As a more experienced PodCamper, Sarah Wurrey offered her write-up on the differences between PodCamp 2 and 3 yesterday. As a PodCamp newbie, I can’t say how it compared to any other, but what I can say is that it was an eye-opening experience. Here’s my take on the unconference, from a “newbie” perspective.
When I walked into a packed auditorium on Saturday for the kick-off “unkeynote,” I was struck immediately by how many people were involved in the local social media scene. Unofficial estimates have Saturday attendance at 350 people. Later on, I learned that attendees came from far and wide; Amrita Chandra came all the way from Toronto to attend, and there were several New York and Philly attendees as well. This can only be attributed to the excellent organizing and marketing efforts of Christopher Penn, Chris Brogan, and Michelle Wolverton, not to mention the incredible success of Boston’s PodCamps 1 and 2.
Variety of Opportunities
Twenty-five discussions divided up between five time segments per day meant that whatever your level of experience in social media and podcasting you were going to find something you could learn from. On top of the sessions, there was a “Brain Torrent” area and an informal schedule for “unofficial” get-togethers and lessons. These impromptu gatherings became the real heart of the weekend, and often provided even more valuable discussions than within the session rooms.
For example, all Chris Brogan had to do was ask: “Anyone want to talk about iMovie 08?” And a bunch of campers joined him to share their thoughts on the program and learn from each other. I think it’s this sort of “behind the scenes” activity that makes the unconference so unique, and something I didn’t get to take advantage of enough. Next year will be different!
Every presenter I listened to, from Kabren Levinson to C.C. Chapman, was at the top of their game. Not only did they know their topics cold, but all the presenters welcomed widespread audience participation. If they couldn’t answer a question? Someone in the audience likely would be able to jump in with a solution. Audience engagement is such an important part of social media—but I think it’s easy to forget that it’s an important part of the in-person interactions as well. And the presenters at PodCamp Boston were experts.
Twitter Rocks Conferences
Ever since SxSW last year, Twitter has become an essential element of attending a new media conference. By using a hashtag, #pcb3, attendees were able to tweet the sessions into a common knowledge base, allowing people in other discussions (or at home) to get a taste of what they were learning. If you were not getting what you wanted out of a session, you could easily skip to another by checking out the Twitter stream to see what looked interesting. Need plans for lunch? Send a quick Tweet, and gather twenty folks right away for a trip to a local pub for burgers. The Twitter connection is something I definitely took advantage of; after the conference, Morriss Partee referred someone to my Twitter stream for “more in-depth tweeting about PodCampBoston sessions.” Thanks, Morriss!
With just these elements, PodCamp Boston 3 would have been a success. But there was a little something extra in the air that took the event to the next level.
For a first time attendee, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. But everyone I encountered, be they a organizer, speaker, volunteer, or attendee, was there to have a good time. Whenever we were in the halls, or the third-floor atrium, there was a tangible buzz from people excited about being there. I met so many people that it wouldn’t be fair to list any, for fear of insulting those I left out. During lunch on Sunday, I sat with 10 other people, only three of whom I’d met before PodCamp. The entire weekend was like that!
Exploring the City
Keeping your energy up for a long day of networking and learning requires some fuel, and finding lunch and dinner at great restaurants was another joy of PodCamp. Not to mention the downtime provided even more time for socializing, from the Saturday evening conference-wide get-together at Tequila Rain to an impromptu jam session in the front hall, led by Chris Brogan and David Fisher.
I can definitely say PodCamp was a success. As I said in the closing session, what I know can fit on a thumbtack; there is still so much that any of us have yet to learn. And I look forward to learning more next year at (and spreading the word about) PodCamp Boston 4!
Gradon Tripp is a Boston-based social media, technology and design aficionado who never leaves home without his laptop and camera. He is also a proud dad of the best kid in the world — seriously. Gradon blogs about architecture and design at Design Boston, and about life and social media at Gradon Tripp.com.