I’ve started to notice a huge increase in hashtags in twitter later, it seems everyday there is an interesting conference or gathering of “experts” talking about various topics related to web 2.0, gov 2.0, democracy 2.0, participation 2.0, enterprise 2.0 , leadership 2.0 – i think you get the trend here. There is also an increase in the many smaller gatherings on a more local basis based around the traditional ( i say that reluctantly) tweetup format. Most of the time, i’m wishing i was there with everyone else, but instead generally settle for the twitter stream.
After a recent Exeter event #tags which essentially built upon the existing Exeter tweet-up – but wasn’t a tweet-up in itself, more of a informal “experience sharing” (i must confess i’ve never actually attended one – shame on me i know). It was after the event that some interesting discussion started on twitter – it wasn’t making any waves (not the google kind) and it wasn’t particularly controversial, but it did get me thinking. How do the many different types of meeting title differ in reality, or are they all just the same but “branded” to position it as something “different”.
Why am i even posting on this subject, well, for me it is about managing expectations and in a more socially connected world we can share or expectations and we can also report when something fails us or doesn’t deliver what it promised. I also think that the fact that these kinds of meetings have evolved out of these connections is something that needs to be maintained and if new opportunities for connections are identified then we need to be clear about what the focus is and what is expected of the people attending.
Another reason why i think it is important is that we need to be clear that anyone can initiate a meeting, based on their network, so you can have more than one type of tweet up in a locality, obviously it could benefit people to connect those tweet ups but it may not, groups may have a particular reason for coming together. I am assuming here that if people interested in a particular topic, lets say “eLearning” want to connect in a tweet up format then that is perfectly normal. If i’m not interested in elearning then i wouldn’t attend, or if it was related to a particular music band, again unless i’m interested i wouldn’t attend.
So i guess i’m kind of arguing for some consistency in how events are communicated (i say that instead of marketed for a reason as they should be inclusive and participative) and not “sold” to me as must attend event. After all social media puts you and me in control – we have the power to choose and more importantly influence.
OR this could all be worthless as i have asked myself “does it really matter what its called?” as long as it delivers value.
Ok lets starts: NB, this is not an exhaustive list and is only meant to stimulate conversation, if you disagree, comment, if you know of others, comment, either way don’t stay silent if you have something to say :o)
As every good researcher does nowadays – I did a search on google for “what is a tweet-up” and found an excellent definition, which for me sums up exactly what a tweetup is supposed to be about, so i won’t try and reinvent the wheel here, but the thing to remember i believe is that it is about meeting up with people because they are on twitter – hence tweet-up – obvious but still needs to be said.
A tweetup is an event where people who Twitter come together to meet in person. Normally we connect with our friends online after we have met them. At a tweetup you meet the people you might only otherwise know virtually. Like finally putting a name to a face, a tweetup is a great opportunity to really connect with the people in your network and share just a little more than 140 characters at a time.
I’m assuming that this is only related to twitter and that if you were a Yammer user you might well attend something called a “YamJam” or something like that. But i could be wrong, i don’t use Yammer, so i’m only guessing, but i definitely like the sound of a “YamJam”.
The best explanation comes from the twestival website itself.
A Twestival or Twitter-Festival is a global series of events organized by volunteers around the world under short timescales, which bring people offline for a great cause. Twestival is run 100% by volunteers and independently from any not-for-profit; although the organizing teams do work closely to outline an achievable and measurable fundraising target. Twestival also sets out to identify key skills of volunteers and match these with the needs of the cause; particularly communications strategy, tech integration and social media training.
Social Media Cafe or Social Media Club
Again a search or two later on google and it seems the consensus is that a Social Media Cafe is a place for ALL people interested in social media to gather, get acquainted, and to plot, scheme, and share.. emphasis on open and interesting conversation!
There are some great examples of Social Media Cafes around the country Birmingham, Manchester and of course London, which in fact calls itself the “Tuttle Club“. If you want to know a bit more about Social Media Cafe’s and the Tuttle Club then check out this video by Lloyd Davis.
