Saturday, November 13, 2010

Is Confidential Content the Best Approach for an EventCamp Conference?

Approximately 50 Event Professionals descended upon the “City of Brotherly Love” on Friday (11/12) for the two-dayEventCamp East Coast (ECEC) Conference.  For more information about the EventCamp community please visit the EventCamp Headquarters website.

This was the third EventCamp to take place in 2010.  ECEC event organizers Lindsay Rosenthal, Traci Browne, and Adrian Segar really stepped out of the box with this latest installment of the EventCamp series.  They created an “un-conference.”  All the education content was planned “on the fly”  as it was designed by the participants themselves, in real-time.

Photo courtesy of Karen Brown

A Conference With No Live Stream?

Kiki L'Italien & Eric Lukajewski

The really unusual (and edgy) thing about this event was that it was closed off to the online community, for confidentiality reasons.  No live streaming was offered for any sessions.  ECEC did not provide “non-attending” community enthusiasts any direct access to EventCamp East Coast live content.  Thankfully there was a twitter hashtag marked for the event (#ecec10) and some quality discussion occurred there.

As a member of the “founding five” and passionate supporter of EventCamp I, as well as many others in our community watched this event unfold with keen interest.  For context, I was unfortunately not able to attend ECEC.  So, my only connection to it was via online channels.

“Kinetic…familial…supportive…ECEC has been the most innovative in-person meeting I have ever been a part of. Chicago, here I come!” — Kiki L’Italien, ECEC Attendee

EventCamp was a conference concept born out of a vision, of taking relationships initiated through online social networks, to a face2face level.  Many of the folks in our community have still not been able to attend an EventCamp, so online interaction is still their only opportunity to connect with one another.  Through Twitter I interacted with ECEC attendees. The feedback was very positive and those fortunate enough to be at the event found significant value in the experience.

“The PEOPLE have been fantastic, amazing and incredibly intelligent. I have been extremely satisfied with learning sessions that were not set and designed before the conference. I have heard from attendees that I want to work with instead of talking heads that aren’t relevant to me. An event that is focused around attendee feedback is a better event.” — Cameron Toth, ECEC Attendee

I struggled,  as a non-attendee to remain open-minded regarding the confidentiality element of this event’s structure. I believe the decision not to live stream ECEC was a mistake.  It diminished the reach and impact the event could have had.  Others may disagree with me.  I respect that, and welcome their opinions.

Photo courtesy of Karen Brown

Is Confidential Content the Best Approach for an EventCamp?

It Feels Alienating — How did confidential event content serve the overall EventCamp community?  In my opinion it didn’t.  Only the face2face attendees benefited from the content and interactions.  EventCamp enthusiasts, who unfortunately could not attend, were excluded from the experience.

Privileged Access — Co-Organizer Adrian Segar stated in a recent blog post the “design that we are using adds a default requirement of confidentiality to what happens during the conference.” What could possibly have been said during this event that non-attending EventCamp community members should not hear?  If EventCamp is one community, which last time I checked, it was, then all members should have had access to the content and discussions taking place.  That’s what shared learning and collaboration is all about.

“It seems there was a fabulous energy and sharing occurring at EventCamp East Coast. I think we’ve become spoiled by past EventCamps in that we assumed that we would be able to participate remotely via Twitter, or even Yammer. I respect the organizers for sticking to their guns but maybe at future “Conferences That Work” there could be a way to experiment and try to incorporate more of what the EventCamp community is based on. Perhaps even a blend of the two would be fun and lead to even more innovation…you never know until you try, right?!”Midori Connolly, Event Professional Not Attending ECEC

Core to the spirit of EventCamp, is the  mission to experiment with alternative conference formats. Congratulations to Lindsey, Traci and Adrian, as the organizers,  for doing just that.  I have tremendous respect for their thought leadership, energy and determination do things differently.  While I am not a fan of the confidentiality component of this event, that point of disagreement does not diminish my regard for the huge, overall success of EventCamp East Coast.  Well done, my friends!

So… What do you think?  Whether you attended ECEC, or not, what’s your opinion of the confidentiality component of the event design?  Please share your thoughts!

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