When you wished a Barcamp was actually just a bar..

This may be online heresy but so be it, I’m going to rant. Social Media Camp then. I was told by the twittersphere, my boss and various others that it was a must attend event where like minded chaps and chapesses would meet, greet and have fun times. Sounded like my kinda event. I wanted to be there. I’d set a reminder in my work Outlook calendar telling me when tickets were available. As you can tell, I didn’t want to miss out.

Tickets released were staggered over two sittings. A wise move. Everyone that didn’t get a ticket, went nuts over it the second time round and some, perhaps not knowing what they were getting all excited over, waited patiently in line too. First round tickets went in 9 minutes, the following in 2 minutes. TWO MINUTES! I tried to get a ticket each time, unsuccessfully as work got in the way in the precious first few minutes. I didn’t expect them to go so quickly, in 2 minutes? Amazing. There were a few cancellations and I got a ticket. Happy days and a fist punch in the air later, I looked forward to it.

In the week in the run up to the SMC, for one reason or another I hadn’t really read up on what a Barcamp was, busy week at work. My bad, I hadn’t been to one before so wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. It wasn’t until the night before that I read up about all attendees having to present for 40 minutes on a topic of their choice. This was a bit of a worry, considering it was the night before. Me and presentations get on but preparation is an absolute must and lots of it. I like to be confident about what I’m talking about, to not do something half assed and to ensure that I’m pleased and happy delivering the presentation is not something I can do over night. God knows how I did it at University and I’m certainly not bloomin’ @whatleydude who did his in the lunch time before his afternoon slot. Now that’s ninja. I’m happy to contribute to the debate, help out with anything behind the scenes, I just wasn’t really down with presenting. Deliberated over whether to go or not, and thought could I turn up without presenting? I put a tweet out there asking if presenting was a must, everyone that came back to me essentially said yes, you can’t turn up without presenting, like this one and this one.. It’s like the LAW! Which bothered me more and made me think that I couldn’t possibly turn up without having something prepared.

So I watched proceedings from a distance through the hashtag on Twitter which was #SMCLondon. I saw people’s pictures put up to Twitpic, I watched some brilliant people’s video recordings of presentations. Some speakers even put up their presentations soon after doing them. It was almost as if I was there yet it didn’t replace the fact that I felt a bit of an idiot for not being there. As the reviews flooded in after of the day, I kicked myself further. Then I read this, which offered a different perspective and I’m really glad it wasn’t just me that felt put off going.

Stop whining? Probably. I know that Social Media is to encourage collaboration, open ended conversation and sharing / thoughts and ideas but I wanted to go myself primarily to learn from real experts, the people who are getting up and talking about the topics and issues close to them and current today. People fascinate me, their backgrounds and how that relates to what they are doing now, their delivery of their chosen topic and what I can learn from them. I wonder why I studied Marketing and not Psychology at Uni!

My reason for wanting to go to Social Media Camp was to spectate (whilst observing and learning), the very thing that is positively discouraged. I’m a relative upstart to the industry, 22 years young and always looking to learn from the best. Whilst growing in knowledge, I don’t feel like I have enough experience to put that on others in a conference style format. It’s something I’m working on. So why don’t I just go to a conference? Tickets for those are usually cost prohibitive being thousands of pounds each. With that in mind, there’s definitely a need and a place for Social Media Camp. It was unfortunate that the second day of events had to be cancelled because of event sponsors pulling out, another case to show that even though tickets were sold out in an incredible time, monetizing social media is a thoroughly perplexing issue.

Tying in further was an email I got through today from an agency which read as follows.

“Hi Litman!

How you doing? I came across you online (no surprises there!) We are a PR agency based out of the UK and are in need of an expert to present on social media to one of our clients, and I am hoping you might be the man for the job.

Are you interested?

Thanks X”

I don’t think I’ve been addressed by my surname in an email since school but I skirted past that.

My response soon after was

“Hi X

I think you might be looking for someone a bit more senior for this. I’m hugely flattered though. Here’s a few people I think may be more suitable. (emails supplied).

Best Regards,
Mike.”

