Events … the final frontier? These are the voyages of the Star Ship Event Camp. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new tech, to seek out new ways and new audiences, to boldly go where no event-goer has gone before.
OK so this might seem a little melodramatic, but with all the exciting technology available, events are becoming more space age by the minute and it does somewhat capture the intentions of the international Event Camp movement. While technology is still not quite at the ‘beam me up Scott’ point, it certainly allow us to beam the content anywhere we like now, something the international Event Camp movement has done with meteoric impact.
Event Camps succeed by featuring what’s new, not and coming in the event technology sphere. Being able to cheaply stream event content to multiple-locations and bring remote people — audiences and presenters — into the room in a way that makes them part of the deal rather than just watchers on the side-lines has enabled a very different event model to emerge. They’re edgy. They’re now. They’re loved by participants … and that’s not only Geeks. They’re sandpit meets social club and they’re paving the way to the obsolescence of the standard ‘tech pods’ at events.
Event Camps are fundamentally predicated on people and the greater good, rather than outright profit and are able to offer an honesty and transparency of purpose that is not always a comfortable fit with bottom line imperatives. Of course, there is always a quid-pro-quo and they do offer a showcase for technologies like ours, but the movement is a catholic one and anyone is welcome, competitors included.
While the tools being used to stage Event Camps progressively look like gadgetry the SS Enterprise would have been familiar with — the Showmanator for one can’t wait for the time when augmented reality comes into it’s own in the events space — the innovation is more about the their informality and co-operative nature. They succeed by hooking into the contemporary psyche in terms of how people want to find information and each other using their social networks, and they are shaped around the dynamics of how social networks build and evolve. This enables a form of engagement that brings together people from all over the world who are prepared to share what they know. Some are at the cutting edge. Some seek inspiration and ways of future proofing their events. Some are simply curious. In many cases, as with the average organising committee, they involve people who might normally compete with each other coming together in the prevailing philosophy of ‘give to get’.
By using the social networking tools, rather than expensive filming options or virtual platforms, Event Camps are relatively cheap to run. They make it possible to put together a stellar presenter line-up — the goodwill of a not-for-profit event is not to be underestimated — and reach out to audiences that would have been unimaginable even a couple of years ago, in ways people progressively want to connect. They’re sustainable and generally good for the environment and people love them
However, with Event Camp Middle East 2013 (ECME) in a couple of week’s time, the model is evolving again and we are seeking to boldly going where no Event Camp has gone before. ECME is attached to GIBTM in Abu Dhabi, one of the Blue Ribband events for events people, organised by Reed Exhibitions. In effect ECME will be a fringe event a little like the fringe programmes that mushroom around significant arts festivals. The synergies are clear; the mother ship event gains a highly innovative side-show which fulfils it’s ‘futurist’ obligations in the tech sphere — trying not to think “Klingons on the starboard bow’ here! — and the fringe event moves into a new stratosphere. There is a risk that by doing this the Event Camp blunders into the black hole of identify loss, but the benefits to both parties are clear, so it’s warp speed ahead.
Event Camps are not intended as a replacement for physical events. We don’t see them as disruptive or ‘going to the dark side’ (if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphor). Rather they fill a need that is not being met elsewhere and it’s worth thinking about whether the format might site well alongside and augment your flagship event so will continue to ‘live long and prosper’!