Some things from my head following #commscamp13

View from the front #commscamp13I’m grateful to have been asked to facilitate CommsCamp13 which was organised by @annkempster @danslee and @darrencaveney in Birmingham the other day.

These are some the things that are rolling round in my head as a result. Not all of them come directly from experiences at CommsCamp13, they may be things I’ve wanted to rant about for some time, and now seems to be as good a time as any. Some of these may turn into longer pieces, although it’s more likely that they’ll just sit here taunting me, saying “Why don’t you explain what you really mean there Lloyd?”

0. People are amazing. Groups of people are amazinger.  Groups of people allowed and encouraged to talk about the things that they really care about are the amazingest.

1. Lloyd! Stop trying to be right.  I find it really hard, but I try to keep following the golden rule: “Be prepared to be wrong, even when you’re right”.  Having said that, many of the following points read as pompous declarations of my unshakable will.  Prepare your pinch of salt.

2. If you don’t like this thing, start your own thing.  Nobody is gripping onto this “brand identity” nearly as hard as you imagine.  If you don’t like the fact that there’s only one UKGovCamp a year and the same 200 people always seem to go, set up your own (you might even get a grant to help). If you want a #jelly or some tweetup in your town or region, do your own. Use #wewillgather for smaller things if it helps.

3.  Run sessions your way.  This is a development of the previous point – nobody has decreed, nor do they have the right to decree, that all sessions at a camp have to be sitting round in a circle having a therapy session.  We can do whatever we like – some of the best sessions I’ve been to at other camps have been “I know nothing about X, please come and enlighten me” or “Let’s make a Y in 45 minutes”.

4. No spectators.  I felt that we’d lost this a bit – it’s much harder in a one-day event and using traditional conference venues but we had 25-35 potential sessions and 140 people attending, so even with every session leader doubling up we’d only have half of the group able to lead even if they wanted to.  The no spectator rule is there, imho, to ensure that we don’t get into an us and them situation – encouraging everyone to have something even in their back pocket is an important part of pre-camp that we forget.  We saw a special case of this on Tuesday which was a lack of women pitching for sessions in the first round, fortunately there were some brave enough to point it out and I think we fixed it, but still, I think it would  help to make it clearer that there’s an expectation that you bring something to talk about, that it’s just part of the process.

5.  We’re all just folk here.  This is hard at UKGovCamp, but it was even harder this week – leave the corporate ego at the door – remember that everyone else is in the same boat as you, no-one has all the answers, we all have an equal responsibility for the success of the event.  Some people are effectively paying to be there, not everyone has a job that either treats this as part of your development or paid leave.

6. I love “Fuck it” moments.  One of the best stories I heard was from Rae Watson talking about her experience of doing the right thing once she’d heard she was being made redundant.  Lovely, nothing to lose attitude which inspired me to call for a rolling programme of redundancies across the public sector 🙂

7. “The future is …not very evenly distributed.” You think?  This may come under the heading of “stop trying to be right” but really, the world *has* changed, hyperlinks really do subvert hierarchies, this is what is going on here, the institutions we work in are struggling and collapsing because the network crosses their boundaries without permission and with great ease.  I heard way more people than I expected to still talking about messaging and selling social media to senior execs.  Keep the focus off technologies and put it on power and service structures.

8. A camp is not about information dissemination.  It probably will happen as a by-product, but the purpose of the day is to encourage conversation and the resultant building of relationships. These are vital elements of the networked world – the ability to have good conversation and the richness of relationship that emerges therefrom.  This is where the value is, both to us as participants and to the organisations we’re part of.

9.  It’s your process. I know I’ve got it right when you don’t credit me and you say “we did this”.  It’s one of my favourite bits of the Tao Te Ching – Chapter 17

The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words.
When his task is accomplished and things have been completed,
All the people say, ‘We ourselves have achieved it!'”

10.  It’s a 3-day commitment for me.  There’s very little traditional prep and follow-up but I need a good half-day before to warm-up and clear out the rest of the world and then a full day afterwards to recover.  I need to reflect this in my diary-planning and in my fees.

11. We *will* break your wifi.  John Popham has already summed up the connectivity issue for most conference venues. Related: spambots may break your hashtag…

12. The view from the front.  That’s the title I gave the picture above.  It shouldn’t be like this.  There’s no reason to put everyone else face-front: we embrace circles when we go into sessions, we should do the same in plenary.  I think it would do a lot to reduce the sense of us-and-them.

13.  Stop trying to please everyone.  Media folk in public service have to juggle the goodwill of elected representatives, organisational managers, journalists and the public.  You can’t please all of these groups all of the time.  If you have to pick one, pick the public.

Turns out there’s thirteen, which is good since I’ve noticed many events this year have 13 in the title for some reason…