For (even) Better Barcamps!

pmcamp-logo-dornbirnThere is still potential for improvement for Barcamps such as #AktMobCmp or #pmcamp. After all, also anti-conferences – like everything in life – can be worked on.

The first rule might well be:
A small barcamp is better than a big one!
Following the motto “small but powerful”.

The most important thing is not that as many persons as possible come!
Even though we rather like it if many people come. After all, we have all been brought up to appreciate more and more growth, which means everything has to be as big as possible. But that is not what is best.
Note: Big barcamps will probably not be a problem. You would have to organize them as an n-tuple of many small ones.

What we really want is that people as a social unit have a lot of fun together during two days!
And additionally, we want them to understand, comprehend and discover many things that were new to them.
And those are things you will accomplish more easily in a small group.

Except – how to go about it?

I am sure that those who organize the event will have to come up with ideas in their invitation letters. You will want to precisely describe what the barcamp is about – i.e. you will clearly define the topic. Yet you must not restrict it, but instead keep it as open as possible. And you will want to choose a clear motto. That is exactly what we tried to do with AktMobCmp.

This is not about the right or wrong persons attending. It is about female and male, young and old. It is about sharing experiences, opinions and knowledge during the barcamp while accepting that you are part of a social unit and prepared to communicate at eye-level, respecting and appreciating each other. You should bring heart, competence, interest, enthusiasm, criticism, technological competence, tolerance … in a provocative and constructive way, considerately and openly, tentatively and courageously, optimistically and pessimistically, curiously and boldly, transparently and in a simple way.

The organizers are also in a particularly challenging position. Because the barcamp is the host and “only” provides the frame that makes it possible for many ME-s to become one WE. The two days commonly set aside for a barcamp are a short time and you want to use them optimally. The environment and atmosphere must be just right and the initial phase must be a success.

However, the organizers are not responsible for the selection of topics. The topics will be provided by the participants. That is why we also call them “part-givers”. This is how what really matters is the shared work during the “sessions“. It has to be done individually for each day. Within a day, something may also change dynamically. But you have to be careful not to violate the interests of individual participants.

The better a session is (pre)qualified, the better it will turn out. Especially the format of the sessions is something you should definitely discus and decide in advance.

So the most important session is the one where all the sessions of the entire day are discussed and decided upon. This includes determining what actually is the problem, how we want to work on it together and what you want to harvest at the end of the day.

The potential session formats are:

  • Debate
    Also known as “battle”. It is a dialogue between two groups – totally in the sense of the classical dialectics – where both parties always try to respond to exactly the arguments of the other party in their replies. This means there are two opposing parties and a “referee” who takes the time. There is also the audience voting on who won which step. The specialty is that the dice are thrown in advance to decide what side you have to be on – this is how you also have to practice negative thinking.
  • Honest discourse
    There is a simple rule by Habermas: Everybody gives his opinion, it is all exclusively about arguments, regardless of what a reputation or position a person has.
  • Fishbowl
    You will also find the term in Wikipedia. If you asked me, then I would say the “fishbowl” is the normal discussion, moderating itself in a creative way.
  • Modern consensus finding
    There are numerous methods. If I wanted to name them all, the available space would not be enough. Let the example of the “Art of Hosting Method” as we used it rather successfully at the 2015 Dornbirn PM Camp suffice.PMCampDOR Intro 2015
  • Creative Space
    It is always nice to see something being created that actually lasts. It might be a workshop of the design session where, for example, you create a cartoon or a video film. With a good team, this is often done at surprising speed and quite well.
  • Story-Telling
    A few nice questions, a quiet room and then the stories will pour out. The important thing is that you do not discuss or debate anything. Instead, someone tells a story and the others listen. Here is a report  of one event of this kind I was part of.
  • Games and prototyping
    As we all know, there are all varieties of approaches, starting from the famous SeriousPlay with Lego bricks.

There are probably others – one of them, of course, is the normal presentation.

Naturally, the topics are provided by the participants. If they already come with topics, then they can choose in which form they wish to present or interactively process said topics. Of course, it is best if matters develop during the event.

Using such methods consciously is meant to increase the value for the participants, because they can experience new things, but there will also be new results and insights.

All I can say is: I promise that you will find quite a few things to talk about during the ActMobCmp or AktMobCmp (both spellings are correct).

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(Translated by EG)

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