Thursday, 9 October 2008

I survived my first BarCamp (#smclondon08)

My session at smclondon08

About ten days ago I got a message from Mariana Bettio on gtalk. Mariana is a search content producer for Times Online, and a long time friend. She said she had an extra ticket to the Social Media Camp 2008, a BarCamp event that was being sponsored by Murdoch's companies, including the Times itself. I had a quick look on their website and everything was quite new to me. The premise is complete collaboration: go and contribute somehow. I said I could present something about TV III Branding. She said "great".

The thing is I had never been to a BarCamp event before. No idea about the people who attend these events. As I had about a week to prepare my presentation, I said "why not?" Of course, knowing that I'd leave it to the last minute.

Opening speech by organiser Vero Pepperrell

The venue was quite nice: Wallacespace St Pancreas. A place with many small conference rooms spread over a revamped three-story Victorian building. I was promptly received by a smiling team of volunteers who instructed me to decorate my badge with colour markers and shiny stickers. Too many sticker options, but I sticked (no pun intended) to three blue monkeys making funny poses (I found later they were a rather popular choice).

I went downstairs to a large room that looked somewhat like a hospital refectory: mint floor, turquoise pale chairs, white walls and apparently the room was squeaky clean. The first impression was dissolved by a contrasting living room on a corner, forming a cosy little fortress of wicker furniture, beige cushions and a 47" plasma TV. In the background, a tall glassy wall that encompassed the second floor, in a loft style. Breakfast was being served on a table adjunct to the wall. Even when the event sounds very "indie", the formula big sponsors = good food prevails.

Most people had their laptop open in front of them, making last minute adjustments to their presentations or twittering like maniacs (a practice that lasted through the whole day. And I tell you, it is addictive). And then I saw the board. A collage of four A3 white cardboard sheets, with a hand written matrix of time slots and rooms available for anyone who'd dare to put up a post-it note informing the session to be presented. I was a first timer, so I picked a small room. I had no idea if people would show up to my session, but hey, who cares, at least I was giving it a go.

The session board around 9:30 AM

As the clock approached 10AM, all the slots were pretty much full. Funny it was to realise that even within a very friendly environment, being a rookie has its drawbacks. A few minutes after I chose my time slot and room, someone named Chris Applegate filled the following slot with a session named "If you are in marketing or advertising you should kill yourself right now". I thought "fuck, this is why people leave it to the last minute, so they can strategically pick their time slots in order to make their point over someone else's thoughts". But to be honest, the idea was somewhat challenging. At least I knew someone would attend to my session. Even if it was to rhetorically destroy me. I pictured a beautiful blonde, blue eyes, pretty smile, maybe even married with children… But as it turned out, Chris was a bloke. A nice chap actually. I attended his session afterwards, that ended up being about the dos and don'ts of online marketing.

When you are too much into TV Branding you start seeing TV idents everywhere
(The Dog Leg room in smclondon08)

I came out alive from my presentation. I was quite happy though, people showed up. Even with six other sessions happening simultaneously. I attended some other elucidating presentations throughtout the day: how to write awesome headlines (Tom Whitwell), how to use linkedin to get a better job (Julius), Alternate Reality Games (Melinda Seckington), and finally, Mari's session with the intriguing title: "Man Boobs, Incest, Sarah Palin and how The Times does SEO". It was a big hit. Get a larger room next time!

Mariana said that, for some strange reason, Pakistani are the champions of "Man Boobs" online search

The day finished with beer & wine celebration. I had the chance to chat with some cool people, and even find a potential cousin I didn't know I had, who currently lives in Amsterdam. The world is definitely as big as a thimble.

The final verdict: it was totally worth it.
I survived my first BarCamp. Looking forward to the next ones.


Mariana said...

I'm realy glad you had a good time. See you in the next one? x

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