Closer to home Cornwall has a Social Media Cafe as does Devon, But again i’ve not attended either, this is mainly due to the fact it has been in Plymouth, and my view is that they should be locally based. Devon is just too big or a county to easily get around to organise a Devon wide Social Media Cafe – perhaps we need to consider a sub set e.g. Exeter, East Devon, Torbay, North Devon and of course Plymouth, but that has to be a crowd driven process. by posting this , I have now just made my contribution to the discussion.
Slightly more formal and an informal way then the events above (< does that even make sense!!). Anyway the definition of a barcamp is a user generated conference (or unconference), which is open and participatory. It also relies on the participants to provide the content.
I’ve attended 2 barcamp events (UKGovWeb and LocalGovCamp) and they were both excellent, in my view this is the best type of event to attend for learning and exploration around particular issues. It doesn’t rely on any key-note session or “expert” analysis. It simply relies on the collective knowledge of those participants who have attended and the willingness to share the knowledge and learning they have. The key aspect of both of these events were that they were free to attend (funded by sponsorship and volunteers) and they were on a Saturday. This in my opinion made sure that those who attended had a real interest and willingness to share and connect with others. That for me is a true test, would you connect even if your work weren’t paying you?
In my opinion it is the most inclusive and interactive of this style of event. But i would say that as i used to work in the Local Agenda 21 arena (from 1998-2003 ) and Open Space Technology was very much part of the community consensus building process. It assumes that the community or participants are best placed to resolve and answer their own issues and questions. If not then action is devolved to people to find out and report back. Why i think it works so effectively now is the tools for collaboration are easy to access and the sharing of information pre and post event is easier.
Local variations have now started to appear in the form of LocalGovCamp Lincoln and i hope this continues and develops across different sectors. Perhaps we should pull together and organise and BarCampDevon and look to the voluntary, public and private sector to collaborate on improving services for all. If you are interested let me know via the comments section, as i’d be keen to explore the practicalities of taking this forward.
Ok, not strictly an event format or style as such, but i can’t write this post without at least referencing the recent likeminds event in Exeter. What was interesting about this event was that it was organised, promoted, marketed and pretty much run on occasion did sneak into the more traditional formats of having key-note speakers and panelists (i was even one them!!). It did go to the next step however and integrated social media into the event itself using twitterfall for audience feedback, and ustream for live broadcast (over 550 people watched live). As much as i enjoyed the event, i met some great people, connected dfaces with twitter ID’s and it is rare such as well attended event happens in Exeter – it didn’t provide me with the same opportunities that a BarCamp style event would have.
It did however generate huge twitter interest and even within hours of being raised during the event, started promoting t-shirts – surely that demonstrates the power of these tools.
Like i said earlier, why do i really care bout this, well for me, the type of event will determine whether or not i will attend (shallow i know but i’m pretty busy like most and if i don’t think i’ll gain from something i won’t attend). My preference of course as a participant is the inclusive barcamp style and i’m convinced that any participant of a barcamp style event will probably say the same. I have and will attend an event regardless of format, just to meet people – after all it is in those connections that i learn the most. I’ve also (recently in fact) sat through nearly 30 hours or death by powerpoint and i did learn, but i didn’t feel like i participated in an event, i felt like i was talked at and too most of the time…took me back to my school days.
So what about all the new events that are popping up, well for me, they are starting to take some of the “open” and “inclusive” principles away and are reverting back to more traditional styles of conference delivery. It may well be that this is what people are seeking and i have nothing against this approach. But i just don’t think it is in keeping with the ethos of the social web as a whole, which is inclusive, equal and participative, knowledge is shared and is not considered as “power”.
These are only my views and my opinions and on that note – Enough said. :0
32 thoughts on “Tweet-Ups, Meet-ups, Barcamps, YamJams, Clubs and Cafes”
Nice write up and overview Carl, including the separation of the terms used for meetups. Something had pondered on myself too and my thinking is in line with yours too.
