May 8, 2014

Podcamp: Where Content, Creativity, and Community Collide


Unable to find the right conference that fit their interests, Chris Brogan and Christopher Penn decided they would have to just start one of their own.

They went about starting Podcamp knowing little else other than it seemed like a good idea. When they started calling sponsors, Chris says, they just asked for $1,000 without offering anything in return. It wasn’t out of greed. They didn’t know they were supposed to. Luckily, those initial sponsors were gracious in helping Chris and Christopher navigate the process. That spirit of helping out and pitching has come to define the Podcamp experience.

The first Podcamp was wildly successful, but Chris realized soon afterwards that they wouldn’t be able to expand and run them by themselves, as Podcamp is cost neutral. He chose to open source the idea and allow for others to bring Podcamp to their own city. Since doing that, Podcamps have literally taken place all over the world. Chris rattles off Perth, Australia; Stockholm, Sweden; and Cape Town, South Africa, as just a few examples.

While the “unconference” movement has seen huge success, there is still an opportunity for the movement to evolve. A large part of this, Chris says, is getting people to fully understand the value of the “unconference.” He also says—in the kindest way possible—that Podcamp, and others in the camp system, might need to grow up, primarily in the way they brand themselves. This may mean losing the “camp,” to better appeal to today’s content marketers.

Despite these issues, Chris still believes that smaller, more dynamic conferences like Podcamp will continue to grow rapidly. Due to their small size, these events are able to produce highly localized content that larger tradeshows don’t have the ability to do. And, as anyone who has been to one will tell you, they’re highly collaborative.

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Since arriving in Nashville, every job that Carla Swank has held has been obtained through a Podcamp connection. From working with her on past crews I’m not surprised that this has been a great referral network. She works tremendously hard with all her volunteers to create a successful event.

In the collaborative, open spirit of Podcamp, she’s bringing elements from her previous Podcamp experiences in Pittsburgh. This year, that includes a Friday night meet-and-greet at the EC, which will allow attendees the opportunity to get to know each other before arriving for the conference itself.

Also for the first time, there will be more defined categories for artists, graphic designers, photographers, and web designers. Podcamp is for all those involved in the podcast process, and there should be content for everyone, she says. It’s taking place at Nossi College of Art, and PodCamp Nashville has access to the entire venue, which Carla intends to make full use of. I’ll be there as well, to set up a make-shift podcasting studio open to anyone who wants to either interview, or be interviewed.

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Dave Delaney has been involved with Podcamp Nashville since the beginning as one of the original co-founders. He’s stayed involved for a number of years, and continues to make an effort to be a part of it, regardless of the role he plays. In the past, he’s played a larger part, but now primarily just chimes in, he says.

People like Dave continuing to be a part of Podcamp Nashville is what allows the event to be so successful. They bring continuity and expertise. This is due in large part to the organization of Podcamp Nashville, which strongly encourages event organizers to mentor their successors. It builds a strong network of people connected and invested in the event. It’s not just about connecting with the community, Dave says, but also about putting great content into the world.

Dave tells the story of one woman who showed up early to her first Podcamp and was caught off guard when Dave told her to start moving chairs when she asked what to do. Everyone pitches in, he says. Come with your ideas, feelings, thoughts, and notions – and be prepared to share them.

#PCN14 is going to be great and I can’t wait to see you there! It’s not too late to register!

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