I started writing this post in November 2011, a few days after I attended the second EventCamp East Coast. As I put the finishing touches on this, we are a little over a week out from EventCamp DownUnder. It’s a damn good thing I don’t have to work on deadline….
Are we EventCamped out? At least, here in the United States? To date, 9 EventCamps have been planned. The tenth, EventCamp DownUnder, will take place in Sydney, Australia on February 26 & 27. I’m looking forward to attending #ECDU as a virtual participant, even with the 16 hour time difference!
The first EventCamp had incredible buzz leading up to it. Since then, each of the various versions that followed was accompanied by less and less excitement and energy, with the exception of the two non-U.S. camps in London and Vancouver. EventCamp Silicon Valley wound up being cancelled. The London and Vancouver were the only camps, in my opinion, to generate buzz anywhere near that of the original version.
As I write this, I am not aware of any firm plans for future EventCamps to take place. There is a chance that EventCamp Europe may reappear later this year somewhere in the European Union.
Let’s take a look at the history of EventCamps. In the summer of 2009, during one of the evening #eventprofs chats on Twitter, Christina Coster first suggested having an “unconference” for the meetings and events industry and the seeds were planted for EventCamp. Within a week, I was on a conference call with Coster, Jessica Levin and Jeff Hurt to start the planning process rolling. Mike McAllen and Mike McCurry joined the team shortly afterwards and I left due to health and work issues.
February 2010 arrives and EventCamp is held at the Roger Smith Hotel in New York. Attendees arrive from all over the United States and even Europe, despite a snowstorm that dropped over 2 feet of snow on the east coast (up to northern New Jersey) that Friday and Saturday. It was a %@#&ing AWESOME weekend and I have never made so many strong connections at any industry event before or since. There was a true sense of camaraderie among the attendees. I remember a conversation with a handful of attendees that many of us were now “on a mission from God” to show that events could be done differently than the tried and true methods that have been used for ages. Nearly everyone that attended hung out socially both nights as well.
Sam Smith and Ray Hansen take the plunge and organize EventCamp Twin Cities that September. While the original EventCamp did have some virtual aspects to it, #ECTC is deliberately planned as a hybrid event with all the educational content streamed to a virtual audience. Additionally, there is are pods in Switzerland and Dallas that are also actively participating in #ECTC. In fairness, there is tremendous buzz online during the virtual broadcast. So much so, that it probably helped to encourage folks to sign up for the next incarnation of EventCamp two months later.
EventCamp East Coast was organized by Traci Browne and Adrian Segar. Not following the format of the two previous camps, this camp was based on Segar’s Conferences That Work model, where content is determined onsite by the attendee’s learning needs and what skills they have to share. Many of the onsite attendees experienced intense personal development from the format and there was hardly any online presence as they were deeply engaged in the conversations. In addition, there was no streaming of this event. These two factors caused some issues, as other #eventprofs were going online to follow the conference, as they did during the two previous EventCamps, and there was virtually nothing online to follow under the #ECEC hashtag. Some comments were made about the lack of material being generated and there was a dust-up online afterwards among the organizers of all three camps. After some cooling down, calmer heads prevailed and everyone starting playing nicely in the online sandbox again.
We go forward to February, 2011 and the original EventCamp is now branded as EventCamp National Conference or #ECNC. The “Founding Five” organize this version at the Catalyst Ranch in Chicago and it grows from one day to three days with an opening session on Friday and a half day of sessions on Sunday.
Fast forward to August! EventCamp Silicon Valley is to be held in San Jose, followed by the second EventCamp TwinCities the next two days. #ECSV never gets off the ground and is cancelled. #ECTC has expanded to two days and has pods in 6 cities in 3 countries. Having been an on-site participant in the previous 4 camps, I opt to participate in the “infamous” Philadelphia pod (see above video). #ECTC11 had some design flaws in an overcomplicated gaming angle as well as some technical issues in involving the various pods. Exhibitor Magazine, in an editorial afterwards, declared that #ECTC had set hybrid events back several years.
A month later, EventCamp Europe was held across the pond in London. In the weeks leading up to this incarnation, the European #Eventprofs community was excited and there was a buzz that was lacking in the earlier 2011 camps. This time, I watched virtually from the computer (starting at 4A my time). Very informative and I enjoyed myself immensely. This might have been due to the mimosas I was drinking with breakfast or the Google Hangout that was started by Mike McAllen (a true trooper, it was 1A his time), Gerrit Heijkoop and myself. Over 20 different folks hung out with us during the conference and we had some great conversations about what was happening at #ECEU.
EventCamp Vancouver and EventCamp East Coast went head to head against each other in early November and probably cost each event a few attendees. At first, the thinking was to share content and link between the two events, but the logistics fell through. #ECEC followed its format from the previous year and added Sunday. #ECV had the #Eventprofs in Canada looking forward to the event and, like its European counterpart, had plenty of online buzz leading up to the event and that weekend. A few days after #ECEC, Adrian Segar tweeted that, going forward, he would be dropping the EventCamp branding from his event.
As we progressed from camp to camp, I started to hear folks commenting that “I’ve attended an EventCamp already and won’t be attending this one.” True, but these camps are not like a Burger King franchise where the Whopper is the same at every location. The content and format were not interchangeable between Minneapolis and Philadelphia, or Vancouver and London. Those that have been to multiple camps report some of the material being covered is beginning to become repetitive
Here, in the States, we are very fortunate to have a large number of conventions and conferences to choose from. Maybe we are becoming jaded with having more than one EventCamp a year in the States?
What future options are there for EventCamps?
Do we have a camp based on a single topic, ala EventCamp Green? If this option is pursued, how to we not negatively impact pre-existing conferences like the Green Meetings Industry Council’s annual conference?
To those folks that supply virtual options to organizers, could we have an EventCamp Virtual where all the presenters and attendees are at their desk?
Are we having EventCamps where our audiences are? Would you attend a camp in Las Vegas or Orlando, for instance?
A lot has changed since February 2010. People have come and gone in the #eventprofs community. Other industry events are trying to adapt to foster additional learning styles. I have a tremendous respect and admiration for those that have had the courage to put on a EventCamp with the associated risks (I also think you are nuts, but that might be a good thing in this process). A few months ago, I expressed concern that perhaps the twice-weekly #eventprofs chat were too much of a good thing as our community evolved. Perhaps the same is true with EventCamps.
I don’t have the answers. I hope that I am wrong in my thinking and that the EventCamp movement continues to grow. Please share your thoughts and comments with us. I am looking forward to hearing what you have to say on this topic.
Haven’t been to an EventCamp? Check out the upcoming EventCamp DownUnder and hopefully, I’ll see you online during the event.