Admittedly, I am a heavy promoter of barcamps. I just love to go and hear what’s on people’s mind while learning stuff I have not thought of before. Too bad I am not able to make it to all of them as there have been so many recently. Talking to some entrepreneurs, I am always surprised to hear that they have never heard of barcamps before. Admittedly, the concept is rather weird and might not appeal to the overall consuming behavior we are so used to. But let me shed some light onto why I believe it is a perfect platform for any entrepreneur.
Aside from the regular barcamps, there are also many special interest barcamps (e.g. UXCamp, mobile camp, GameCamp). I have had the pleasure of attending user experience camp (aka UXCamp) last month. I am convinced that user experience is a major factor in today’s ever increasingly competitive landscape–online and offline. Learning about what differentiates a good site from a bad one and what users usually expect can be far off from the expectations you might had when you first built the site. A great example was last week’s MonetisationCamp. In a session called “landing page optimization” people volunteered to have their first page on their website examined. The feedback they have received from people sitting in that session was probably the most helpful, real-time feedback they could ever get.
I also recommend sitting in a session that you might think has nothing to do with anything you are interested in. To my constant surprise, these have been the most eye-opening sessions I have attended. Did you know that washing machines sell worse if they simply reduce the number of buttons on the panel? Or where would you place the search box on your website? Top right? Top?
Barcamps are free. Drinks and food are usually sponsored, so these are free as well. The only commitment you are asked is offering your spare time during a weekend. And so does everyone else at that event. And this is the most important differentiating factor to a regular conference or exhibition: people are here because they freely chose to do so instead of trying to find an excuse not to go to work instead. I met so many passionate and truly interested people at these events that I am always disappointed sitting at a regular conference with people having the expectation to get something in return for the heavy fees they paid. As with the internet, the power lies in the minds of all the people present. Hence most presentations at a barcamp are usually getting into a discussion and people are happy to contribute their perspectives or insights. Needless to say that the overall quality at those sessions is far better than anything I have seen at conferences lately.
Oh, and besides: this is your chance to pitch your idea or startup to people who might be so well-connected that it could help you gain more traction. Just check the specific barcamp tags on Twitter and you will see what I mean.
Go and try it!
After all, even if you think that a specific barcamp is not suited to your individual interests, it might not be a bad idea to attend anyways. After all it is an enlightening experience and I believe the concept is so great that it will find many more applications–maybe even at some of those boring, overpriced conferences.