The Rules of BarCamp
In the early days of BarCamps, circa 2006, The Rules of BarCamp were developed by Tantek Çelik in order to create the event atmosphere and culture the BarCamp cofounders felt were vital to making the event as worthwhile and successful as possible.
The first two “rules” of BarCamp relate to unconference visibility and publicity. Talking about the unconference and blogging about it are important because that’s how more potential participants will become aware of the unconference, much more so than through traditional media coverage. In 2016, in addition to talking about and blogging about the event, many people will be texting about it, tweeting about it, putting it on Facebook, and using other social media to promote the event.
My view of unconference PR, marketing, and promotion is that it has three goals.
- Awareness and Education — Target people who will be extremely excited about participating in the BarCamp if they know about it and understand what it is. Help them understand what an unconference is, but don’t try to convince them it’s for everybody. It’s not. I don’t want to convince people to register for or come to the unconference who will not be active participants or who will not find their time at the event highly worthwhile. Unconferences are not for passive attendees.
- Expectation Setting and Participant Communication — The website, press releases, blog posts, and other online content or hardcopy materials should set expectation for participants and should facilitate communications between participants. When registered participants arrive at the unconference, they should know a great deal about what it will be like, about how they plan to “participate” and what value they will bring to this participant-driven event. They should have had the opportunity to learn and share regarding participants’ interests and plans for sessions. Having attendee names shown on the unconference website, on a wiki or on the registration site, such as Eventbrite, lets participants know who else they might see at the event and which friends or acquaintances they still need to invite to participate.
- Sponsor Value — Sponsors help make unconferences possible, especially with regards to venues and meals. It’s important to help sponsors understand the value of the unconference, why people want to participate in them, and how important the sponsor support is. Traditional mainstream media coverage has value for many corporate sponsors, although high-impact social media statistics may also be of importance to them.
Regarding talking and blogging about the event, BarCamp Manchester expanded on the 1st and 2nd Rules:
“A BarCamp can be a very confusing place for someone who has never attended before, as it takes the standard formula for a conference, and pretty much turns it upside down. The lack of structure and organisation for the event on the day can be quite daunting, but I promise you that it works. So if you’re contemplating attending your first BarCamp, why not gain some confidence first by getting acquainted with the rules;
1st Rule: You do talk about BarCamp. BarCamps are special events, that those of us who have attended understand, but to people who have never been before they can be a very strange concept to grasp. Because of this, we need people who know how amazing a BarCamp is to tell everyone else they know, tweet about it, post on Facebook, and help us spread the word.
2nd Rule: You do blog about BarCamp. See above, the more exposure a BarCamp can get, the better it will become. Plus, we always love to get feedback after the event and read about your experiences…”
The first priority for publicity should be launching a website with the basic details about the unconference. The website can be referred to by those talking about the event, and it can be a source of details and inspiration for people blogging about it or posting information through whatever social media channels they use. The unconference website should tell people:
- What is an unconference
- When is the unconference
- Where is the unconference
- Who is the target audience
- What are expectations for participants; what do I give and what will I get
- What is the cost and how do I register
- FAQ for this unconference
- Who do I contact regarding questions
- How do I find out more about unconference
After the basic website has been launched, the core organizing team should start encouraging people to talk and write about the unconference, creating publicity and buzz in whatever ways they can best reach other “good” participants.
The next topic for this series is “Begin Personal Invitations.” Until then, think about what type of unconference you’d like to create or participate in! 🙂
Posts in this “Unconference Basics” series:
“Events Wrangling Basics For Unconferences”
“Unconference Basics — Step 2: Build Core Team To Get To Next Level”
“Unconference Basics — Step 3: Confirm Key Participants And Supporters”
“Unconference Basics — Step 4: Work On When”
“Unconference Basics — Step 5: Work On Where”
“Unconference Basics — Step 6: Start Publicizing” — today’s post
“Unconference Basics — Step 7: Begin Personal Invitations”
Unconference Basics — Step 8: Organize Equipment
Unconference Basics — Step 9: Organize Supplies
Unconference Basics — Step 10: Run The Unconference
Unconference Basics — Step 11: Follow-up After The Unconference