EricSkiff.com Open Source Everything

29Sep/060

10 Tips for making the most of BarCamp

BarCampNYC is coming up this weekend, and I wanted to start off the blogging frenzy that will surely ensue with a few tips for getting the most out of the incredible unconference that is BarCamp.

* Come rested
* This one sounds simple, but it's important. Barcamp starts at 9 on Saturday and goes till 6 on Sunday. Get some good sleep the night before, because you'll either be in a session or chatting with folks for nearly 36 hours straight!
PodCamp Boston Schedule
* Come packing gadgets
* Coming to a Barcamp event is like seeing the future of conferences. Everyone's got a laptop, digital camera, mp3 player, recorder, videocam, etc, and are constantly using them. Bring your toys, they'll come in very handy!
* Bring cards... Lots of 'em
* You'll never believe the number of great people you'll meet at BarCamp. Having a serious stack of cards with you is a necessity if you want people to be able to get in touch with you later. Seriously, pack what you think you'll need and then double it. People have run out of cards at every barcamp I've been to. If you're doing cool stuff that's not related to your 9-5, consider having some cards made up that reflect you and your projects. You can swing by kinkos and get some made up quick that get the job done in a pinch.
* Introduce yourself
* This is another no brainer that makes a ton of difference. In a room full of people, it can be hard to know who to talk to. Don't hesitate to shake someone's hand and ask what they do. If you're generally introverted, find one of the organizers and ask them to introduce you to a few folks. You'll also notice that people tend to clump together. Don't be afraid to step into the group or sit right down at the table. Another voice is always welcome in the conversation.
Filming Uncle Seth
* Create content
* If you're a blogger, photographer, podcaster, or creative in any other way, come prepared to create! Some of my best BarCamp experiences have come from asking folks if I could interview them for both segments in The Alternative Music Show and Felt Up TV. Snapping great pictures of folks is also a great way to get to know them and to keep the BarCamp spirit going after the event.
* Tag everything
* If you're creating content, you probably want people to be able to find it. There will be a page on the wiki for linking to your work, so link your stuff up there, but also be sure to tag everything with BarCamp and BarCampNYC2 (or whatever specific *camp you're at), as well as the names of people and companies you're talking with, photographing, etc. Subscribe to the technorati and flickr feed for that tag so you can see what other people are posting too.
Checking out the PodCamp Boston Schedule
* Post from the event
* Assuming the wifi stays up (a few hundred geeks connecting all at once and schlepping multimedia all over the place puts a strain on even the best networks), getting your stuff up while you're there is just plain cool. It's amazing to be in a session and see photos, blog posts, and even video go up within a few minutes of the talk. It's also a great way to link up with the folks you're hanging out with, as you can see who's posting what content and comment on their stuff when it goes live.
Eric, Rachel, Robert
* Stay overnight
* The sessions are great for soaking up the knowledge everyone is sharing at BarCamp, but the real connections are made in the hallways, in front of the schedule wall, and hanging out after the event. If at all possible, stick around for the afterhours stuff and really get to know folks. There's also lots of great projects that happen after the sessions are done, and even spontaneous hacking sessions where things like new mashup webapps and cool plugins and scripts get created in the wee-hours between day one and day two
* Challenge yourself
* It can be temping to attend sessions about stuff you know and are interested in and hang out with folks you already know. Challenge yourself on both counts. I've forced myself to attend sessions on things like UI and usability and even marketing, topics I would normally skip in favor of things that I'm better at or like more, and I've come away far richer for it. Pick at least 3 sessions you don't think you're interested in and plunk yourself down in them. You'll thank yourself.
* Follow up
* BarCamp happens fast. You'll meet a flurry of people and attend a gob of amazing sessions. Write notes on peoples cards so you remember who was who, and after the event drop them an email to let them know it was nice to meet them. Add them as a flickr contact. Subscribe to their blog. Keep the BarCamp spirit alive for as long as you can after the event!

Eric Skiff Enjoy the event everybody, and I'll see you there! If you see me, say hello. I'm going be running around making sure the food is in order an following a lot of guidelines above, so chance are you'll probably never see me without my camera, laptop, or maybe even with a puppet or two! Heck, I might even have one of them interview you!