange fees and failed payments when they first start accepting payments.
For this sort of event, this may not be the best option since it introduces unnecessary complexity that can be handled separately later.
If you have access to someone who is technical, an ideal solution could also be to setup BTCPayServer stores with a lightning backend, and to then attach a simple checkout app to the store. These have the advantage of being widely distributable via a link to anyone who you’d like to accept payments, and the feel is very similar to a traditional store register. You also get a very nice breakdown of all transactions for the night for any after-event accounting.
For our pizza day event we used all 3 options across our pizza guys and drinks persons in the space. We set the pizza guy up with his own Wallet of Satoshi to get started, which he was able to very easily use all night.
We also setup a BTCPayServer instance with a lite lnd node attached very easily using voltage.cloud. The trickiest parts here was to open channels from the node, loop funds out to ensure we had inbound liquidity, and then send a few transactions to ensure our node was added to the wider network graph.
As a fallback to the BTCPayServer store, we also setup a dedicated Breez wallet for the event and did some initial transactions to ensure there were channels established with inbound liquidity before the event started.
By the end of the night, we found that the BTCPayServer instance worked perfectly and we were able to get some great insights on payments activity during the night after the event.
7/ For the two merchants, we used a @BtcpayServer checkout app in TTD as our primary via a static web link (super easy to share across multiple ppl)— arvin (@vindaRd) May 24, 2022
Our backup was @Breez_Tech wallet with the PoS UX... supports TTD currency, and was just beautiful pic.twitter.com/linHuSPsPm
3. Pick a default event wallet
For the end-user side of things, we tried to keep this as ridiculously simple as possible. The reason for this is, our goal was to get users to their first bitcoin interaction as quickly as possible with as little overhead as possible before that interaction.
To satisfy this, ideal wallets would be custodial ones that can be backed up with simply a phone number or an email address. These wallets usually also have the benefit of abstracting away things like liquidity and backups. You would also want a wallet that supports denominations in your local currency to keep things as familiar as possible for attendees.
For our event we had folks download Wallet of Satoshi before they got there. On arrival, we simply told them to open it up and hit ‘Receive’, and then sent them some sats. After this, we directed them to a merchant to simply scan a QR code to pay and that was it.
This simplicity is key to getting new folks engaged with the process. We found that after their first interactions, it was usually a lot easier to have conversations about how this all worked and how they can be more involved in using bitcoin.
8/ For newbies we focused on easiest onboarding experience. Defaults were:— arvin (@vindaRd) May 24, 2022
• @walletofsatoshi, because they're literally the quickest way to get it and they support TTD
• @BTCBeachWallet, because they're very user friendly (and obvs, I work on it via @GaloyMoney 😂) pic.twitter.com/vgfIoZ4508
4. Decide on a cash-in process
The assumption will be that most folks coming to the event will be bitcoin newbies and would not have actually used bitcoin via a mobile wallet before. Even for folks who have traded it or have some on exchange, having the actual asset in a mobile wallet is a very different experience. Because of this, you will likely need to have some way to give folks their first bitcoin when they show up to the event.
Have a person at the door
If you have someone working the door for the event collecting a cover charge or registering folks, this could be the first ideal place to send some sats to folks as they walk in.
Have cash-in agents around the event
To avoid bottlenecks at the door, you can also have some folks sprinkled throughout the event with phones who can send sats to folks after they have entered
A good tip is to not set any expectations that you will be cashing folks out at the end of the night. We found it’s better to frame whatever cost you choose to charge as an overall event cost like you would do for a regular event. The special thing about this event though is that you get “tokens” back as part of the cover charge.
This approach potentially also help you get around any finnicky requirements around not having to directly “sell bitcoin” to folks.
For our event, we had 3 persons who we gave fresh Wallet of Satoshi wallets to with pre-topped up balances in them. Their jobs for the night was to collect a flexible cover charge from folks coming in depending on what “level” they wanted to participant in the event at. Our folks would then send them back some sats based on the cover charge they chose.
5. Select some fun on-day demos/gimmicks
The whole point of bitcoin is that you can do some fun new things with it that you can’t otherwise do with fiat necessarily.
For example, you can find someone at the event who has a bitcoin friend and see if you can get the friend to pay one of their bills remotely, maybe via a video call or something similar. For our event, we had a community member send some sats from a beach in Bali during the event for instance.
Or, if you have folks with active Twitter accounts, why not try tweeting about what you’re doing and adding a random invoice to see if you can get a stranger to pick up a small bill.
If you have the expertise, you can even get fancier with things like automated devices that can accept a payment and do some action. A lightning beer tap is usually a very novel addition to any event for example.
6. Have fun!
At the end of the day, the point of the event is to create a welcoming and engaging atmosphere where you can introduce folks to “the future of money and payments” in a way that’s simple to grok and not intimidating.
There’s a lot of creativity that comes into how you choose to do this, but if when everything’s said and done the folks who come out to the event have enjoyed themselves and gotten a taste of the sats-life, that’s more than what anyone can ask for out of something like this.
Best of luck organizing your own community events
11/ All in all, I'm surprised by how well everything went! Was good vibes all night, the tech just worked, the pizzas were amazing, the convos were spectacular— arvin (@vindaRd) May 24, 2022
Huge thanks to @markpereir & @mreid_tt for helping to make this happen in 2 days 🙌🏽
Can't wait for the next one! pic.twitter.com/jtzYdjtXcu