I enjoy the ‘barcamp’ style as usually has a wider and more indepth purpose, but enjoy informal ‘tweetups’ to, as they often provide an informal opportunity to meet and connect with people that I link with online. I really enjoyed the Tuttle I went too (long time back now, back in Summer of 2008!) and great to see it’s effects have spread down here to the South West too. (Aim to get to the Devon Social Media Cafe one day soon, although always falls on the wrong evening so far!)
The question of value is a good one. If there is no value, I’d be unlikely to attend. I try to get to the ones that relate to me, or my work if able (Still not many of those here in Devon taking place, but mostly in other parts of the UK). Being located in a rural village rather than a hub of a city or big town with access to good transport links, I often end up following events via the twitter stream these days for many meetups.
It will be interesting to look back in another year again, and see how the ‘events’ around social media have evolved (or not!) to their next level, internationally, nationally and on a local level too!
Carl, I wonder if you could tell the world what a “curated unconference” is as I heard the term only last week? Is it similar to a Barcamp?
Great post by the way. I get that different events are better for different purposes: purely social networking versus learning versus exploiting opportunities all need a different mix of the elements in each of these formats.
Great post Carl, also raises some important issues of misusing social terms or technology to describe an event.
I attended the `supposed` tweet-up in Exeter yesterday, but was quite disappointed as it seemed more like a marketing seminar on how to exploit Social Media for money.
not totally fair although I think the term “tweetup” was possibly used in error: the ExeterCCM presentation wasn’t about money was it?
We can fix it all though: there are now enough tweeters in Exeter to have different themed events using some of the different models Carl outlines above. I’m still mad for a geekup and there’s nothing to stop us just having one. All we need is a date/time and a venue!
Thanks laura and martin,
@martin a ‘Curated Unconference’, is essentially the same as an unconference with the exception being that usually before each session starts you are given a short presentation or talk to frame the forthcoming session – it is intended to inform but not neccesarily influence the following group conversations. Hope that helps…
Good stuff Carl and enjoying the discussion. Having now attending all types, I’m certainly understanding the distinction more and more – but you do an excellent job of dividing them up.
As you point out – the value at each one is different – and with so many ‘social media’ things going on at the moment, we must have the correct expectations, otherwise as both participants and organisers we waste time.
As you and Martin know (and those who read my blog), I’m thinking through the structure of both these events, and organisations, through what I’m currently labelling as people-to-people or person-to-people. Others have already taken the ideas and suggested they are the difference between a ‘hub-and-spokes’ idea and a ‘mesh’.
What I have observed so far is this:
Person-to-people (which you’re not describing so much above) works when a room has a large range of ‘experts’ and ‘newbies’ (can you help with better terms?) – simply because the newbies get most value out of hearing an expert share in this format.
People-to-people is far better when the range of competency is not so wide, and everyone has something that is *probably* valuable to potentially anyone else in the room.
I know my language is clunky, and probably sounds condescending, but I think I make the point – just about!
What I need to get together – and I’m hoping you all can help – as how we work this kind of collaboration into a big event like LIke Minds – because I think we need both person-to-people, but we must have people-to-people too. The thing is, the venue also adds restrictions, because people-to-people requires space for movement and participation, where as person-to-people requires seats to listen.
My ideas and solutions so far are:
1. People-to-people must not be contained to time, space and matter. IOW, it can happen leading up, during, and after the event, both online and offline. The aim here is to ‘create’ the keynotes through the crowd. Daring, but exciting!
2. Small events make people-to-people easier – perhaps we can lead in with them.
What do you guys think? I guess we’ll discuss this over lunch! 🙂
Finally – @Adam – the website clearly said what the evening was about. What else are you asking for? Is it NOT important to help local businesses? Is that what you are saying?
great reply: I am really interested in all these different models having now experienced a few of them (and experienced the different cost/value ratio amongst them as well!).
Nothing to stop an event combining several forms of gathering even on the same day, all mashed up to provide maximum value to the attendees (and sometimes, the speakers/panellists too).
