“Theory : The BarCamp brand is getting a bad rap because the events are stuffed with ‘beginners,’ and led by technical intermediates. Thoughts?”
A good friend of mine sent me this message this morning. I’m inclined to agree agree. But I also think the events would be better if they were led by *beginners* and stuffed with *intermediates*. You see, I don’t think the problem with RE BarCamp is as much about who is leading the sessions as it is about how they are being led.
Let’s skip back to 2008. As Andy Kaufman explained to me how the first RE BarCamp was going to play out, I was very concerned that real estate people wouldn’t be able to embrace a pure unconference experience. For the most part, I was proven wrong. It was a great success, and now there are similar events happening all around the globe. But even at that first BarCamp, many of the people leading discussions spent more time presenting their ideas than facilitating a conversation.
Of course, it’s natural to default to your own thoughts. This is why it’s hard to find great moderators and easy to find great speakers. What RE BarCamp needs is more moderators.
RE BarCamp has had its growing pains. Some events have been hit with several vendors trying to do product pitches. Others have had issues with people who want to dominate the sessions as way to establish themselves as a speaker. Leading a session should not be equivalent to speaking at a conference. Many times, these sessions still end well, but it’s not in the true spirit of what was originally trying to be achieved.
Let me (literally) show you what I’m talking about. Take a look at this picture.
This was my session on mortgages during the first RE BarCamp. There are three things happening here that lead to a great RE BarCamp session:
The chairs are arranged in a circle. Everyone has equal exposure and, therefore, has the mental buy-in that they are a part of a conversation, not a part of an audience.
I am not in the photo. This is partly because I took the photo, but it’s mostly because I had time to take it. All I did was ask some key questions of the group to get the conversation rolling. When the conversation started to die, I moved the group to a new topic.
There was beer. No, this is not the reason it’s called “bar” camp. But these events are supposed to be more like a networking cocktail party than they are a traditional conference. I wanted to do something casual to put people in the right mindset for the session.
I’m planning a RE BarCamp for Orlando during the REALTORS Conference and Expo this fall. In an attempt to capture the best of what unconferences can offer, we’ll be doing things a little differently. The people who lead discussions in each room will be predetermined. They may or may not be experts in the discussion at hand. I think it will be better if they aren’t. The only thing they will be experts at is leading a discussion. No product pitches, no aspiring speakers. More pressure for everyone to act as a group instead of an audience. Will this lead to a better event? We’ll see.
Todd Carpenter, Managing Director of the Data Analytics Group at NAR
I'm a twenty year veteran of the real estate and mortgage industry, focusing on technology that fosters relationships between professionals and consumers. I am a subject matter expert in data analytics, online consumer trends, enterprise social media strategy, listing data, agent ratings, and public facing MLS portals.