Podcast: Majority of Startup Campers give "unconference" format a thumbs up

In addition to finding out why attendees were attending Startup Camp and whether or not they were getting anything out of it, ZDNet podcaster James Hilliard also checked in on their satisfaction with the unconference format.
Written by David Berlind, Inactive

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In addition to finding out why attendees were attending Startup Camp and whether or not they were getting anything out of it, ZDNet podcaster James Hilliard also checked in on their satisfaction with the unconference format. Like Mashup Camp, Startup Camp is an unconference that's largely based on the idea that:

  • the most interesting content at a typical conference happens during the coffee breaks and after hours gatherings
  • when presentations are being given to an audience that there's probably one or more people in the audience that know as much or more than the presneter(s) and that could be making a valuable contribution to the session (turning it into a conversation rather than a presentation)
  • unlike with conferences where the agenda and speakers are often determined 6 months to a year in advance, ad-hoc agenda planning on the day of the conference assures the timeliness and relevance of the content to the attendees.

Also, like Mashup Camp, Startup Camp is largely based on Harrison Owen's Open Space methodology with a few little twists tossed in. For example, to keep the energy level high, particularly after lunch, we do something called SpeedGeeking which is a lot like speed dating except for the fact that the people who stay put (in their seats) during each round have 5 minutes to tell those circulating to each table why they should win the Best Startup award (or, in the case of Mashup Camp, the Best Mashup Award). Inspired by the old chili-cookoffs at Comdex, each attendee is given one wooden nickel to cast their vote with (after or during SpeedGeeking, they give it to the best startup, in their mind). 

James' podcast can be streamed or downloaded to your system using the Flash-based player above. Or, if you're subscribed to ZDNet's IT Matters series of podcasts, it will be downloaded to your PC and/or portable audio player depending on how you have them configured.  Here's what attendees had to say (and the time code at the point which they said it):

0:48 Interviewee 1: I like the idea of having a community-based agenda. You vote on the topics you want to discuss.. I think that is a good idea.  And the free perks are the coffee and the food? that doesn't hurt either.1:02 I just love the basics of the unconference because you have to participate. You just can't sleep like in the others (conferences) 1:12 It's great getting out of the controlled environment where you have a committe choosing all the sessions. It's great to be a part of choosing the sessions.

1:27 Interviewee 2: I think this is my fourth unconference. Or fifth unconference. And I think that when you pick your session right, they're great and the rules work really well because you can vote with your feet. That means you get to walk away when you're not getting something from something. So, you get to make of it what you will and the discusssions are vibrant and interesting and fun sometimes and controversial so I enjoy them. Yeah, I'd absolutely do it again.

1:51 Interviewee 3: It encourages you to be rude to people: to go away when you don't want to talk to somebody and talk to somebody else and it's actually OK to do that.

2:12 Interviewee 4: Actually, the speedgeeking part of the event is really interesting because you can see a lot of  different experiences. You can see different stages of the companies from the idea to companies more developed right now which is interesting.

2:30 Interviewee 5: I like -- what is this called? "Fast Geeking?" Speedgeeking -- I like it. I can see myself as one of the persons who sitting at a table next time. I can express or talk about my company to everybody and I can get focused because it is only five or six people in a group [to which I'm presenting]. So, definitely, it's a good format. Definitely something I'm interested in.

3:02 Interviewee 6: I've been to several [unconferences]. It's a great way to be able to communicate with people. It's much more effective for me than a structured conference.

3:13 Interviewee 7: Actually, it's not too different than a regular conference except for the unstructured nature of it meaning that a lot of it is sort of more day-of planning and you have to adapt and adjust. It's kind of like being an entrepreneur in a lot of ways and I think it actually creates a little bit more energy.  A little more excitement.

3:28 Interviewee 8: I would come back. If I have any complaints, it's maybe that it's a little too unstructured. I don't really know. But, it becomes a little hard to figure out what's going on  at any time because everybody is sort of winging it.

3:42 Interviewee 9: I like how there's no structure. It makes it easier to network with people because you kind of drift towards the people that are doing the same thing you're doing. So it's very nice.  

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