Lessons Learned from PodCampSeptember 19, 2006
reprinted from the Grasshopper Factory
Christopher S. Penn, my coFounder of PodCamp did a great write-up of lessons learned for the event at the official PodCamp blog. I thought I’d take a moment to write down some thoughts on the event from my perspective. All of these lessons pertain to things beyond the scope of PodCamp.
When I read the emails and mailing list posts from this time, there were lots of people not really interested in what I was saying about PodCamp. Some of the local folks thought I was suggesting a meet-up, only larger. Others were saying that we had lots of great talent locally. And yet, Chris and I pushed forward to do it.
The lesson here: sometimes people can’t see what you’re saying, or can’t understand your vision. If you see it, press on. Just work harder at explaining the vision in different ways until it clicks.
Asking for money was tricky for me at first. I felt weird doing it. I felt like I knew the value of what I was asking people to support, but that I didn’t have a great way to communicate that value. Further, I didn’t understand early on that one of the core elements to this equation of “Will you give me money?” is “What’s in it for me?” I mean, this makes sense to YOU, but I wasn’t in the business of asking for money. We learned quickly how to appropriately explain the value proposition of the event itself, and the benefits we’d give back to those giving us money.
The lesson: Don’t be afraid to ask, but think through how you’ll explain it, and think through how you’ll show people what they get in return.
Working for Passion
Working on PodCamp was really a lot of hours. Chris and I were putting in something like 40 or 50 hours a week on this work, not counting our day jobs, and not counting our podcasts. (In my case, I produce the back end of three – until recently, as my team has stepped up very well!) It got pretty crazy near the end, working long into the night on sponsor letters, and on nailing down all the little details.
But it was worth it. Working for passion is always going to nail the hell out of working for “a job.” It was such a dream to get this thing from an idea to a fully executed plan. I fell in love with the concept, and it showed. I was well-rewarded for my passion, and I think the team in general worked really well on that level. Chris, Bryan, Steve, Adam, and Sooz all really worked from their hearts, it felt like to me. And I think we all got a little reward along the way for that.
Lesson: no matter what, passion rules, and even in the short term if it seems like it’s not paying off, keep at it. They’re not lying. Do what you love…
We worked so hard on promoting this thing, and at the end of the day, I got about 100 emails after the fact saying, “I didn’t know this was going on.” I think some of those were well-wishers after the fact, but I think it’s also true that the splintered-attention nature of the web makes it downright horrible to try and promote something. We were fortunate to get up on RocketBoom a few days before the event (and then again after). We really did a great bit of work in reaching out through our social networks, but in the end, it took heralds.
Heralds are those types that have big hills and loud trumpets. C.C. Chapman is a herald. Rocketboom is a herald. We had lots of podcasters and bloggers giving us the love right before things happened.
Oh, and for every herald, you need courtiers. These are those types who do things behind the scenes and make magic happen. Steve Garfield and Bryan Person both have really deep ties in several courts, and without them, I doubt we’d have had half the attendance.
Lesson: promote all you want, but without heralds and courtiers, you’ve got nothing.
It was very important to me to call people participants instead of attendants. I stressed at every opportunity during the event that we wanted people to lean forward, to help out, to do the work. This event was by the people, for the people. Chris and the rest of us didn’t set this up to run the show. We just wanted to get the engine moving. It became a big part of the success.
I think it’s hard to tell people an event sucks if you’re given the responsibility of making it NOT suck. I had some great brief experiences with people in and around PodCamp. They all seemed to boil down to falling in love with the participants and what they were into. The more I could identify and love them, the more it felt like we had something successful going on. That mattered to me, and I think other people felt that same love.
Lesson: nothing gets done without people. Show them your love, and everything else will fall into place.
We’ve got lots of great PodCamp activity already happening. The beauty of it all? Chris and I are working to help each team, but also working to stress that they’re the superstars. They are the front line. We’ll be helpful and give all we can give. But this is an open-source event. It will be just as successful as Boston, based on the efforts of those who organize it. I’m thrilled to death to see such movement. I’m looking forward to helping out and at least participating in each of the PodCamps coming up. (I might have to raise money to attend them all, but whatever).
The future is in participation, no matter if it’s in media or in conferences. I see this the same way you see sunshine and breakfast.
Lesson: you know the lesson.
I look forward to being helpful. Let me know what else you need.