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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thoughts on my First Edcamp

http://www.flickr.com/photos/formulaphoto/225837921/sizes/m/in/photostream/
      As I sat there in Plano Texas, (drinking coffee and eating some fruit provided by a sponsor), I had already decided that there was no reason why we couldn't make this happen in Austin.  What follows are some observations I made during the day.   {Before I go any further, if you don't really know what an Edcamp is here is a link to the Wiki we used for Edcamp Plano.}

     First observation:  You need to have food and swag (duh, right?).  The Edcampplano folks really out did themselves.  They used Jason's Deli who ALWAYS does a nice job with these sorts of things.  We use them regularly in the Austin area as well.  As for Swag, the highlight was a SKYPE Webcam.  Looks like there were several great vendors willing to donate money or in-kind time on their websites.  The guidance given me by the EdCamp guys was to "just ask."    More on the Swag, later.

    Second:  Although, on the surface, there doesn't seem to be toooo much to do to get ready for an edcamp, you better have a cadre of friends/coworkers who you can meet with prior to the day and you can count on to be there early to cross the t's and dot the i's.   Edcampplano get's a big up check for this.  Things appeared incredibly organized (which means the elves were taking care of putting out the fires before we noticed them.)

    Third:  Give the attendees time to meet and socialize prior to the first "presentation."   There was about an hour to eat and socialize before they made the introductions and got things started.  This gave people an opportunity to plan their strategy for the day and to encourage potential presenters to sign up for a time slot.  We got to meet people who were only avatars minutes before and that moment was special.

    Fourth:  Have 15 to 20 time slots for people to sign up for.  EdCamp Plano had 4 time slots (2 morning/2 afternoon) in 6 rooms for a total of 24 possible presentations.   3 or 4 slots weren't used by the end of the day which means about 20 presentations happened.  There would have been more but at the end there was an App Smackdown which got most of the attendees attention.

    Fifth:  Limit the size to about 200 and make sure you have wifi and connectivity for half to three fourths of that number.  Smart phones take care of some of the issues with connectivity and there will be some people without the need of wifi.  There needs to be one big room for all of the attendees to meet in and then rooms that can handle up to 40 or so.

    Finally:  Have enough swag so just about everyone "wins" something.  T-shirts and bags of goodies can go a long way.  Having 3 or 4 'big prizes keeps the attention of the attendees.  At EdCamp Plano there were 2 iTouches and an iPad2 purchased with donated funds as the big prizes.

   I was really proud to be a participant in the first Texas edcamp in Plano.  They have set the bar high so those of us wanting to do the next one will need to bring their A game.  Austin should be next and then we can hand it off to our friends in Houston or maybe back to the Dallas/Ft.Worth area.  Either way, I learned a ton. I met great people. And, I look forward to getting this going in Austin.