A week ago, one of my Meetup Groups mentioned BarCampGR, a local “unconference” from the national and international BarCamp organization. It was the person from my Meetup Group who invited me to attend. The idea of BarCamp is to have conferences about IT, computers, and other geeky topics, where everyone presents something and the conference is completely ad-hoc. I’m used to conventions where the schedule is set in advance – and if you want to suggest a panel topic, give a “lecture”, or host a panel discussion or round table – you suggest it to the convention organizers, then once they’ve approved your topic and scheduled it – you prepare and present your topic, whether it’s a more traditional lecture-style topic, or a panel with several presenters, or a round-table, or even hosting a hands-on event. It might sound somewhat formal, but really, it’s just being organized and structured – and it ensures that everyone knows the schedule for the weekend and can have a good time. But for BarCamp, and I’m not sure if this is how all of them work, or just the local one, there was no schedule. I proposed a topic when I signed-up, and was told, “write it on the board when you get there.” As someone who likes structure, this was daunting.
However, I arrived on Friday evening and everything went fine. I scheduled my presentation as one of the first sessions after the opening meet-and-greet, food provided, hour. I gave my presentation, and I actually had some people to give my presentation to. Since I was unfamiliar with BarCamp, I went with a straight lecture format (sessions were 25 minutes), followed by a Q & A for five minutes. I knew that “just talking” can be a bit boring, but I also knew that if you depend on being able to show slides for example, you are in trouble if you don’t have access to a slide projector, or if you can’t get your laptop to connect to the slide projector, or if any technical things go wrong. Plus, I don’t actually own a laptop – I always have to borrow one, and though I could have done that – I really didn’t want to be responsible for someone else’s laptop, when it might have gotten stolen or been damaged. I’ve seen lots of presenters crash and burn due to malfunction equipment, and I didn’t want that to happen. And I knew I could do my presentation in lecture format. I also practiced once, by recording my presentation in Audacity. Audacity is a free audio recorder, it’s great for Podcasting, and for practicing a speech it’s great because you can work out the kinks when you practice (there are some words and phrases that might look fine on the page, but when you try to say them you can easily get tongue-tied. Practicing with Audacity helps you find those, and to re-write to avoid them.) And having at least one practice session makes actually giving the presentation easier.
Anyway, my session went well. I went to several other sessions on Friday and Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon ended-up being a bit of a bust. Most of the sessions I went to were, how can I put it? Not friendly in some way, shape, or form. I did go to an excellent presentation on Social Media and Marketing from a PR perspective, but the rest of the presentations were a mess. In one presentation, the guy who had done a very good job the day before, was asked to do a second presentation the next day on a different aspect of a very large and complex thing – the person who understood that aspect better and was supposed to co-present didn’t show-up, leaving the poor guy looking incompetent – and having to repeat his previous lecture. I felt really bad for him.
Another lecture, which should have been a round table, was a disaster for me – I was unfairly attacked by other audience members when I entered. The presenter also gave bad information, and when I called him on it, he got very belligerent. It was supposed to be a presentation on geeky conventions, gatherings, and such in Michigan. The guy in charge, towards the end of the session, insisted a convention that I attend in Chicago had “folded”. Then he bashed the con. Then he attacked me for daring to correct him. I reported (sans name, since he “forgot” to give it) to the Chicago convention directly (via Facebook) someone was spreading rumors about them. But needless to say, that put me in a really bad mood for at least an hour. No one likes being yelled at – especially for correcting information that’s wrong, given by an arrogant presenter who figures the way to get more people to go to the events he runs is to tell people other events no longer exist, or that they aren’t any good – especially when those other events are actually much better.
Anyway, in the most part – it was a good event, I’d probably go again, I’d definitely present again, and other than the venue, the good probably outweighed the bad.
My presentation / lecture will be presented in a separate post for linking convenience.