Have you ever attended a BarCamp? If you are like me, you may have no idea what I am referring too. BarCamp as defined by Wikipedia: “is an international network of user-generated conferences (or unconferences) – open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants.” It is my understanding BarCamps started in the technology industry and were designed as a way to meet creatively. The name was developed out of creative thinking and had origins starting with the slang term foobar. I am unaware of any meaning to the title as an acronym or being shortened for anything.
A BarCamp is originated nearly exclusively online. It is a non meeting, meeting. Normal meeting protocols suggest: beginning with an objective, formalizing those responsible for putting event on, setting an agenda, inviting speakers or presenters, formally inviting guests, setting costs and making arrangements for the site.
A BarCamp event is without formal meeting arrangements or any preconceived ideas or goals. It is an open invitation to like-minded individuals who want to better themselves. Volunteers, who self elect to assist the unconfrence, do nothing to set the agenda. They find a site, collect sponsors and set the time; that’s it! Those who sign up, online, know only that they are spending the day with people with similar interests. There is absolutely no charge to participate.
The real estate industry has engaged in BarCamps, titling their unconfrences as REBarCamp’s (real estate BarCamp). I attended one of these gatherings in Phoenix Arizona on April 9th. I was very excited to participate and see how these functions work. It was not only fascinating to join but very beneficial as well.
PHX RebarCamp had nearly 800 sign up on-line. Scottsdale Stadium, event headquarters, was paid for entirely by sponsors. They had additional sponsors for 400 free tee shirts and 400 free lunches which were to be given out on first come first serve basis. Giving away the freebees not only excited participants but encouraged those attending to get there early. When you arrive you sign in, fill out your individual badge with your name and @ (used @ for microblogging), gather, socialize and wait for the beginning.
To start the event, the volunteer organizers move the group (estimated at about 500 in the morning) to the home plate area of the stadium. There they welcome everyone and tell us what to anticipate, nothing formal or scripted. They announce there are two times they will draw out our business cards for nice gifts, one at lunch and the other at the end of the day. Organizers show us a large white board and tell us where it will be placed. They ask us to do two things: one, write down on sticky notes what we are interested in and two, offer to facilitate if our knowledge will assist those who have a need. The white board has ten slots across and six down. We then gather around the white board and review the different ideas or requests. People are taking pictures with handheld devises, sending messages and picking up the sticky notes, all reviewing to see how to help. When someone finds something they can help with they write on the white board what they will be discussing. The spot they choose has a time slot (the column of six) and a location (the column of ten). The board fills up quite quickly. Then those of us who didn’t sign up to present review the board and find where it is we want to go.
The group is so informal they don’t care if you leave to another group if they are not covering what you are interested in. They call it voting with your feet. The group is meeting in each time slot for an hour. I was blown away at the comments to start one of the group discussions and how well it turned out. In this example the group leader started by saying, “When I got up, I wasn’t coming here today but decided it would be fun. So here I am and now I am heading a discussion.” There are no outlines, scripts or presentations. In this group the information this individual shared was invaluable, we could have gone much longer than an hour.
The system isn’t perfect; there was one section I attended where the facilitator didn’t show up. What was amazing is it didn’t negatively affect anyone. The meeting is so informal, it didn’t matter; we just got up and picked a different venue.
The atmosphere using creativity to drive the event allowed for a couple of things (which are not always found in more formal gatherings): If you attend wanting to learn something specific and are willing to get your request in; you will gain great understanding on that topic. And, birds of a color flock together, if you want to hang out with similar minded successful people, go where they are!
Personally I am looking forward to being able to attend another REBarCamp soon. I will use the ideas I learned to better myself. If I ever want to brainstorm anything worthwhile, I will use this venue (on a smaller scale) to gain knowledge. The ideas learned of meeting on topics of current common interest are invaluable. Great minds move the masses to betterment for all.
I have names and contacts of people who can assist in setting a meeting in your area should you want. I am happy to answer whatever questions you may have.
It was great to see you at BarCamp.
Nice write up explaining the format and some of the its benefits. You make a good point about using the format in smaller scale. Once you’ve experienced the non-traditional format, you’re brain opens up to other uses. At least it has for me.
I’ve been to four of them now and I’ve met great people, learned a lot, and walked away better for it every time.
Thanks for your blog, Jaren. Great info. Yes, barcamps are the educational wave of our future. Everyone’s response was like yours. Thank you for coming to Arizona to experience this great event. Holly