IMHO if any event is to be successful it just needs to be clear at the outset:
– who its aimed at
– what their needs are
– what value the event can bring to them as individuals and as organisations
Personally I enjoy the stuff for small biz leaders for my own reasons, but I am also a wage slave in a large organisation and so am equally interested in self-development and methods to help me break out of my box!
Personally combining 1 and 2 is the perfect combination but as you say “location and venue” are key to these things working effectively.
However doing both is still possible if 2 is supported by 1 and then leads up to a larger “consolidation event”
I agree that some people need to hear from the “experts” but why can’t that happen in more a informal setting where questions and discussion can be fluid and more social.
as you say will be good to catch up when we meet.
Well that’s the purpose of Like Minds Immersive.
Just noticed that three people have rated my comment as thumbs down as well. Trying to figure out what I said that was controversial
Not sure why your comment is thumbs down as I think you are doing exactly what is critical in my post. You are setting the expectation and seeking participation in the development of your thinking.
As you know I’m a big fan of likeminds and I support the work you are doing to offer a variety of events to meet the wide ranging needs that people have. Let’s keep the conversation going.
Scott, what’s Like Minds Immersive…is that the way that you are taking it forward/shaping it?
@georgejulian Immersive is a place for providing more direct, hands on training. The next one (December 3rd) is with Olivier and I on the subject of Developing and Integrating Social Media Strategy (something few ppl have)
The idea of Immersive is, like I said, a place for far more in-depth discussion and application – in a small group of 15/20
Like Minds in February will follow the format of the event last month, but we are currently shaping how we will facilitate more collaboration and a people-to-people structure.
This is what I’m looking for help with – and unfortunately, most people can point at what’s out of place, but can’t come and actually get into plae.
@Scott – “Is it NOT important to help local businesses? Is that what you are saying?” – No that is not what I am saying, I have in fact not said that.
I couldnt find a website for the event when I Googled it, I was told about the event by word of mouth. Previously as said I expected a more social styled tweet-up, it was undeniably a marketing event – the word “strategy” and the terms “make money” were used more than I was interested in. As I previously said, if you were into Marketing – then I am sure it was fantastic and I cannot fault that.
Thanks for the post Carl, really useful distinctions made.
I agree with Laura and Martin’s thoughts on value and the need to be clear of the purpose for attending/engaging and possible outcomes. I think people (reasonably) feel disgruntled when they attend expecting one thing and get something else and I think there is a skill in managing expectations – I guess that is where the strength in the barcamp/unconference model lies if it is shaped by the audience.
I really enjoyed Likeminds (thanks Scott) and thought it was a great event but I had chosen to attend at my own cost/in my own time and felt that the questions it set out to answer were unlikely to be possible in one afternoon (so I guess I had realisic expectations). From the discussions I had (on the day and after) some people felt that it didn’t do as advertised (provide them with answers about measuring ROI) and while you could take the view that they were naive in expecting ‘answers’ or that they were ‘not getting it’, I think if I’d gone in work time/cost I’d have struggled to justify my attendance. Anyway that was really just to back up the point about expectations.
So, what solutions do you bring?
This isn’t just about likeminds as most conferences and events struggle with this.
The fact that likeminds was £25 was easier, compared to trying to justify over £400 for something.
I’ve often tried to ensure that I have some key “take homes” from anything I attend.
A simple form for participants that asks for there top 3 learning points and names of people they connected with as part of the participant pack might be something to work on. This could also link to evaluation of event.
This assumes there is sufficient time to network and connect, perhaps giving additional space/time to allow this would help.
You could introduce this aspect into group sessions also as a way of stimulating discussion around shared learning and key contacts.
Some random thoughts really.
Well I think overall the event was a huge success, so I’m not sure how much attention you need to pay to the people who didnt feel it was for them…I guess it depends on your goals and what you wanted out of it. If you feel that you achieved what you hoped for, then I’m not sure it needs solving or solutions.
I think with all events it is key to have a very clear articulation of who the event is aimed at and what it aims to achieve, rather than just who is speaking, so that people can make judgements for themselves and manage their expectations. I guess for those of you who are experienced (I’ll not call you gurus) in social media it is easy to forget how ‘new’ this is for some ppl and I sense that the audience at Likeminds was incredibly diverse and included people who didnt know what twitter was before they got there!
