All you had to do was knock over a phone box, sell your brother’s motorbike and you had enough to record and release a 7″ single.
I quite like that.
Few things have given me greater satisfaction than a DIY project I’ve been involved with that has grown and evolved over the past three years with Si Whitehouse, Andy Mabbett, Kate Sahota, Mike Rawlins and others.
The project, called Brewcamp, brings people together to talk, learn and share in and around local government in the West Midlands. We even have a sporadically updated website here.
I’ve blogged about it before here and I’m re-posting this advice to encourage you to do something similar.
Basically, every two months we find a cafe to meet up for three sessions.
It’s very simple.
1. You find a cafe that opens in the evening and is willing to take 15 or 20 extra customers.
2. Wifi is nice but not essential.
3. You find three people to each talk about a topic.
4. You don’t allow presentations. They gets in the way.
5. You think of a name for it that means something to your area.
6. You put up an eventbrite with the location, date and time so you can issue tickets.
7. You carry it out.
8. You learn things and enjoy.
9. If you fancy changing these rules to suit yourself you can.
10. That’s it.
If ever you fancied learning about the changing landscape, felt like learning something and think that tea, cake and conversation is a good idea you should do this.
So, what’s stopping you?
Creative commons credit
So, here they are. To continue the list meme things that struck me after commscamp an unconference for pr and comms people.
I wish there was more of these.
I hope that some people who came to commscamp left as inspired as I did when I left localgovcamp in 2009.
I wish there was more time to stop and chat with more who came.
I hope people left for London with an inkling of why the West Midlands is good at this unconference stuff. It’s three c’s: cake, curry and conversation.
I wish that I’d have got those ‘stuff your press release’ stickers made in time.
I hope that our team meetings in future also run peer training which sees colleagues show others how they did something.
I wish that not just local government and central government share ideas better but fire, police, NHS and voluntary sectors too.
I hope that other events bring people from outside the comfort zone too with the confidence to point out things like that no, we’re not brands we’re people to a room full of comms people.
I wish Mike Rawlins could have been around for the punch up on press releases. What larks would have followed.
I hope that Kate Bentham knows how much I was grateful to her for being Official Cake Monitor. She was brilliant.
I wish to accept 1/135th of credit for the good things said about the event and deflect the rest to the other 135 who came. I’m pretty sure that Ann Kempster and Darren Caveney would say similar.
I hope that there is a localgovcamp in Brum again this year.
I wish good things to volunteers Alex, Kate, Pauline, Si, Kelly, Emma and Laura.
I hope the sponsors know how appreciative we are that the organisers don’t have to sell their cars to pay for it to Govdelivery, FutureGov, dxw, comms2point0, The Social Simulator, Claremont, NLGN, Improvement and Delivery West Midlands, PSCSF, Public i and LGA.
I wish that when people see spam on a hashtag they’ll react calmly and not click on the boob links rather than suggest we abandon the hashtag.
I hope that everyone who came did a little thing to change or innovate before they switch on their inbox every day.
I wish that people would stop thinking about traditional and digital and just think of comms.
I hope we have more people who become the organisation’s digital comms sweet sharer who scans the horizon, tries things out and encourages other less keen colleagues to come on in.
I wish people outside the sector could see that there’s real value in sessions that are about meat and potato issues. Not just horizon scanning.
I hope to do other things in the future with Ann Kempster.
I wish every event had a facilitator as good as Lloyd Davis and that I took pictures that make you smile as well as Paul Clarke.
Creative commons credits.
It’ll be staged Bond Company in Fazeley Street, Birmingham.
This place used to be a warehouse that shipped ice to London. I mean. How cool is that?
Now it’s a meeting space and offices for Birmingham’s creative industries.
Commscam will see more than 150 people come to put their collective heads together for a barcamp around comms, pr, marketing digital stuff. You can mention the word ‘press release’ too. That’s allowed.
I’m pleased to say there’s a real mix between local government, government and people outside these fields and a mix too between unconference veterans and newbies. That’s just how it should be.
Why am I biased? Because I’m helping organise it with Ann Kempster from the Cabinet Office and Darren Caveney from Walsall Council two quite brilliant people.
Why are we doing it? Because we’ve seen enough of how unconferences work to see that they can be hugely successful and we think there’s things to be discussed and ideas to be shared in our field.
So, what’s the agenda? There isn’t one. It’s a big blank sheet of paper that those who are coming along will help to shape. That’s the beauty of an unconference. It all gets pulled together by those who are coming along. You can find out more about the event at it’s website here and if you haven’t already feel free to mention a session here. You don’t even have to have a ticket as we’ll be livestreaming some of the sessions and we’ll be tweeting too on the #commscamp13 hashtag.
So why are we doing commscamp?
Well, I can’t speak for Darren and Ann but for me…
We need to share ideas and inspiration. In 2013 it can be tough working in comms in and around government. But those who work in the field can be a hugely passionate bunch. A good idea at the FCO could well work somewhere in local government. Without big budgets sharing the ideas can work.
You don’t have to be an unconference veteran to get something out of it. Just last week I was up in Manchester for the LGComms social media event. Rather bravely, they tried a loose unconference element. Of the 60 in a room about six had been to an unconference. Was I worried? Yes. People were only too keen to suggest the 12 sessions we had. Commscamp was roadtested and passed.
You need to plug into the West Midlands. Okay, so I’m a bit biased (but I declared that right there at the start) but there’s been a stack of good things in the West Midlands for some time around digital and innovation. Perhaps it’s the beer or the geographical closeness but there’s ideas to be had and shared.
You need to learn from people outside comms. Some of the best ideas and approaches I’ve had have come from talking to bloggers, engineers, police officers and coders. Listen. Talk. Learn. While there’s a focus on PR people there’ll be some input from those outside the sector too.
Local government people need to talk to government people once in a while. There are ideas in Shropshire that may shape what’s done by a government department to communicate to people. Vica versa too.
Our sponsors are lovely. There’s a big list of them down the side of the blog here.
If you’ve ever been told: ‘what we need is a comms plan’ and wanted to scream you’ll be in good company. There’ll be a session of primal screaming just to get over this, I’m sure.
Cake is good. Underpinning any unconference is the cake table. Baking is the first social media, I’m sure of it.
Here’s your call to action right here:
1) If you’ve got a ticket say ‘hoorah!’ and think of something that you’d like to see cracked or maybe think of something you are proud of and would like to share. Post it here on the discussion thread.
2) If you haven’t got a ticket go to February 26 in your calender and put the date in your diary along with the words: “Dammit, I missed a ticket but I can still follow #commscamp13 on Twitter.” There’ll be a livestream posted to this hashtag on the day too.
3) If you’ve a ticket and you can’t go tell us, say: ‘oh no!’ Tell us and we’ll release it to the frankly large waitlist.
4) Take a look at the commscamp blog here.
5) Can you help? See how you can help here and share the buzz. Or as we’re in Brum, point people where to catch the buzz. Take a look here to see how you can help.