*Since this blog post was written in early February, a debrief meeting with the library was held. The Library does a tremendous amount to support this event and quite literally we could not do it without them. In this blog post you will see references to where the library could partner more with Podcamp towards shared areas of interest. For Podcamp 2016, the library will continue to partner as they did in 2015, any areas we seek to change or expand will need to be supported by other partnerships and volunteer efforts. We intend to host a meet up with those interested in taking on aspects of Podcamp 2016 around making the event better so please stay posted by subscribing to our mailing list here:http://podcamphalifax.org/sign-up
A big thank you to everyone who attended Podcamp Halifax 2015! Special thanks of course to event sponsors, volunteers and presenters as well as our venue host, the new central library.
We spent some time reviewing the feedback you sent from our survey as well as considering things that came up this year.
- There were 120 responses to the survey and we estimate the event was attended by about 400 people.
- The event experience was rated on average 4.5 out of 5 with the scale as 1 being not so great and 5 being totally awesome.
We are putting most of the content for this blog post in the “Room for Improvement” section because even with all the positive feedback, these suggestions really help us make the event better each year. It’s important that if you feel strongly about something happening you get involved. We do our best to improve each year but it relies on people participating and getting their hands dirty. Have a read and please get in touch with us if you want to make these things happen. Quotes italicized are taken from your comments via the Podcamp survey.
WHAT YOU LIKED…
- The new library space had a very positive response.
“The new Halifax Central Library is the perfect spot to hold this event. It was close to food for lunch and loads of parking.”
- People enjoyed the variety of sessions and were impressed by the quality of the content.
“Thought provoking sessions, not just reinforcement of concepts I was already familiar with. I felt I learned and grew”
- The coat check was a big hit, it has been a pain point in the past and the coffee and snacks were good.
“Venue was spectacular. Coat check was so nice. Sessions were pretty much as advertised, which is not always the case.”
- There were many positive comments about the ‘vibe’ and the nature of the event.
“This was my first Podcamp and I loved the laid back atmosphere. It was not stuffy and uptight like some conferences are. That’s a big bonus! The library was an amazing space to have for Podcamp. It was welcoming, spacious and beautiful. The parking situation and personally attended entrance was ideal. I loved the presentations I heard. They were inspiring and interesting. All-in-all, my first experience with Podcamp was excellent.”
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT…
The following information is grouped into General Feedback, Session/Schedule Feedback, Registration Feedback and Interesting Ideas.
- Increase interaction & Networking. Many people felt they didn’t get enough time to interact with each other or come together as a large group. Lots of great suggestions here such as doing another battledecks, more time for questions and interaction after presentations and more time between sessions or take a session out.
“I think we would benefit from having a longer break between sessions to socialize a bit. All Twitter folk are somewhat social by nature. Having an official way to do it in public would be great.”
“The day would benefit from more time to connect and share ideas; as it was, I felt compelled to get water, go to the bathroom, then find my next session and get there, and there was little time or space to connect and dialogue with other PodCampers about the ideas that were on offer during the day.”
- Podcamp and Privilege. There was conversation during Podcamp on twitter about who was attending the event, who was missing and what our Podcamp community make up looked like from participants, volunteers and presenters. It is important that we consider how to open up the event to more people and engage more diversity. There is an opportunity for us to really consider how we can grow into a more vibrant community learning unconference that really feels welcoming and inclusive to the full variety our community has to offer. The Podcamp organizing team is interested in working on this with others over 2015 and we will be discussing the role and interest of the library in being more intentional on this front.
“Expanding reach. Same faces year after year. This is not a complaint about the presenters. Just in general it seems to attract largely the same crowd (including me) every year.”
“A follow-up networking social in a month. Maybe one per quarter. Possibly outreach/support during the year to foster participation from women and other demographics to stretch more beyond the straight white male perspective.”
“I’d love to see Podcamp reach outside of the usual (and great!) folks who come to this sort of thing and outreach to non profits, underserved communities etc. Maybe a partnership with CAP would be a cool connection point? Podcamp is amazing and I feel privileged to be a part of it every year, I’d love to see it shared more widely!”
- Ranking Sessions Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced. The feedback on sessions was mixed with many feeling the sessions were great and amazing while a few voices indicated a strong dislike for the sessions, in particular feeling like the information was useless. We think session ranking could happen next year without too much additional work and it would likely add to ease of decision making, navigability and relevance for participants.
“This is my 4th Podcamp and I’ve completely outgrown it. Unless you take a more serious approach to planning worthwhile sessions (being more selective) I won’t be coming back. To give up my Sunday for UX for Dummies and fluffy stuff is disappointing.”
- Content & Presenter diversity. There were a few questions and suggestions which essentially lead to this question – What could we do to increase our content and presenter diversity? Suggestions include soliciting twitter and the podcamp email list for topics of interest part way through the year to encouraging less digital savvy people to present on topics of interest such as urban and community issues. There is also quite a bit of discussion about the diversity of presenters, in particular as it relates to gender, currently predominantly male.