For future events maybe some opportunity to start some discussions before hand, maybe background briefing/reading/sites to check out so that people have the basics if they want them? If it’s possible to get a venue you can split maybe stream it for some bits – basic and advanced, or do some parallel talks/workshops facilitated by your ‘experts’ that then feed into a whole session.
The other thing that might help is if when booking on eventbrite ppl could see the attendance list of who else would be there….so that they can guage for themselves whether they are likely to know people/benefit from meeting other ppl there.
All of these are just thoughts…I’m good on discussion/thinking, not necessarily programmed to ‘problem solve’ and to be honest I’m not sure that I felt it needed a solution. As I said at the beginning I really enjoyed it, so thanks again.
A large part of how Like MInds adds value is by providing a moderately large group of people exposure to new thinking, new ideas, in an accessible and very cost effective way.
As I said, for a room with a wide range between the speakers and listeners, a person-to-people, speaker-to-audience model provides (historically) the most value
But inspiration and instruction don’t just come this way, and as I said, with a people-to-people model, where it’s not an audience but a group of people participating, there can be more value if the attendees are up for this.
What we need to ascertain is how to do the second – because our aim is to assist and add value
As the old adage goes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Let’s get some perspective people. No matter how much you spell out the intentions of an event (any event) we all come with our own interpretation of what that means to us individually.
With this in mind I don’t think it’s possible to fully manage expectations (although you can give it a good go). Claims such as “we will provide answers about measuring ROI” could be interpreted thus: Those that have little or no understanding of this could think “great, I’m going to come away with the tools that will enable me to measure social media ROI”. Whereas those with more experience of this area, who know that there is no definitive answer yet, will expect to come away with a few opinions on how it could be done”. There is no right answer. (Personally mine was the second, so my expectations were fulfilled).
Now, moving forward with this. How about engaging the wisdom of the Likeminds crowd (everyone that attended and anyone interested) and get them to shape the next event? Give it to the people to tell you want they want (within reason), deliver that. Job done.
You’re clearly starting that process here, but perhaps it’s worth formalising the process and getting those with opinions to put their money where their mouths are?
sorry about the formatting stuff, can’t seem to remove it 😦
I just removed the formatting for you and resaved your comment. Hope that is ok with you
Thanks for this Martin. My trouble with your suggestions is, IMO, they move towards a far more tech-focussed crowd, especially the wiki.
Many people who came last time simply want to hear from the experts and either 1. don’t feel they can participate or add value, or 2. just don’t want to participate.
I feel there’s something to be said for participation leading up the event. Making it all happen on one day goes against the grain of augmented reality and the fact that we do not need to collaborate at the same time. This is where I think few have succeeded, and where I am keen to do something innovative.
There is some great conversation here. I suggest that ultimately, this conversation is about the needs of attendees, regardless of the type of the event. That’s a good thing. That’s where the focus should belong.
I’d like to offer a different perspective on this issue.
I submit that if a conference professional takes into account the ways people like to learn, and engage with each other and the content, then the organizer will plan differently. Instead of seeing the meeting in isolation as a one-time occurrence, the event organizers consider it as one tochpoint in a multitude of community tounchpoints. When organizers see their audiences as community, they will design new models of connections that include both the virtual and face-to-face components. The meeting is then only one of a series of community experiences, with integrated content at its core.
The traditional conference model relies on a hierarchy of expertise and disciplinary divides without much thought given to the learner. Today people learn in new ways that are both collective and egalitarian. Learning is interactive and without walls. Sitting passively in chairs is not the best way to learn and the brain gets bored quickly.
Conference organizers must plan for a variety of delivery styles with some vertical, one-to-many ballroom style presentations as well horizontal, peer-to-peer, collaborative, networked learning approaches. Conference strategies shift from presumed authority to collective credibility. When considering these types of sessions, organizers may offer a keynote speaker followed by a peer-to-peer roundtable discussion with appointed table facilitators (not content experts). The discussion is driven at each table by the participants and the facilitator acts as an experience chauffer. This is just one example of providing both delivery styles. Other options could be that organizers provide open-meeting discussions, café type discussions as well as facilitated breakouts.
