Wednesday, November 17, 2010

EventCamp Meltdown? Fire Away - Guest Post by Midori Connolly

Written by guest blogger: Midori Connolly, Pulse Staging and Events, Chief AVGirl, Owner

In the wake of the third EventCamp, a community meltdown seems to be occurring. Unfortunately, it appears that some of the observations and questions from the remote participants were construed as personal attacks rather than the open and honest exchange of ideas (see values #1-4 of the Five Core Values of EventCamp).

As I see it, the primary impetus for this controversy (and what initiated the string of questions and observations via Twitter) is largely a result of what attendee expectations within the EventCamp community: online community, technological integration, blended audience experiences, solid adult learning design, etc.

Let me illustrate with my own personal experience..

As a remote attendee of the first EventCamp, I was thrilled to participate in thought-provoking discussion and receive inspirational education without having to leave my young children to travel across the country to an event. Then, as a face-to-face participant at EventCamp Twin Cities, the energy and excitement of the engagement occurring between participants both in-room and from afar gave me chills!

So, perhaps this is the source of the confusion for many the inability to participate remotely in the knowledge sharing and conversation at EventCamp East Coast. And this could be a major issue for ALL event managers moving forward as new generations of attendee expectations continue to evolve.

I see three areas that might have instigated the breakdown:
1) Video Stream v. Backchannel: I completely agree that not every EventCamp or gathering need be streamed via Audio/Video. However, I think it's safe to say that most of us by now have become accustomed to a backchannel conversation. Taking that away was quite an unexpected shock for audience members both face-to-face and remote. I received several messages from attendees onsite who felt they were being disconnected from those who couldn't be there face-to-face and that was not what they had expected. The same happened with remote attendees who (for some reason or another) thought I could explain why there wasn’t a backchannel conversation.

2) Hashtag: After building a vibrant and engaged #ecec10 community, restricting the flow of conversation between community members during the event felt contradictory to the purpose of creating event hashtags. If there are issues of confidentiality, then perhaps Yammer and a closed community are a better option? Then the participants who were included in the promotional/before community building could benefit from the education and knowledge of the during phase…and continue the camaraderie of the after stage of the event when community has the chance to become strongest.

3) Knowledge Sharing: One of the most appealing aspects of being a part of the EventCamp community is the open exchange of ideas. While providing educational summaries of the sessions is so fantastic (particularly with the brilliant Mitchell Beer as the provider of said summaries), it still dilutes the joy of having many perspectives in the room helping to create that content. It also limits the historical recording to one person's voice and interpretation.

In summary, this is clearly not an issue of right or wrong, but rather lessons for all. I don’t have an opinion one way or another about whether or not this was the “right” format. I just offer these journalistic observations and interpretations from someone who participated remotely in the community. Those who were able to attend face-to-face had the time of their life and the unconference format inspired a transformative experience. In contrast, our online community has come to expect certain elements as a norm, one being the ability to participate remotely in some form or another. Over the course of two years many of us have come to rely on these backchannel experiences for staying connected to our socmed bff's J

Wouldn’t it be cool if someone could now blend Adrian’s Conferences that Work model of some of the unconference formatting and create a virtual unconference? Wooooo, now THAT would be cool!

I know I will personally have a whole new insight as we move forward with developing EventCamp Green. So thank you to the ECEC10 organizers for pioneering yet another frontier in the brave new world of meetings and events!! 

Next it will be your turn to provide constructive observations and insight on our interpretation of the EventCamp model...and, as Pat Benatar would say, Fire Away so we can all grow and improve together!!


  1. Hey Midori - great post. I feel like that anyone can host an eventcamp. Love the idea of a Green Event Camp!
    I am fired up that out of the three event camps they all have been awesome all around.

  2. Thank you for your insight Midori. I can see why as an AV specialist you would be disappointed the event was not live streamed. I just want to clear up some misinformation you have in your post above. No one was asked not to tweet at the event. Only not to tweet personal information if someone asked to be off the record. But I think this is more common courtesy more than an eventcamp East Coast rule. There was a point when we asked for people's full attention briefly while we explained the ground rules but even then we did not say no tweeting. Many people at the event said they were too engaged to tweet. I think you can agree that forcing people to tweet is a bit ridiculous.

    I understand you are not a journalist but a bit of fact checking is always a good thing. I would encourage you and anyone who was confused to go to and read through the information and blog posts on the site where all this is very clearly explained. The reason we were not live-streaming as well as the fact that summaries of the sessions will be posted over the next few weeks. This was also brought up during several chats prior to the event.

    As for the live streaming of the event. I own a stapler. I think it does a fantastic job organizing my papers and collating. But as good a stapler as it is I would not build a house with it. Video is a tool and it was not the right one for this event. Again, I encourage you to read some of our blog posts on the website specifically dealing with this topic so you can understand why we did not choose to live stream the event.

    Perhaps it would be more constructive to share ideas of how we could have better released all this information.

  3. Hi Kiki,

    It was great to finally meet you at ECEC10 - you are awesome in person. I enjoyed gleaning SM advice from you on Friday night. Also, thanks for the parenting advice, too. We put that into action right away on Sunday night.

    Here’s an observation as someone that organized an Event Camp in September.

    The Event Camp “Head Office” is still evolving and trying to figure out who they are and how they operate. As a result, the Regional events and the Head Office don’t have good processes and guidelines for working together. Things are evolving rapidly. We are growing and experimenting together. And, it’s messy.

    Like any new group, we have trust issues and communication issues. That’s normal. Overtime I expect they will sort themselves out.

    Here are some of the questions that are still open and need debate. Maybe you can discuss some of these on your show:

    1. Should the leadership from the “Head Office” be openly and publicly critical in Social Media and other media about other regionally organized events? Or should they take a nurturing role that encourages growth and builds something greater?

    [This is a critical issue that is at the heart of many comments and discussion. The firestorm was launched when a Head Office Leader openly criticized last week’s regional event in Philly in Social Media shortly after it ended. The comments and blog posts were shared with all onsite attendees.]

    Events like TED and Ignite have standard elements or features that are required and consistent across each event. Should Event Camps have similar requirements?

    [This is a secondary issue that is striking a nerve. When Event Camp East Coast was announced in August - there was not the same focus on creating a hybrid event with an active Twitter stream. After Event Camp Twin Cities took place 5 weeks later - this expectation changed. Managing those expectations is challenge. How do you do it?]

    What is Innovation in events?

    [Innovation can manifest itself in many ways. In our event, we included innovation in seating formats and décor as well as technology innovation. Most people think innovation = technology. Some were confused when the primary innovation at Event Camp East Coast was around a large group process. By the way - most strategy consultants use large group processes to set strategy, initiate change and transform leadership teams.]

    So, those are some issues that I think are challenging the Event Camp Concept right now. I hope, Kiki, that you will have time to address some of these topics in your upcoming show. I will be interested to hear your perspective as a community leader.

    It was such a pleasure to meet you. I look forward to the next time.


  4. I am glad that I came across this post. I appreciate all the time and effort that you have put in.


Thanks for your comments!