Last Saturday, Shelby and I presented our “She Said, He Said” live show at WordCamp Milwaukee. It has become more of a show than a presentation. Yes, we deliver useful content and spend a great deal of time deciding what we are going to talk about before each opportunity to get in front of an audience. But while we prepare, we are certainly not scripted and that’s my big takeaway from WordCamp. Don’t be scripted and don’t repeat yourself.
User conference = be unscripted
WordCamps are a unique kind of conference. They are 100 percent user supported. All the organizers and people working to make the conference a success are volunteers. That is to say the organizers, speakers and attendees are equals. There is not, nor should there be, a perceived hierarchy and that was accomplished this past weekend in Milwaukee.
Because I was both speaking and helping organize, I ended up only being able to catch two sessions besides the one Shelby and I led. My new friend Vid Luther had slides and all but he also mentioned he’d created them at 4:30 a.m. that same day. His presentation was at 9 a.m. so I sure wouldn’t call his presentation scripted. Within a few minutes of starting the session, he was taking questions from the audience of about 100. While he answered many of the questions, he also asked the audience for help and additional input on a few.
On day two of the conference, I got to sit in on my friend Pete Prodoehl’s session and it turned out to be a conversation not a presentation. Pete showed us how he used WordPress to blog and then solicited (okay demanded) input from audience members. Pete’s a damn good blogger who’s been at it since 1997 but is also smart enough to realize no one person will ever know it all.
Collaborative communities work best
It would be very hard to argue that every single person at WordCamp Milwaukee was not working to make the event a success. While I’m not bad mouthing conferences that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to attend and are professionally organized, I can tell you I seldom if ever see such teamwork at such events.
My takeaway is simple: Break down the hierarchy of the organizations you work with and in, and then turn them into true collaborative environments. If you do, you’ll get more done and have more fun. Want proof of the concept? Come hang out with Shelby and me sometime.