My Low Tech Approach to Podcamp

This weekend I’m thrilled to be attending my 2nd Podcamp Montreal. Last year’s inaugural event was, to say the least, fantastic. I met a ton of amazing people, and I can’t stress enough how much I love the unique vibe and class that the Montreal organizers bring to the event. You really have to experience it in person to know what I mean.

Podcamp is about connecting, sharing, community, and network building. It’s also about technology, and the Web. So it stands to reason that lots of people will be bringing their technology with them to Podcamp, and using it profusely throughout the weekend. There will be abundant laptops clicking away, video recorders running, photos being snapped, and mobile devices being mobile. Which is totally fine. Far be it from me to deny a geek access to their technology!

I choose to do things a bit differently when I attend conferences. I take a mostly low-tech approach to my environment here. I don’t lug a laptop. I carry my iPhone (I’m not crazy!) but I use it sparingly.

Ow ow ow! Hand cramp! I am definitely a note taker. I write stuff down all the time. I have to. It’s part of my composition – it’s how I retain information and learn new things. I type a lot faster than I write, so if I’m typing notes during a session, I tend to want to try to write everything down. And if I’m doing that, I’m not really listening to the presentation. So I come armed with no more than a notebook and pen. That way, if I am writing, it’s only key info. And, pen to paper is a lot less distracting for the person sitting next to me as well.

One other side benefit of not bringing a laptop? Well, I typically don’t like to walk up to someone and strike up a conversation if they look “busy” on their computer. How available do I look if in between sessions, I’m head down trying to figure out how to upload the video I just shot, or checking my email? If I’m not clacking away, I stand a much better chance of making eye contact with someone, and starting up a new conversation.

Are you here for you or for them? I might get in trouble for this one, but again, this the way I do things – I’m not judging others here. If you find value in live tweeting events, then go to town with it. Really. However…consider what value live tweeting is really adding. Again, if I’m head down in my laptop or on my phone, posting to Twitter every darn thing the speaker is saying, am I really absorbing the information? Am I actively participating or passively documenting? And to what end? Are your followers deriving value from your stream or are they tuning you out till the conference is over? Are real conversations happening and if so, are you paying more attention to the online stream or what’s going on in front of you?

Other than maybe taking a photo or two or documenting something funny or compelling that happens in a session, I tend to keep my in-session tweeting to a minimum. Not everyone cares about ROI on social media, so I don’t feel that filling my stream with strange, out of context quotes adds value. If I really want to talk about what I’m learning, I’ll blog about it that night. But live tweeting? Not for me, thanks.

Reach out and touch someone. I don’t go to a ton of conferences, but the ones I do go to tend to be the unconferency, grass rootsy type of affairs. I like the format and the flexibility and the fact that I can wear jeans and a sweater and a ponytail. I like The Law of Two Feet. I like that it’s totally inclusive. I like that I can just sit on the floor in the hallway with a group of people and experience and learn and get excited about things as easily as I can inside of a formal session.

Gathering at events like conferences is about BEING 100% THERE. It’s not about bragging to all your followers how you’re hanging out with the popular kids. It’s not about waltzing around telling everyone what an expert you are. It’s about coming together with other like minded, talented, passionate, and genuine people and building friendships and business relationships and yah, you know what? Sometimes, it’s a little bit of sitting in a circle singing Kumbaya too. And I’m totally down with that. Because it’s about being together, live, in person – connecting. And at the end of this weekend I intend to have some fresh ideas, some new friends, and a renewed sense of passion for this work I do. That’s why I go. That’s why you should too.

Podcamp Montreal 2009
September 19th and 20th
UQAM Design Centre
1440 rue Sanguinet
Montreal, QC

See you there 🙂

Creating Spaces
How to Succeed in Social Media

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