During our travels across our fruited plain (always wanted to say that :), Brad and I have become quite familiar how RE BarCamps are run and what takes place at each event. It doesn’t make Brad or I RE BarCamps experts but more like informed observers. Stand behind a camera for 8 hours at multiple events and it will illuminate your mind.

Helping RE BarCamps Benefit All

While each RE BarCamp is unique, there are some shared commonalities about them all. Those common values include ardent sharers and seekers of information, awesome networking opportunities coupled with pre and post RE BarCamp fun social opportunities. Here’s the thing, based on feedback voiced by attendees and read in our streaming chat room during our streams, there is a growing disappointment over the failure to deliver the kind of environment and experience some attendees were hoping for. It’s not a major problem now but, it seems to be a growing trend. I’ll identify a few of those voiced challenges momentarily.

Why Write this Post You Ask?

It’s not to “stir the pot” or “be controversial”. Frankly, I’m not crazy about controversy. Because I believe so strongly in this movement IJeff & Monika wanted to speak out on behalf of many who have been silent to date. These trends, if not recognized, could lead to some challenging issues for the organizers and the attendees alike. The last thing I want to see happen is the RE BarCamp movement lose momentum. Hence the reason for writing this post. It’s written with the hope that each RE BarCamp will be even more beneficial to all who attend and participate. Participation by everyone is key. Offering a nonthreatening environment for learning is another key to unlocking the success of RE BarCamps.

Suggestions for Re BarCamp Organizers

Allow me to begin with the planners of RE Bar Camps. Those who help orchestra these events should be supported, thanked for their REBCCLTmonumental efforts and appreciated for their tireless work. If you are in the midst of planning an RE bar Camp, I trust these tips will help make your job a tad bit easier. I sure hope so. Consider these suggestions.

Let’s Get Logistical!

It seems more participation is encouraged when the “main” room is organized with chairs arranged in a circular fashion or with tables and not in a “theater mode”. If tables aren’t available, no big deal. Just begin your BarCamp with your chairs situated in theater mode, then ask attendees to rearrange them in circles conducive for discussion when breakout sessions begin. If you have separate breakout rooms, have the chairs there arranged in this manner as well. It’s amazing how the logistics of a room setup impacts and encourages participation. At least give it a try. For opening and closing statements, don’t forget to secure sound reinforcement.. AKA, a PA system. Even in a small group, often it’s difficult for everyone to hear.

Stop Presenting and Start Facilitating ….

RE BarCamp planners, instead of asking thought leaders and subject matter experts to “present” on a desired topic requested by those in attendance, or prearranged in advance, maybe expectations should be set to encourage presenters to “moderate” and “facilitate” discussion on a topic. I recall with fond memories my first RE Bar Camp in NYC when the breakout sessions were small and didn’t include powerpoint presentations. Our collaborative discussions were exhilarating. From that event, things have changed. Maybe size does matter.

Stop Selling, Start Leading!

In some cases, presenters have seized the opportunity to offer products/services as solutions. Ideally, it is my humble opinion, a breakout session should REBarCampabout guiding thought-provoking discussions. Not to make excuses, but it’s in a vendor’s DNA to demonstrate a product’s features and benefits. I feel there has been a failure on two fronts. Number one, planners must set proper expectations with vendors/thought leaders and ensure that RE BarCamps aren’t the opportunity to demo products and services. Second, just because we sponsor these events doesn’t give us the right to expect to use precious RE BarCamp time to hawk products and services. In keeping with the principals of social media, RE BarCamps aren’t the time to hype products/services. It’s the prime time to show value and share knowledge, period. If you want to discuss your products and services do it at a more appropriate time or after the event is over.

Facilitators, Know Your Audience

If it’s your responsibility to facilitate a breakout, make sure the content being offered fits those who are in attendance. For example, if the topic is “Blogging 101”, advise attendees where they can blog and offer all the different types of blogging platforms and sites (avoid mentioning just one particular website or platform). State reasons why blogging is important. Offer creative content ideas. Gauge the group and help steer the dialog in the right direction. Avoid getting too techie. Remember, the purpose is to guide a group of blogging newbies. Stay on topic as best you can (bunny trails happen) and always solicit questions and comments to the ultimate benefit of all.

Maybe Smaller RE BarCamps & More of Them?

As word of mouth travels through RE.net (the real estate community on the web), these events will grow in popularity. I’m satisfied of that. In fact, it’s already happening. If planners wish to maintain some level of intimacy, common sense would dictate you keep the maximum number of attendees at or below 75.  Why that magic number? The Fredericksburg RE BarCamp had around 65 in attendance and to me, that was a special event. Restricting the attendance should also make the task of finding a suitable venue less difficult. Then the next logical choice would be to schedule more hyper-local events. That’s the way real estate is going anyway, hyper-local. Why not put that concept to work in the RE BarCamp realm?

Speak Out!

In conclusion, if you have organized and planned a past RE BarCamp, I solicit your feedback. If you have attended a RE BarCamp, please leave a comment as well. I’m sure your feedback will be welcomed by those who are currently planning future events. If you are currently planning an event, you chime too.

By the way, if you know me you know I wasn’t motivated to write this post to throw stones but to make observations in hopes future RE BarCamps will be even better. I’m sold on them. Todd Carpenter, Andy Kaufman, Brad Coy, and others who set the RE BarCamp wheels in motion are visionaries in my book. I guess I’m a wee bit melancholy and long for the experience like that of my first RE BarCamp I attended in NYC.

Bobby Carroll – Not an expert, just a passionate believer in RE BarCamps