February 21, 2010


These days you can go to camp even if you're not outdoorsy. That's great during a Canadian winter in February.

These camps help you learn, generally for free. No sales pitches. Here's how they work. Volunteers arrange the event. Sponsors donate space, refreshments and probably money. The speakers donate their time. In an unconference, if you don't like something you change it. If you want a session that isn't listed, add it. This democracy does not lead to anarchy. You feel like a part of the event rather than a mere attendee. I've helped put chairs and tables back in place at the end of the day.

Let's compare three camps
  • BookCampTO 2009
  • PodCampTO 2010
  • Personal Brand Camp 2 (2010)
These were all held in downtown Toronto.

BookCampTO 2009 [June 6, 2009 | University of Toronto]
This was my first unconference and I didn't know what to expect. The attendees seemed to be insiders in the book publishing world. This almost felt like an industry event. Maybe that's why this event was well-funded and even included a free lunch. The only cost was parking. This was where I first met social media rockstar Mitch Joel.

PodCampTO 2010 [Feb 20-21, 2010 | Ryerson University]
The sessions my son and I attended were run by passionate hobbyists. They focused on doing things cheaply. Example: don't spend $50 on a headset microphone because $20 will do. They were proud to be noncommercial.

The attendees were diverse and included many students. Few had their own podcasts, despite the ease of getting started. That's not a surprise. What's strange is how few listen to podcasts. Yet they still attended and very few left a session before the end.

Personal Brand Camp 2 [Feb 23, 2010 | Berkeley Heritage Event Venue]
This event is different because it's not open to the public. It's for students of the Humber College public relations program. I volunteered as mentor. The day ends with Third Tuesday where Mitch Joel talks about Your Personal Brand (sorry, all tickets gone).

Attendees here are goal-oriented. They want good grades and great jobs.

If you've never attended or volunteered at a camp, you're missing a wonderful opportunity. There may be events for other topics too. If not, you can organize your own. Please don't hold it where the bugs bite.

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