You’re probably thinking, idiot!? Turning down a great opportunity like that, grow some balls and man up! And you’re 100% right. As I said, flattered and it’s great to be achieving exposure for the right reasons but I felt embarrassed at the idea of being called an expert, it was all wrong. That term is banded about far too frequently.

So to come back to SMC – There’s been a fantastic response in the comments section to Kat Neville’s post here (which I might add is a stylistically fantastic web page) You should check it out, some great thoughts and view points.

What do you think? Is there a place for spectators at a barcamp style event?

5 Replies to “When you wished a Barcamp was actually just a bar..”

  1. I really liked this post. I feel a little like high school at these events, like its english class and we’re all supposed to give presentations. While presentations are fine, especially if you’ve put time into one and have information of real value but presentations should be optional. People can participate without doing a full blown death by powerpoint over 40 minutes. As a more introverted person, I’d prefer to opt-out of presenting more often than not, and I’d also like to opt-out of events full of people talking because they like the sound of their voice and their ideas. As such I tend to get more value out of the breaks where you can have meaningful conversations.

    I also agree with you on being an ‘expert’, I’d love to see more value and humility presented. I instantly get a left eye twitch at the use of that word and more than a little leary about dealing with that person. Same goes for visionary’s, gurus, rockstars, ninjas, alchemists, et al. They would be less obvious with a neon sign over their heads. Just do your best work and let that speak for you. Far more impressive than a moniker or a presentation.

  2. Well said.

    Good call on the “expert” thing too. What’s that saying? A wise man knows he knows nothing… sometimes it is better to listen and learn in my opinion. There are too many loud mouths in the world, diluting the useful stuff – so why force people to speak for the sake of it?

    I learnt a lot from the day, I spoke to lots of people, and I will come back armed with a presentation on *something* next time. I really don’t like all this angst and guilt though. I don’t think that it is helpful to anyone.

    Kat: I’m not sure that pulling figures out of the air about the number of people who couldn’t get there to present due to (as you harshly call them) “non-participators” is useful. Perhaps you should concentrate your wrath on the people who didn’t show at all (which really is a waste) and then re-read eloquent posts like this about some of the reasons.

    The day was great, informative, friendly and those are the things that we should be shouting from the rooftops. That it *is* friendly, that it’s a great thing to present, that you’ll get a lot out of it – not that you are some kind of drain on the group if you haven’t. The discussions, the chats over lunch, the connections – those are important too and it’s not just presenters that add to them.

    (Kat – just re-reading your post before I post and now I’m not entirely sure if you include the non-attendees or just the non-presenters in your “non-participator” bracket. From the context it feels like you mean those that don’t present, in which case my statement above stands, if I’m wrong then apologies…)

  3. Barcamps are absolutely amazing but I was a little dissapointed to see how many people dropped out at the last minute – I think it shows a lack of respect towards the organiser who put a lot of effort into organising this event @vero

    I wish I had presented something and I will do so next time.

    I think you should definitely come to the next SMC and check it out – they’re worth it!

  4. Another person I wish had presented. I don’t think you can say, “I can’t present because I’m not an expert”, because you’re obviously articulate and have something to say. To be honest, very few of the people there really are experts; I know I’m not! That, and the format should have been made more clear: do you think people would have valued their tickets more and maybe thought twice about getting a ticket, “JUST IN CASE” they later decided to go? I think it would have…and maybe they would have sold out in 25 minutes instead of 12. hahaha

    ESPECIALLY coming from a person in marketing (I, too, have a marketing degree, but chose to self-teach into web design, so I know what those courses are like…) and someone trying to work in Social Media and PR, how important it is for you to set an example to the people in your industry and stop being a spectator and actually participate. Sorry if that’s harsh, but how many people out there with presentations planned couldn’t go because non-participators had the tickets? I’m guessing more than 50.

    And p.s. thanks for the compliments on my site… it’s a work in progress (as every web-designer’s site is!)

  5. Nice post Litman 🙂

    And not an easy one to write I imagine. I totally agree with you about the ‘expert’ thing. Indeed it is perhaps fear of the so-called experts that make these sorts of events more intimidating than they should be…? When in actual fact, we are all learning.

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