The EventCamp conferences have covered a lot of ground since the group’s first meeting in New York in February 2010. But great success breeds greater expectations. After last weekend’s second EventCamp National Conference in Chicago, industry watchers will expect even more from the small band of volunteers behind the brand.
The original ECNC was the industry’s first face-to-face meeting to grow out of a Twitter discussion, parlaying the #eventprofs hashtag into a joyous weekend of networking and learning. EventCamp also carries the more or less explicit subtext that a nimble, informal event can embrace change faster than a large, established association conference.
The two regional EventCamps last fall upheld the tradition of drastic innovation. EventCamp Twin Cities in September showed that hybrid meetings can succeed on a shoestring, then generated 60,000 page views with its post-conference content strategy. EventCamp East Coast in November demonstrated the power of peer learning and on-site crowdsourcing.
This year’s ECNC was a curious mix of new and old. Sessions dealt with online tools and tactics for engaging participants through, but most keynotes only occasionally used on-site participation techniques that have been known to the industry for years. Speakers presented a feast of strategies for engaging virtual audiences and extending the dialogue, but only a few of those ideas found their way into the event format.
None of that takes away from a successful,-driven event that delivered considerable value for a $149 registration fee. But here’s how ECNC organizers can extend what they’ve created:
- Ask “Why,” Not Just “What”: EventCamp is great at showcasing snippets of innovation, but less clear on when or why a planner might opt for or against a particular technique. There was lots of discussion of the latest and greatest social media tools, but less thought about the audiences those tools leave behind. Most Chicago participants were wowed by the host facility, the Catalyst Ranch. But except for back channel conversations at breaks, there was no acknowledgement of audiences that might be distracted by such an eclectic setting.
- Bring the Metrics: The best speakers at ECNC had cases and data to support their edgy assertions. Others relied on anecdote, speculation, or flavor-of-the-month trendiness.
- Walk the Talk Before and After: With four successful meetings in 12 months, EventCamp could easily establish a seamless flow of content and dialogue that covered the periods before, during, and after each event. But that level of integration will require national and regional organizers to collaborate much more closely than they have to this point.
What all the EventCamp communities share is an understanding that traditional meeting design has to become more versatile and varied. National and regional EventCamp organizers can apply that principle to their own on-site formats more effectively by placing any tool or format in its most useful strategic context. A clear-eyed quest for solutions that work, grounded in audience needs and strategic objectives, would deliver value to the industry and well-earned praise to EventCamp organizers.
Mitchell Beer, CMM, is president of The Conference Publishers Inc., Ottawa, Ontario, one of the world’s leading specialists in capturing and repurposing conference content. Beer blogs at http://theconferencepublishers.com/blog and tweets as @mitchellbeer. Send comments, facts, arguments, or column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.