Here’s something I wrote to an upcoming organizer of a PodCamp. You might find some value in this, too.
My advice: make a great team to organize the event and lean on them heavily. Focus on empowering the community. De-emphasize the rockstars, but invite them all. Use traditional press releases and mainstream ways to reach the newbies, as well as blog campaigns, buttons, and other new media tools. Get every podcaster and video blogger making promotional materials and running each others’ promos ahead of the event. Wifi isn’t 100% necessary, but it makes the world a much better place. Tagging is vital, so please have people tag their media for easier finding in Technorati and Google Blogsearch.
Write really direct, clear sponsor letters following a format similar to this:
Hello ______ (person in company, if you know their name, or just “Hi” if you’re faking it)–
My name is ________ and I’m writing to request sponsorship for PodCamp ___, a FREE, two day unconference exploring the world of new media community tools. The event takes place ____. The website is _____ . We’re expecting around ____ people.
Your sponsorship of $____ (and ask big) will go towards _______, or should you wish to make it a more general sponsorship, the other costs associated with putting on this free event are:
__ (list out all your remaining expenses). Specific sponsorships exist for ____ (Saturday lunch, the Friday night party, tee-shirts, A/V costs, whatever — lots of sponsors like to buy specific branding opportunties).
In return, we will feature your logo on an 8.5×11 display poster at the registration desk, at the main stage (wherever you want to do it, but basically showing the logo), as well as on the PodCamp DC website, with a clickable link back to the destination of your choice. We will add your URL to several future blog posts to drive even more traffic back to your site, and we will mention you and thank you at least twice throughout the event.
PodCamp’s community is comprised of traditional media professionals, PR specialists, marketing leaders, enthusiastic hobbyists, and several bloggers, audio and video podcasters, and more. Our demographics tend to point towards the mid-20’s-50’s age range (though 11 year olds and 81 year olds participate quite often, as well). Thankfully, the mix of genders at the event is roughly 65/35 male to female. We tend to have discretionary income and a strong desire to understand products and services that might appeal to us and/or our audiences.
At PodCamps, the participants are the speakers. Topics and panels are developed by the people, and the audience is often equally in charge of the flow of information on the stage. There is a rule called “the law of two feet” in strong effect. Should one feel the content presented in a session isn’t relevant, or worse, should the person giving the session be seen to be “pitching,” everyone has the right and the obligation to walk away and find something more pertinent to their needs.
We’d love to invite you to do more than write a check. Please consider participating at PodCamp ___, and perhaps give a session on how your product or service (be specific if you can) makes blogging or podcasting or videoblogging easier/better/faster/cost effective. (Whatever you want to talk about, without it being a pitch). Are there other ways you can participate? More than your money (though we appreciate your financial support), PodCamp is about developing relationships with sponsors who understand the value of using new media community tools to extend the digital conversation out into their larger audiences. We want to talk with you about how you might consider _______ (their organization, product, whatever) as part of this community.
Please contact me at your earliest convenience. My contact information is listed below. If you have any further questions, or want to better understand the PodCamp experience, I’m at your service.
Thanks in advance,
______, PodCamp __ Organizer. (your name, the PodCamp name)
Contact Info , etc…
Track this all on your open ledger on the wiki. The open ledger makes a WORLD of difference in getting this all done well, cuts down on people griping, and gives your sponsors a clear sense of where there money is going. Remember to build options for people to donate anonymously, and remember to ensure that some folks have ways to donate smaller amounts without drawing attention to that.
Beyond that, the better you build the signup process, the easier you make it later when you have to reach these people and let them know important info. (We’re looking into non-wiki options for Boston2). Also, do everything you can to reach the influencers in your event’s area and encourage them to build sessions that enhance the community experience, show more people HOW to make this new media stuff, and perhaps how to find money.
Remember, you can always reach out to the organizers of past PodCamps, and you can always contact Chris Brogan or Christopher Penn. We’re all pretty accessible.