Thursday, May 07, 2009

Laid Off Camp: Lessons Learned

I talked with Chris Hutchins on Wednesday, 5/6/09. Chris has been part of the organization for each of the camps run thus far. He is working to establish LaidOffCamp as a formal non-profit organization including 503c status.

These are my notes from the conversation. They were initially captured as the conversation flowed and over time edited to move like sections/topics together.

The intended audience of LaidOffCamp (LOC for short here after) is anyone without a full time job.
The audience has generally been not as tech savvy as other unconferences
While 90% had not heard of an unconference before, they all loved it

LOC works for the PR angle, it catches the press attention
would like to find a better name
still needs to reflect folks laid off, out of work, looking to network and use peer learning to improve the process of finding their next position

History to date
San Francisco - approx 400 attended with four rooms available, during the evening, at a night club
New York - approx 150 attended with 6 rooms in a college building
Dallas - approx 80 attended (Chris did not go)
Los Angeles - 60-75 folks attended (Chris did not go)

New York was a two-part affair with a keynote and panel on the night before the full conference. Feedback says it did not work out so well.

Recommends running the event from 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM
this avoids the expense of providing breakfast and lunch and really minimizes the cost of the event
if you can get a free venue, this helps

SF had great energy at the event, possibly due to the night club atmosphere
NY had an educational feel, likely due to the college setting

if you obtain sponsors, you can use their support to provide for beverages, etc
you'll also need to print a page with the sponsors listing (including info, logo, etc.)

on attendee badges, remember to include space for them to tag themselves
I mentioned the Jeff Pulver "social media networking kit"
you can view the video here

Back to facility needs
should plan for 25-40 folks per room
about 25-33% of the rooms should have technical capabilities (wifi, projector, etc.)

there have been three kinds of sessions
  • a presentation with Q&A
  • a story and facilitated discussion
  • straight facilitated discussion
much of the audience has been willing to sit back and listen
don't schedule any sessions before the day itself
about 45 minutes works best for sessions (I agree from prior experience with other camps)
should feel free to experiment with our own way of holding/conducting the camp

Schedule Day of
NY (similar to HealthCamp Boston) posted the grid of rooms and time slots on a wall
then filled them in the day of
need a moderator to watch the sessions being scheduled and make intelligent combinations
make sure each session has a person's name associated with it
a person can either be suggesting the need for a session, or proposing to conduct a session
some of the camps tried doing the scheduling on the wiki but it didn't seem to help
many folks were not aware of a wiki and how it works

LOC Miami has developed their own website
risk with creating their own is they won't be found as easily as if they were part of the main site

use Facebook to publicize and obtain interest
use Eventbrite to actually register the attendees
create a ticket for attendees to participate for free
create a ticket with an open dollar amount for the sponsors to self serve their contribution
otherwise, they would have to contact someone on the committee and that complicates the transaction

In SF they also used some Blue t-shirts, with "I'm Hiring" to identify sponsors who were willing to identify themselves as hiring.
don't want to deliberately include recruiters as this could compete with a job fair
want to emphasize the peer learning opportunity

Chris seems likely to modify the PodCamp rules and keep only 2
  1. use an open grid for scheduling, the grid remains open until the day of
  2. sponsors are all treated alike, no matter the level of contribution