When the BarCamp Calgary organizing committee met last week, we all agreed that we had one singular goal: to create the best experience ever for all attendees. I've attended a lot of conferences in my life, and many of them are just plain boring. We set the bar very high for ourselves - so, in addition to the BarCamp formula, here's what we did:
- Engage: We know that a lot of geeks are are a little shy. If we saw anyone who wasn't engaged in conversation, it was our job to strike up a conversation.
- Connect: We introduced people to each other throughout the day. We asked the crowd to do the same thing, if they knew two people that hadn't met yet.
- Get Deep: We wanted to encourage lots of great hallway conversation. We had a good balance of sessions vs. breaks. When it people took longer than anticipated to get back to their seats after a break, we knew we were succeeding.
- Think Small: Higher quality conversations with less people vs. lower quality conversations with a lot of people. Which one would you rather have?
Not only did we succeed, but I think we exceeded all expectations. I spoke to almost everyone that attended, and they gushed when I asked if they were enjoying themselves. If you attended and didn't think it was one of the best conferences you attended, I want to hear from you!
A few success points that I'd like to highlight:
- Side meetings: MJ from Cambrian House peeled off with 7 guys and led a discussion about startup hacks in another room. They went on for hours and hours, and we finally had to kick them out at the end of the day. My bet is that they will get together again to continue the discussion.
- Speaker satisfaction: Guy Kawasaki really got into the BarCamp spirit, and asked the crowd if they wanted him to present, and if so, what topic they would like to hear. The crowd gave him a resounding yes, and split their vote between a talk on innovation, and "how to start a web 2.0 business with $12,700". So, he did both. It was twice the work for him, but he tells me he really enjoyed presenting this Calgary crowd.
- Speaker karma: Tom Williams flies in from Vancouver to attend and present, and does a great job. He wins the Xbox Elite that was donated from Microsoft in the prize draw. He's ecstatic because his Xbox broke two weeks ago. Congrats Tom!
- Follow-up meetings: I heard about a lot of follow up meetings being scheduled - so it just goes to show what happens when you put a bunch of interesting people in the room. In fact, I had the chance to get to know a few of the attendees better at dinner afterwards.
- Asking for more: I was asked at least 10 times when the next BarCamp was. When I suggested once a year, most had said they wanted them once a quarter, or twice a year.
Special thanks go to:
- The IBM Crew: Bob Johnson, Chris Hamilton, Garry Rasko, Terry Heintz. These guys volunteered their time, worked their asses off, and didn't really get to enjoy the entire conference as a result. I owe you guys big-time.
- Rick Kroeker from Little Rock Documents: Donated all the signage for the event. If you need high quality signs for your business, talk to Rick. Our signs looked amazing.
- ak-signs: Cool BarCamp Calgary bumper stickers were given out to the crowd, courtesy of Alan Kolodziejzyk.
- Ashley Bristowe for capturing the event with all her fancy digital photography equipment and lights.
- Our sponsors: Material Insight, for being such great supporters of the tech community in Calgary, Cambrian House, and Microsoft.
- John Bristowe: As much as you want to hate Microsoft, you really can't if you know John. He completely rocked the event - from all his set-up work, MC duties, A/V tasks, sponsorship, gathering of prizes, and host of other things, we truly could not have pulled it off without him.
- Sarah Blue: Every single logistical issue you could imagine was taken care of by Sarah. She brings sanity to the BarCamp world because of her level of organization and "getting stuff done" attitude.
- David Gluzman: A multi-talented player - web site setup, t-shirt designer, on-stage presenter, and a host of other tasks.
- Out of town guests: Guy Kawasaki, Tom Williams, Reg & Scott from Zigtag.
- And of course, all the attendees, who volunteered to speak on more topics than we could schedule, actively participated in all the sessions and conversations, and keep the energy level in the room high.
I'm already looking forward to our next BarCamp!