According to legend, the idea of a barcamp emerged during a series of events by software developer and publisher founder Tim O’Reilly, during which attendees noted that the important and exciting topics were not exchanged during the speeches of highly-paid speakers, but in the coffee breaks in between. This is how the idea of a less exclusive and thus more equal unconference came into being.
Although the course of a barcamp is now similar to that of a “normal” conference, there are a few differences. Classic barcamps are usually not profit-oriented, which means that the admission fees will at best cover the costs of the organization. In most cases, additional sponsors are sought in order to keep these costs as low as possible.
Although there are now theme bar camps, classic barcamps are not themed. There are also no guests, only participants. Even if the topics are not predetermined, they are often classified in the digital domain by the tendentially young participants.
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Process and sessions
Although a barcamp consciously sets itself apart from classic conferences, there are now a few “rules” in the processes that have become established. But these rules primarily concern the organizational process, not the content.
In the scene controversial is the introductory round. If there is one, it takes place at the beginning of the day, with each participant presenting themselves with three hashtags. Then the session planning is running.
So there are time slots of 45 minutes, which run sequentially and in parallel. The sessions take place in these time slots. Each participant can and should propose such a session, which in turn is not regulated in terms of content. So a session can be a workshop, a lecture, a happening, a discussion, a discourse or a question and answer session – anything that is allowed is allowed.
However, advertising adverts or self-marketing are not welcome. If enough people are interested, the session will take place. But this is usually the case, except for advertising presentations, and even if there is no space available, the participants often meet outside.
To broaden one’s horizon
Due to the open topics and the diversity of the participants, I have already experienced many interesting sessions at some barcamps. The topics range from classic workshop topics such as social media, online marketing or programming to “My experience with drugs”, “Trapped in the wrong body” or “mushroom cultivation – how does it work?”.
Especially at Barcamps it is interesting to deal with new topics and to engage in a session that does not belong to the classic own filter bubble.
The range of topics is large and almost unlimited, but the structure of the participants means that the topics are often digitally ajar.
For example, there are many theme bar camps for digitally interested people, which then focus on “digital”. At barcamps.net and barcamp-liste.de you can see an overview of the upcoming Barcamps in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Often there are the professionals who speak at other conferences for a lot of money. At Barcamps they are more “approachable” and you can often ask questions directly and get into conversation.
How to organize a barcamp
If you have been a participant at a barcamp a few times, you may also feel like organizing one yourself. Again, I summarized a few tips. Of course, these are not binding and do not claim to be complete, but are based on our own experience.
First to the most important point: Everything depends on the team. Even though a barcamp is less of a hassle than a conference, where, for example, speakers have to be invited, a lot has to be organized depending on the requirements. Depending on the size of the barcamp, a balanced average of team size is important.
- organizers: One or two members in the team are the organizers. They decide in doubt or disagreement and ensure that the other team members get tasks and fulfill them.
- team: The team gets involved and their network and works together with the organizers to prepare. At best, each member has “departments”, but much can be done together. If someone from your team has contacts with companies, these should be used – for example, for the organization of location, sponsors and media partners.
- helperOn the day of the barcamp in particular, it takes helpers on site to regulate access, answer questions from participants, familiarize with escape routes, take care of the catering and ensure that the session times or the Code of Code are complied with.
Catering and Location
With the meal, the mood rises and falls. Good catering is therefore essential, especially in the second half of the afternoon. Think here also of food intolerances, vegetarians and vegans. Tip: Meat eaters can definitely eat vegan, vegans and vegetarians but no meat.
And where should the barcamp take place? The better the rooms are equipped, the better the guests feel. Co-working spaces are particularly good, for example.
But more and more large companies are happy to provide rooms for barcamps.
So they can present themselves to a young audience and sell themselves as progressive and open-minded.
Sponsors and Code of Conduct
Precisely because a barcamp should not cost much for the participants, it is hardly possible without sponsors. The biggest cost factors are usually the rooms and the catering. But also small things like the beer for the evening, snacks for the breaks and event insurance are to be considered here.
To make the barcamp known, media partners are also useful. Specialist magazines, regional radio stations, larger blogs and digital magazines are particularly suitable here.
Whatever you should think about: A Code of Conduct is not unconditionally common, but it is becoming more and more important and is happening in more and more big events, such as the Republica.
In a Code of Conduct, you define rules of conduct for your Barcamp that should normally be clear, but not always known to all. This includes, among other things, that all should be treated equally and no one should be discriminated against. It is also important to indicate that an exclusion from the event threatens, should anyone violate the Code of Conduct.
Also interesting: Content Marketing now has a Code of Conduct
Focus on you!
The LEAD issue 3/2018 takes you into the world of photography. What role they and their digital re-use play today and what opportunities there are, you will learn in 3 exciting stories in the magazine. But topics such as e-sports, artificial intelligence and marketing technologies are also part of the current issue.