The Beginner’s Guide to *Camping


Hello, my name is Mitch Canter, and I’m a camp-o-holic…

It’s no surprise to anyone that I am a career *camper.  I travel quite a ways to jump in on BarCamps, PodCamps, and WordCamps all over the country.  Honestly, I’ve lost count as to how many (I know it’s in the upper 20s) I’ve been to in the last 3+ years.  My start was here in Nashville, though, at the PodCamp they held over at The Cannery Ballroom, and it was an experience I’d never forget.  I kept going to every camp I could drive to (and afford) and I’ve always come back with something worthwhile.  Whether that something was a new friendship, a client, or some juicy information – or all three – I came back with something fantastic.

I’ve managed to keep track of the small notes I’ve made to my mental self over the years, and I wanted to share a few of them with you.  Whether this is your first time at a BarCamp, or whether you’re a veteran camper looking to the event with highest expectations, here are a few things to keep in mind.  I’ve broken them down into a few Do’s and Don’ts for you:

1. Don’t Drink (too much) Too Early

“Whoa, Mitch,” you may be thinking, “That’s asking an awful lot.  This is Nashville!  We put the BAR in BarCamp, right?!” Truth be told, yes, but if you get sloshed before the afterparty, then all you’ve done is wasted a Saturday.  Take it easy in the AM (one or two is OK) and start ramping up in the afternoon if you must.  Cadillac Ranch is a fantastic place to grab a pint or two, but your main goal is information and networking, not beer and booze, so if you can, go easy on the drinks if you know you can’t handle it.  Besides, no one likes “that guy” in the corner heckling the speakers.

2. Don’t Go To Every Session Slot

I like to call this one the “hallway rule”.  Some of the best conversations and networking opportunities happen OUTSIDE of the session rooms.  Get out there and meet people.  Stroll on up to a table of people you’ve never met and introduce yourself.  You never know when the person you talk to is the contact you’ve been looking for (or that you are the contact they’ve been looking for).  Go to all of the sessions you can, but if you’ve made your schedule and you’re the least bit iffy about a session, then skip it and go mingle.  And for Goodness Sake, get to the afterparty.  I can’t tell you how many websites I’ve sketched out on cocktail napkins for (now) clients.

3. Don’t Skip a Session Because It’s Not “Your Thing”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you only have two or three sessions picked out, then by all means explore.  There’s a couple of non-WordPress and non-technical sessions I’m looking forward to, and you better believe that I’ll be in there in the seats even though it’s not my daily thing.  After all, you never know what useful information you’ll pick up that you can take back to your niche or business just by broadening your horizons.

4. Do Bring a Power Strip (with optional extension cord)

I try not to forget to bring this, but you never know what power options will be available to a crowd.  Be everyone’s friend and snag yourself a cheap power strip and a 6 foot extension cable.  If there’s no more plugs, ask a neighbor to let you slide in and free up some more outlets.  You’ll make new friends and people will like you.  That, and you’ll be guaranteed power.

5. Do Bring Business Cards

You’ll meet a lot of people while you’re there.  Make sure to swap cards.  Don’t do anything with them until the day after BarCamp, then sit down and email everyone you meet (personally – none of this fill-in-the-blank form letter crap).  It’ll solidify who they are in your mind and you can remember them as you see them out and about, or if you need a specific skillset you can call on them to hire them.

6. Do Have Fun

Don’t get caught up in the drama.  Don’t be a jerk.  Don’t think you’re being a jerk if you leave a session (rule of two feet), and don’t think that you have nothing to give.  Everyone participates at BarCamp – even if you’re a grass cutter you can tell someone how to cut their grass better than anyone else, and that’s the whole point behind BarCamp – the sharing of knowledge and ideas.

BarCamp’s two days from the post date on this.  Get pumped, get excited, and I’ll see you at the Ranch bright and early on Saturday morning!