“I wonder if there could be mentors next year to help those individuals who would like to present have the skills and support to do their own. Kind of like TedTalks that have specific processes to guide the potential speaker. Just a thought.”
- Presenter information and numbers. We do not dialogue much with Podcamp presenters nor have we provided a great deal of support other than basic information and a room for their talk. A number of people would have liked more information about the talks and some of the presenters would have like to know how many people to expect. There may be ways to do this differently. We could be more thoughtful about this going forward if we have the time, people and support. There was an offer by one of the Podcamp regulars to offer some training on how to present and that would be great, especially as we try to increase diversity and reach out to those who may consider themselves to be less digital.
“As a presenter it would have been nice to know how many people intended on going to my talk. This could be as easy “Are you planning on attending this event” option. I know it’s encouraged to come and go but I think it could still be useful to gather general interest in a talk beforehand.”
- Guest Speaker. This is always somewhat controversial and we’ve stayed away from it for the last couple of years. It’s controversial because Podcamp is an unconference and the content is supposed to be non-hierarchical and generated from the local community. Our team thinks it’s ok to have a guest speaker in if the budget allows and something works and this could be a consideration for 2016. It may be that a poll could be sent out well in advance of the event to get feedback to help make a decision for 2016.
“Obviously book Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuck to gladiator fight each other on a balance beam.”
- Timing – Sessions and Transit. There were quite a number of comments about issues related to timing which we really try to stay on top of. People want more time in between and do not like to rush from one to the next. They also want presenters to be punctual about starting and finishing as well as providing more space for feedback.
“Cut off at end of one’s presentation time. Good presenters know when their time is up but others go into other presenters time – not cool.”
- Livestreaming, webcasting, recording sessions. We thought about that before this year’s event but for our first time in the library and given they had just opened we felt it was too ambitious. It’s something we could aspire to do but in chatting with people about it we feel we would need someone or a team to come together and take this on. We will mention this to the library in our debrief meeting at the end of February but it doesn’t seem likely that they have the capacity to do this themselves. There is an open invitation to anyone in our community who wishes to take this on for 2016, talk to us. There is also a good argument for accessibility here so we will keep that in mind as well.
- Attrition – Unclaimed tickets. It’s clear we need to figure out a better way to deal with a significant (between 200-300) number of tickets that go unclaimed which could otherwise be taken by someone who wants to participate. This has been an ongoing problem and we thought this year it might have shifted with a larger space in an arguably more accessible place. However, there was almost the same number of unused tickets this year as last year. Suggestions include charging a nominal fee ($5) which may get people taking it more seriously to eliminating registration entirely and communicating about the day and place. The Podcamp team will look at other Podcamp events to investigate how they deal with this and will try to employ a solution, fix or experiment towards decreasing this number of tickets.
“There needs to be tickets available closer to the event, (probably just more attendee space overall) so that it encourages new people attending. More information sooner, I had so little time to plan anything out.”
- Accessibility – Tickets go too fast. This year we released tickets at three different times to increase access since they sell out so quickly. Although this helped we still heard from people who were disappointed to miss out and then of course frustrated to hear about the attrition issue. Our team thinks we can speak with the library and possibly leverage their facilities to advertise and encourage more broad registration through the library branches across Halifax. This may also lead to increasing our diversity in presenters and participants. We will discuss this with the library at the debrief meeting. Ideas are welcome and we will do our best to broaden access. We could also protect bundles of tickets and do slower more targeted releases coupled with advertising that reaches more. One of our sponsors, Nova Scotia Webcams offered to advertise the event and in the past we have turned these down because it sells out so quickly. It may be helpful to find more of these kinds of arrangements to spread the message.
“The schedule could have been posted a bit earlier. Eventbrite wasn’t the most user-friendly platform for registration.”
INTERESTING IDEAS AND COMMENTS
- Podcamp for young people and childcare. This suggestion is new to years past but absolutely a consideration. We heard from a mother who figured her teenage son would really enjoy a youth podcamp stream and we expect there are others who might be interested. We would need a team of people to get together around this to figure out how it could happen and perhaps the Library could be part of supporting this in their programming as they do run events targeted at specific age groups. Integrating this in their programming could be a win for us all.
Childcare would be amazing and another great way to create accessibility for parents who otherwise might have difficulty participating. It’s also nice for both spouses to be involved and perhaps it becomes a family event? This is something that needs special consideration and planning. Working with the library and some additional volunteers we feel this could be integrated into next year’s event.
“Childcare!!!! Even for parents to pay a small fee for it. I would totally take advantage of that.”
- Technology Demo: Is there a way to have some demos or play with new apps and technology over the course of the day?
About Mike Tanner
Mike Tanner is a full time parent and founder of OneRedCat Media, a digital agency in Halifax focused on building the web and creating interesting content across all platforms.
He’s also working on his first work of non-fiction, a guide to doing your best work called Really Little Wins.