After attending, enduring, and being encompassed by my first Podcamp over the past few days, I'm hoping I can relay some of the peaks, pitfalls and go forward plans on my realtionship with with the experience.
First the good - and there were numerous great things that I experienced as a novice to the proceedings. As I've echoed in previous blog posts about conferences (especially some on the grand scale), the reason most people go to them, I believe anyway, is to be around like-minded individuals that they especially would not be able to hang out with on a regular basis. I'll be the first to admit that my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances that I see every day have little interest in blogs, podcasts or new media in general. Sure, some of them may consumer as an end-user and think they've tapped some vast arcane cool "alternative" thing, but most will get a glazed look in their eyes upon anything that sounds like jargon. So the immediate best thing about my Podcamp experience was being part of the hive mind that made up such an event.
I also met a bunch of great people. Although I'm far from a social butterfly (more like a wallflower moth that dabbles in moments of grandeur) I did get the opportunity to meet a solid group of people that I will maintain some sort of contact with especially around like events.
I like the idea of an "unconference" more than the execution. I love the anarchic feel of having anyone present about anything within the parameters of the event, but I will admit that such a process, or lack of one, does lend to some weak presenters and/or deceptively-titled workshops. I got the feeling that, other than sitting back and absorbing knowledge from someone like Chris Brogan, even experienced Podcampers were willing to sit through a workshop led by someone with less experience if there was a strong interactive component. Let's face it, we want to stamp our tag on everything as communicators and the venue of a "classroom" to wax intellectual about something we know about is too good to pass up. This said, there were still plenty of "traditional" presenters doing the preacher from the pulpit thing that can be engaging with the right dose of charisma and content.
The only trend that through me over the event was the huge number of PR people who were present on Saturday. I get that new media is still media and media is message and message is money, but, without knowing what to expect, my thoughts were that most people there would be indy bloggers and podcasters like myself instead of industry people. That's not to say the culture was bad, but it did throw me for a bit of a loop when one presenter asked how many PR people were in the room at a workshop I was in and half the hands went up out of about 80 people.
My single most gratifying moment, and one that to me summed up a combination of both the business side, the social media, the gathering itself, was the result of a challenge I threw out to a rep from Molson's via Twitter about a week ago. When I learned Molson's was sponsoring the big Saturday night event and saw the rep's name while watching the #pcto09 hashtag (which was the biggest trend on all of Twitter for the entire weekend mind you) I threw out the challenge of having a cold bottle of Molson Stock Ale waiting when I got to the party.
Thinking that, at best, it would be the prompt for some ribbing and casual conversation upon getting there (and quite honestly not even knowing if Molson Stock Ale was still being bottled) imagine my surprise when @molsonferg went behind the bar and pulled out the Stock Ale for myself and a couple of new acquaintances - those of us over 35 remember the original "Blue" with nostalgic reverence. So cheers to Molson for doing up the event right.
I can honestly say I'm already looking forward to Podcamp Toronto 2010 and got more than one prompt to get me thinking about Podcamp Hamilton. So for all you new media folks in the Hamilton, ON area, get in touch and maybe we can get something together.
Let the law of two feet live - so say we all!