We had 305 people at our 2nd REBarCamp in Raleigh last Friday... and as promised to several people, here's my list of things to DO when you are organizing a Camp, and some suggestions on what to AVOID.
The camps I've been to, and the ones I've monitored, talked to others about, have 75 people. The coordination, and budget for a camp THAT size, is substantially different from one three times larger. Without the Carolina Blog Brawl Challenge, our budget was over $10,000 - with it, we were significantly higher.
We held our Camp at our Board Office, and they charged us for clean up, drinks, a "cut" on lunch, and requested a donation to their charity. In addition to this, we were not allowed to solicit sponsorships from any Real Estate Companies. (we provided lunch for everyone because of our location) We charged $20 for camp. Not everyone paid, or registered, and Sponsors were given multiple tickets. We had a 90% "show up" rate of people who paid, and about a 50% show up rate for people who didn't.
Because we didn't know who would show up - we ordered too many shirts, badges and lunch... I've been openly criticized for charging anything, and if you are having a smaller camp, don't. (In fact I've been told that "well known" Thought Leaders said they would not attend because we charged $20 and that Specific Sponsors would not Sponsor us because we charged $20) If you have a smaller camp, or if your facility makes it easy for folks to grab their own lunch, or you can solicit sponsorships from Real Estate Companies don't charge.
We looked at several Calenders when we chose the date for our REBarCamp this year... but we missed that 9.10.10 was part of Rosh Hashanah It was a huge mistake - and one we didn't realize until late in July. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS make sure you are not infringing on a Religious Holiday. I personally regret this, because we tried so hard to be careful. It's one mistake I'll never make again.
We sent out newsletters highlighted our Sponsors, gave out suggestions for "newbies," and details for folks coming (like where to park). That is a great idea, and I encourage camps to do a newsletter every week for the month leading up to camp. We have our own URL, and host our own Blog that ties back to the REBarCamp site. I've been criticized for this, so I don't recommend it.
We started with 25 sessions. We asked people who were coming MULTIPLE times what they wanted to talk about at Camp...We knew that some of the Top Interest Topics for our Camp were Video, WordPress, Facebook Fan Pages and Blogging Content. One of the questions we asked in the sign up process (in addition to what size tshirt you want and what your Twitter "handle" is) was do you want to lead a session? Every person who said "yes" went on a separate list, and we contacted them - asking what they wanted to talk about. We did not steer people, we just asked so that if one of "us" (on the Committee) had to lead a session on a topic we knew people wanted to talk about... we would be prepared(I've been openly criticized for doing this, so unless you feel like taking arrows, don't do it).
In addition to this, we had a room open all day, and added two sessions as the day progressed, so we had a total of 27 sessions. We voted on sessions in "live time" like American Idol with texting thanks to Bradand Dakno. It was UBER cool, and I highly recommend this technology for determining what sessions should go when and where (our rooms were all varying sizes, so it definitely helped determine what session should be in a large or small room). We gave attendees a blank form marked out with when sessions would be held, and once we had voted on sessions and had the board put together they could have something to take with them for the day. We put a map of the facility on the back of the badges, along with the Hashtag for the event.
We tried to mark sessions for "Beginners" as 101 sessions. (This was the extent of "tracking" sessions, but I have been criticized for attempting to "track" sessions, so I guess it's something else to avoid.) Not all of our sessions were on Social Media and technology - we discussed Real Estate Trends, Short Sales, Video Equipment and the difference in Branding an Individual and a Team or Company. We had a place designated as a Genius Bar during the day - and if you had a "one on one" question you could go there - I didn't see anyone use it.
We offered 3 Pre-Camp Workshops that were each three hours long. This was a HUGE volunteer effort on behalf of the Committee. We had over 120 people come to Pre-Camp sessions. At our first camp, people made it to lunch and then a TON of people bailed. This year, we had a MUCH larger number of people stay for the whole day, and fewer "glazed over" folks leaving early. The Pre-Camp Workshops were GREAT for the folks in this market.
We closed the day with 5 Bucks Is Change - which was very cool. I loved suggesting to folks that they could take ideas from the day and change the world! We started the day with Maya Paveza - who talked for about 20 minutes. We wanted a few minutes to determine what sessions should go into what room... again, I've been criticized for having a "keynote" speaker - we loved Maya, but I guess this is something you should avoid.
We also held the Carolina Real Estate Blog Brawl, in an effort to bring Real Estate Bloggers in our State together. We had over 3000 hits to our site in one week as people were voting. I know that this was a huge budget item, but it helped us get folks excited about coming and talking to folks who are actively blogging!
We basically had 4 different responsibilites for the "Organizing" Committee... Sponsorship, Graphics (like the website banner, tshirts, badges), Attendees (Communicating via website updates, Twitter, Facebook, newsletters, events), and Logistics (day of registration, pre-camp, drinks and lunch, day of technology, budget).
The bottomline is that I think having 75 people talking about what is going to happen during the day at REBarCamp - and having over 300 people looking at you makes a difference. I've been told that we should call our "Camp" a "Tech Conference" and then we would get more "respect" and less criticism. Maybe? I know we spent HOURS trying to make it a great day. I know that MOST of those 300 people learned something that will help their business. I know that we were as accomodating, and thoughtful and considerate as we could be to everyone.. including the people who had "Constructive" criticism to offer.
So my advice if you are considering organizing a REBarCamp - make sure you have thick skin. You'll never satisfy everyone. If you have specific question about organizing a camp, feel free to contact me, Eleanor Thorne 919-649-5057 @isellmoney