You’ve heard of unconferences, right? Those participant-driven geek affairs that have effectively saved the world from having to take out second mortgages on their homes in order to enjoy a good conference now and then.
Unconferences were actually born back in the mid-80′s when Harrison Owen developed the concept of Open Space Technology. The term “unconference”, though, wasn’t popularized until BarCamp and BloggerCon came onto the scene in 2005-ish. They’re typically centered around new and social media events and are organized for its participants, by its participants, and definitely aren’t filled with a bunch of stuffy, talking heads. The community is ultimately responsible for the success, or failure, of an event, which requires that you be an active participant rather than just an attendee – but active in making real progress and not just status quo. The sessions facilitate this type of interaction: they’re experiential; they often foster lively discussions and collaborative solutions that ultimately create truly sustainable communities; and require new tools, new perspectives, and better collaboration.
PodCamp Toronto is just one of these unconferences. You’ve probably heard of, and hopefully listened to, a podcast; PodCamp, though, shouldn’t be confused as being for podcasters only. In fact, PodCamp is for anyone interested in new media, including bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, and social media networking whores. What you definitely won’t find at PodCamp are suits and ties, that’s for sure. One of the unique things about PodCamp is the use of the “law of two feet”, meaning that if you aren’t getting anything out of the session you’re in, it’s not at all considered rude to walk out and go to a session you might deem more useful. Don’t you wish we could do that all the time^^? But I digress.
I attended nine sessions over the two day conference^ and, because I know you’re dying to know what I thought, I’ll review some of the wicked highlights here. You’re welcome.
1) Integration, Integration, Integration: Communications in the New Social Media Ecosystem by Dave Fleet. An excellent and lively
discussion about social media and how it integrates with traditional media. Dave talked about the three types of media: owned, paid, and earned, as well as about the “ecosystem of communications” and how to manage the sum of those media reactions. We all decided that Molson had done an amazing job embracing and weaving social media in with its traditional media, especially with the Molson Canadian Hockey House at the Olympics, but decided that their success could also be due to their delicious Canadian beer. Anyway.
2) Lunch! My friend Chris, with whom I attended, and I ate Chinese-style burritos at Chino Locos. Pan-fried noodles and guacamole, anyone?
3) The Inside Scoop on Social Media Analytics by Aubrey Podolsky. An analytics girl, I am not. I’m fairly certain my blog isn’t going to make me a zillionaire, so what’s the point? I don’t pore over stats about who came to my blog and how many times, because I just don’t care. That said, I thought it would be good to get some high-level ideas on how people measure as I realize it’s a vital part of growing the channel. This particular session didn’t cut it for me with the exception of one thing: the deck style he used was amazing! It’s called Prezi.com and is fabulous! I saw two people use that style of presentation deck over the weekend and I could hardly get home to download it fast enough. PowerPoint, you’ve met your match.
4) Is Email Marketing Dead? This session was close to my heart as it may or may not have something to do with my day job. Nevertheless, I’m fairly certain I could have given the session myself, unfortunately. For example, the presenter suggested that you add someone to your email newsletter just by virtue of them leaving a comment on your blog. EGADS! I can assure you that that is *not* best practice and would advise you not do it — ever — unless you want to end up on every blacklist out there. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
5) Twitter and Dating by Jeremy Wright and Melissa Smich. No unconference would be complete these days without a session on Twitter and dating, coined as #twating by these delightful presenters. The session was lively and amusing, and included some great tales of major DM fails, but also some major DM loves. Much discussion was had around the creative uses for hashtags. The best part of this session, though? Red velvet cupcakes. FTW.
6) Tod Maffin’s “Awesome-Izing Your Podcast: Secrets from Radio by Tod Maffin. My last session of the weekend was a highlight of PodCamp. A podcaster, I’m not, but a public radio fan, I *definitely* am. I have pretty much shirked all music in favour of all public radio, all the time*, so when I found out one of the grandfathers*** of podcasting, Tod Maffin, was presenting, I kicked the “law of two feet” into overdrive and practically hurdled myself into a frenzy by sprinting to his session as fast as I could. I’m really glad I did, too. His presentation style was totally engaging, his material was clear and concise, and he articulated a ton of detailed information rather than just more of the tree-top ideas I’d seen throughout the weekend. He’s obviously been around the public radio block, so to speak, and offered us a smorgasbord of do’s and don’ts, along with live audio examples that brought it all to life. In fact, if you have any interest in writing, podcasting, public radio, or any combination thereof, you might want to check out Tod’s book, Idea to Air, where you can peruse his awesome tips at your own, non-PodCamp pace.
Overall, my first PodCamp was awesome. I learned a lot of stuff, some great and some not so great. I learned that you should not be a keener and sit in the front row; it’s difficult to take advantage of the “law of two feet” when you’re practically sitting on top of the speaker. I learned a lot about social media, the analytics of it, and how to (better) figure out what’s valuable and what isn’t in the digital space. I learned a lot of goodness over the weekend, but do you know the biggest thing I learned? I want a Mac.
^Because I am a keener geek. Apparently, the “real” PodCamp networking happens in the hallways while the sessions are going on and is affectionately known as “LobbyCamp”. Next year!
*Also, I’m 94.
^^ Like work, or people going on and on about the pains of their childbirth. Gawd.
*** Although he certainly doesn’t look like a grandfather.