What’s specific about a barcamp? How does it work?

A barcamp is an event where everybody can come, share and learn from each other. A barcamp is an un-conference. It has no prewritten agenda. Only a date and time, location and of course the main topic, why people will gather together intensely for a couple of hours, a day or two. Does this really work? Absolutely. Many thousands of barcamps have been worldwide successfully performed this agile way. This works very well.

What’s so specific about a barcamp?

A barcamp is principally a non-profit event organized by volunteers. All barcamps are free in attendance for all, and provide free food and beverages as well. A good barcamp creates an open and creative atmosphere, provides an inspiring place with a general assembly room, separate smaller rooms for parallel breakout sessions, free accessible sufficient Wi-Fi, audio, beamers and video infrastructure, whiteboards, flipcharts, pens, clean public bathrooms separatly for ladies and gents, lounges for networking, an outdoor space for retreat and for the smokers and more. This is a lot of work and time to prepare actually.

This costs money. That’s the point where the sponsors of a barcamp come in. They support and provide the event with the necessary equipment, pay bills or just give cash and receive a lot of attention by the attending barcamp crowd due to banners and presence at the venue. The perfomance of a barcamp is adhoc in very short time and extremely dynamic for the attendees but the planning and preparation for the organizers has to be strict and precise to guarantee a smoth flow during the actual performance.

Here is a good example for a barcamp: Railscamp Hamburg 2011.

How does a barcamp work for the participants?

There are a very few rules if you have decided to join a barcamp:

  1. Register yourself on the website of the barcamp and tell something about you in short. This is important for the organizers, because they need to know the number of participants to order right amount of food and beverages which can be by far the most cost-intense part of a barcamp. It’s also interesting for the other participants to know who is coming and maybe get in touch with them for a ride share to the venue or to exchange ideas before the barcamp starts. Remember: Please only reserve a ticket if you are sure that you can come. Cancel in time if you can’t.
  2. Keep the conversations going and talk in public about the barcamp before, during and after the event and share the news, your opinions, your expections, your special interest and topics via Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Googleplus, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Xing and so on. Feel free to publish your photos in flickr, picplz, yfrog and more during and after the event. Use all the public social channels you got. Don’t forget to tag it with the appropriate #hashtags. Example in Twitter: The official Railscamp Hamburg Twitter account.
  3. Contribute und share your knowledge with the crowd! At the start of a barcamp you will get an intro to the rules and structure of the event. Each barcamp day will be structured into presentation slots of 30 or 45 minutes. Get in line and make a brief announcement of your planned presentation in front of the crowd so they can decide whether they want to hear it or not. From that moment on in the words of Tantek Çelik: „If you want to present, you must write your topic and name in a presentation slot. Only three word intros.. As many presentations at a time as facilities (rooms) allow for. No pre-scheduled presentations, no tourists. Presentations will go on as long as they have to or until they run into another presentation slot. If this is your first time at BarCamp, you HAVE to present. (Ok, you don’t really HAVE to, but try to find someone to present with, or at least ask questions and be an interactive participant.)“. If possible: SHOW. Don’t tell. The everlasting Hollywood rule. People love to see and experience some of your work. SHOW us some of your highlights LIVE. SHOW, don’t just talk about it!
  4. Share your presentation and make it digitally available for later review or for people who could not attend to the barcamp. Sometimes the organizers will provide special space on the website of the barcamp for this.
These are the basic rules of a barcamp. If you have additional remarks to the rules please write me in the comments of this post so we can start a conversation about it. Thank you very much. Enjoy your next event!


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