Open letter to PodCamp organizers

Podcamp Western Mass 2010It can be intimidating to try to hold a PodCamp, BarCamp, REBarCamp, BarCampBank, or any type of event for that matter. Just in case anyone who is thinking about holding a Camp is feeling intimidated by the prospect, or disheartened that the process might not be as smooth, let me offer a few words of encouragement, from someone who has attended REBarCamps, FacebookDevCamp, and has attended and organized both a BarCampBank and two PodCamps.

First of all, this is an important truism of Camps:

The right people always show up.

There are so many people out there who NEED to have their first PodCamp experience. They will have their eyes opened to the fact that all this stuff happening on their laptop/smart phone represents REAL LIVING PEOPLE. They are not alone in the world. There are others who are going through the exact same experiences, who are ready, willing, and able to learn from others who are similar to them that live RIGHT in YOUR area.

Don’t get hung up about attendance numbers. There is no right number. I’ve been to camps of all shapes and sizes, from 15 to 750. And let me tell you, I LOVE camps that are 35-60 people. There is an intimacy shared that you lose when it gets as large as 100 or 150 or more. I love the big ones too, but there is NOTHING wrong with small and intimate. This is a non-profit endeavor, right? No one has a profit motive to try to put on a huge PodCamp. Throw away the idea of a traditional conference with thousands of attendees, a huge stage, and breakouts only as time-filler. To me, the ideal model of PodCamp is to have ONLY breakouts; 4, 8, 12 or however many of them simultaneously, some as small as a conversation between two people, others with 12 people, others with 20, others 40, in an urban brick building converted into classroom spaces all around a central gathering space.

Another thing to keep in mind: the people who want to, and need to, learn from the PodCamp experience…. you don’t know who they are yet. They will come from being friends of attendees who hear about what an amazing thing PodCamp is. They will come from friends of current local social events who are beyond stoked about the prospect of your Camp. You can’t get that until you have Camp #1. Let the thing grow organically. That’s what happened for the original BarCamp and the first PodCamp Boston. What you want is a small, highly charged, well connected core of people, who blog, podcast, tweet, fb, and videocast their experience with your first Camp… what it meant to them, what they got out of it.

Have a maximum attendance cap. It can be 100 people. Keeping it limited like that accomplishes many positive things at once.

Don’t care if only 50-60 people show up to the first one. About 35 people pre-registered for PodCamp WesternMass 1, but we had about 50-55 people total show up. Attendees brought friends with them; there will always be people who show up at the door with admission in hand. The following year, when we did PCWM for the 2nd time, word had spread about what a great event it was, and we nearly doubled attendance.

You have to create the first one. Since so many don’t know what a PodCamp or other Camp is (but awesome people DO know what it is), they aren’t going to get excited about it ahead of time. But adventurous people WILL check it out and attend.

Trust it. Do it. The right thing will happen.

PodCamp WesternMass 2 photo by vievetrick

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4 Responses to “Open letter to PodCamp organizers”

  1. chelpixie Says:

    This is one of the key reasons I’m excited that PCB5 is going to be smaller due to the venue size. The intimacy and shared experience should result in a tight knit group of people ready and eager to learn. That’s what excites me about Podcamp!

    -Chel Wolverton
    Lead Organizer, Podcamp Boston

  2. Steve Garfield Says:

    Morriss,
    Nice post. Some of my best experiences at PodCamps have been at smaller venues. One that come to mind are yours at Western Mass, PodCamp Boston 1 and 2, and PodCamp Philly.

    There are issues with limiting attendance. When you cap registration at a specific number, a percentage of registrants won’t show up, so then you are under capacity. PodCamp Boston initiated a registration fee to solve that.

    If you have open registration with a limited space, let people over subscribe. A percentage of them won’t sow up, some won’t come for the whole day, and if there actually is a limit to the spacthe e in facility, overflow people can make up sessions outside the venue. Everything will work out.

    See you at the next PodCamp.
    –Steve

  3. @Leslie Says:

    We have a state thirsty for knowledge, so both SMBNH and PCNH both have good attendance and eager participants. I look forward to seeing how the attendees will shape PodCamp NH each year.

    Leslie Poston
    PodCampNH.com

  4. PodCamp Boston 5 tomorrow! « EverythingCU.com World 2.0 Adventure Says:

    […] Open letter to PodCamp organizers […]

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