Conferences

Tales of a *Camp Veteran – Maximizing Your PodCamp Experience (for #pcn11)

Photo credit: Wonderdawg777 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderdawg777)

The Nashville PodCamp (coming up this Saturday) marks my 15th camp experience, both as a speaker and as a participant.  The past three years I’ve held privilege to attend camps all over the country, but the Nashville camps (and the southeast in general) seems to have the best handle on how to have a good time and teach a lot as well.

That said, there are some dos and don’ts I’ve picked up that can help you (both as a speaker and a listener) to get the most out of your camping experience.

1) Don’t go to every session slot.

Seriously.  Look at your nicely mapped out grid and see if you have an empty slot or two.  You don’t? Pick the session that 1) you know a lot about already or 2) that isn’t going to give you a lot of value and take it off your schedule – even if it’s mine ;).  Done that? Good.  Now use that slot to network in the halls, meet some new people, and get to know some of the people that make Nashville such a great city.  I mean, how can you meet new people when you’re too busy listening to people speak, right?  Feeling really frisky? Do it to one more and make it a point to meet someone new and learn about how you can work with them in your business or hobby.

2) Don’t spend all day on your phone or laptop.

Short tweets are good, but put your device down and get some face to face interaction in.  We have all year to talk to each other through Twitter and Facebook, but only a few opportunities to get some facetime in (lowercase facetime, you apple nerds).  Meet some new people, reconnect with old friends, or seek out people you’ve only talked to online – you’d be surprised how many you’ll recognize.

3) Don’t just sit there.

For the sessions you are going to still (after all, that’s what we’re here for, right?) be engaging.  Take some notes, tweet out a hashtag or two, and ask questions – there is no such thing as a stupid question, unless that question goes unasked.  Just make sure you’re paying attention, or you’ve wasted your price of admissions (…)

4) DO get there early.

There’s no better time to network than before this party gets started.  Doors open an hour before and that’s when the good swag is given out, and who doesn’t like getting free stuff?  Plus people are more likely to talk when they’re not scurrying off from one session to another, so you’ll have more chance to get a solid conversation in.

5) DO pack accordingly.

Make sure to bring a few essentials with you:

  • Notepad and Pen
  • Laptop / Smartphone (for notes, recording, tweeting, stalking, etc)
  • Business Cards (to give out)
  • Camera (to take photos and show people how much fun you’re having)
  • Video Camera (if you’re speaking and can snag one, you can record your session)
  • Power Strip (call me a boy scout, but I take these to *every* conference just because you never know how good or bad the power supply is)
  • OPTIONAL: cell wireless card (we’ve been really privileged to have great wifi at the ‘Ranch every year, but you never know with so many people coming what will happen – best come prepared)

6) DO go to the afterparty

What? Really?  All these really fun things to talk about and I mention the afterparty?  Well, why not?  All the sessions are over, and the REAL networking begins here.  I can’t count the number of camps I see where people miss this aspect, but if you haven’t gotten it by now, here it is: the whole point of these camps is to meet people in person and socialize/strategize. If you’re coming just to learn some information, that’s great.  But if you can meet and mingle with some of Nashville’s finest, why pass up the opportunity?  You can grab a few drinks (or even a water) and sit down to talk tech and media with people who are out there doing it and living it – who could ask for a better lesson (or a lesson after the lesson, as it were).

So, I’ll see you guys all at the ‘Ranch on Saturday.  Bring your listening ears, your social attitudes, and get ready to get there and learn some stuff (and meet a few new people while you’re at it).