Instead of trying to pigeonhole the experience to a one-size fits all model, intentionally structure a variety of experiences. Then attendees can customize the experience to meet their personal preferences. Regardless, the meeting style, the content still must be remarkable and unique in order for people to pay for the experience. And the content must be significant and extraordinary to retain repeat attendees.
“Instead of seeing the meeting in isolation as a one-time occurrence, the event organizers consider it as one tochpoint in a multitude of community tounchpoints. When organizers see their audiences as community, they will design new models of connections that include both the virtual and face-to-face components. The meeting is then only one of a series of community experiences, with integrated content at its core.”
WOW. You have elegantly described what I have been mulling over for weeks.
This is what I have been thinking about for Like Minds. The conference in February is simply a large touchpoint that culminates a far larger number of more intimate community touches that have led up to it, and will continue throughout and after it.
The content, being integrated from the community touchpoints, has been made by the community for the community, extracted from the crowd though, and guided by expert facilitators.
What I still must get clear is how to do this, and how to do it in a way that facilitates all levels of engagement. A wiki, for instance, is too heavy. Twitter is too disconnected. So how to do this, and how to continually provide value, is my concern.
Consider your blog subscribed too, Jeff.
I too really like Jeffs comment, which takes my crowdsourcing thinking much further. Could you use Yammer or Google Wave for this Likeminds community? (this is top of head as I’ve not had time to really think it through, but thought I’d throw it out there)
I like Jeff’s comment as well, but this final question of Scott’s:
“What I still must get clear is how to do this, and how to do it in a way that facilitates all levels of engagement. A wiki, for instance, is too heavy. Twitter is too disconnected. So how to do this, and how to continually provide value, is my concern.”
…and taking on board Scott’s response to my idea of a wiki (fair comment!), leads me to think that the marketer’s toolkit of segmentation and positioning needs to come into play maybe? Google Wave might work for some sections of the audience, but others might need something different, like a e-mail list, IRC (do we still even have that anymore?), forum or even smaller offline events. So we just(!) need to understand who the audience are and how they want to participate.
At the recent Gartner even I attended there were feedback forms everywhere, we were inundated with questionnaires about who we were, what we wanted, and how we wanted it. It’s very old school but it probably worked.
Scott, Redcubemarketing & Martinhowit:
Thanks for the kind words. How to do it? Well, there are many ways. Out of respect for Carl’s blog, I won’t take up a lot of space here with my suggestions. I will leave you with this:
When designing the community’s season of experiences, think about the topics and subject matter first. What topics does the crowd want to see? Avoid having the crowd identify people or speakers, stick with topics & content. Use crowdsourcing for this process.
What topics does your advisory board and thought leaders identify as important? (Yeah, you need a forward thinking advisory board.) Then identify the levels –beginner, intermediate, advanced–for each topic. When identifying topics, choose some that the crowd can use collaboration to co-create the content for the actual presentation. I submit one thing–if you only choose topics that crowd has sourced, the limitations are “The crowd doesn’t know what it doesn’t know.” Make sense? So pick a mix of topics from the crowd and from your thought leaders.
Once you identified the topics, find speakers to fit those topics. When securing speakers, contract them to provide a variety of things including pre- and post- Webinars, blog posts, eNews articles, Internet radio interviews (recorded as MP3 & podcasts), moderators of Twitter or eCommunity scheduled chats and of course the face-to-face event. Also make sure you have good facilitators that can help moderate collaboration for some of the topics. Once finished, then you can plan the year or season for your community’s experience.
Hope that helps.
Excellent stuff guys, the latter comments seem to elude to a focused Action Learning Set which essentially is a programme of learning which can happen over a year.
This is generally a fixed learning programme and isn’t as flexible as what I would envisage you’d want to create. But it does provide the format as it contains all of the levels in my latest post.