Kate calls me out about the argo, alpha male smackdown I put on a BarCamp n00bie yesterday. And the worst part about this is that Kate is correct, behaviour like mine might be driving away diversity and new participants from this community. With BarCampTdot just days away, and the planning cycle almost complete, let me try to sum up what n00bies can expect.
What is BarCamp?
BarCamp is an alternative conference. It is a non-excluseive, “open” alternative to FooCamp. Take all of the innovation, excitement and the concept as started by Tim O’Reilly and open door it. Make a conference around the people who attend.
“BarCamp provides a democratizing alternative, where talking is just as important as listening.”
What to expect at BarCamp?
We will start Saturday morning by getting everyone together in a room. We will invite the group to propose sessions, anyone can propose and lead a session, they do this by announcing to the group what the session is about and giving it a title which will go on a sticky on the grid later. Once we have a bunch of sessions, we then invite the presenter to schedule the session. It's up to the presenters to put their session on the grid. Once the sessions are on the grid, we'll just let things roll. People can move between sessions, participate in the discussions.
I think that this description is still completely relevant. We’ll have a lot more people present at BarCampTdot and the space will be bigger. But that only translates to more sessions on the grid. More opportunities to have a session.
We will be providing a space, some furniture, some electricity, a wifi network, and a framework for a unconference to happen. Sponsors have provided some funding, so we’ll have water, pop, some snacks, maybe some t-shirts, maybe some lunch and dinner. BarCamp is what you as a participant make of it. Individuals are bringing their laptops, some are bringing projectors (there is a risk that we might overload the circuit in this warehouse space). The space for BarCampTdot is more raw than most of the spaces we’ve used.
Anders Ramsay describes BarCampNYC on BoxesandArrows as:
“The organizers didn't give any instructions on what to do or where to go. Everyone just figured it out on their own, found a space when they got tired, and bedded down. In the morning, people got up, showered, and were ready by 10 or 11. Again, no direction, no alarms, people took care of themselves and each other.”
Does everyone have to present?
People should be prepared to participate.
Participation comes in a variety of formats. So for all of my smackdown, I don’t often present. Why? Because I’m usually tired from all of the running around (actually most people will tell you it’s because I’ll have too many bourbons the night before ;-). The best sessions are a mix of presentation and discussion. The goal is to provide stimulus for a conversation. Challenge the audience. Talk about something you are deeply passionate about. For many entrepreneurs the thing they are working on is the thing they are passionate about.
“The informal feel of the event also makes people less concerned about presenting fully developed ideas, instead, increasing the comfort-level of throwing out off-the-wall ideas just to see what the response is. And by the same virtue, an audience who, in a more formal setting, might politely listen quietly to a not-so-great presentation, is more comfortable speaking up, maybe even turning the presentation into a workshop to see how a bad idea can be turned into a good one.”
There are two phrases that get spoken alot at BarCamp. No Spectators, Only Participants and No Tourists. These are trying to express the desire of community for involvment. BarCamp is not a large corporate conference where you can sit in the back of the room and take a couple of days out of the office. There are a lot of other conferences that you can attend if that is your thing. BarCamp is a framework to allow people to share and learn in an open environment.
How to BarCamp like an Old Pro?
Here are my tips on how to BarCamp like an Old Pro. I hope that Tara and Chris will speak out about this, as they have attended way more BarCamps on way more continents, with way more people. And that others will include their experiences with BarCamps.
- Don’t drink too much bourbon the night before BarCamp
- Show up early, get a spot on the grid or find someone that needs help with their session
- Have fun, remember that BarCamp is what you make of it, so if you’re bored, then start a session that will interest you.