hits and misses

    And so continues the “week after PAB”… Mark and I have received both separately and together, emails, voice mails, audio, video, blog posts telling us opinions about PAB and what was liked and disliked, loved or hated.  Thankfully, at this point, more people enjoyed the event than not, but that doesn’t mean we can sit and be happy with that.

There have been very flattering you-changed-my-life blog posts, some insulting-just-to-be-an-ass posts from people who weren’t even there, and also a few posts from people who genuinely didn’t enjoy their PAB experience. I appreciate all feedback, and promise to use as much as we can when we plan out our next event.

By the way, I’m not linking to anyone on this post, because I want the flow to continue without my influence. There’s a tendancy to jump on people’s negative posts, and I don’t want to promote that – an honest post about an experience you didn’t enjoy deserves respect, not piling upon.

The thing about organizing a not-for-profit event is that measuring success is somewhat different, perhaps more closely tied to how we build communities than sheer numbers or dollars. So while we’re happy that we’ve covered our costs this year, the fact that some people are disappointed with their experience means we still have work to do.

So far, there seem to be two main areas where we missed with some :

  1. lack of technical sessions
  2. social interaction, especially for people new to the event

1. Agreed 100%. And this was by design. We decided this year that PAB wasn’t going to be the “intro to podcasting”  event. There’s nothing wrong with learning about RSS, iTunes, editing, etc… These are all needed skills, and I agree there needs to be basic, intermediate and advanced discussions available on all these topics. Just not this year, not at PAB. When we started, there was very little information available online, Podcamps hadn’t yet started, and that was a need we felt an obligation to pursue.  Looking back at 2006/7 we had sessions on building studios, recording and editing techniques, interview methods, etc,etc, etc.. It was well received, but I wonder who would have been happy to see that (again) for a 3rd year. We specifically decided that the topics would be about “bringing it to the next level” – and I think for the most part that’s what was delivered. Could we have more technical topics? Perhaps. Someone suggested the friday afternoon workshops would be a good place for that – I think that’s a wonderful idea.

2. Agreed – 80%. We did a lot to encourage social interaction – the boat cruise, making sure people knew where some were going to eat… breaks between each session, lunch on site, making the conference room available off hours – etc..  I do see now that we could have done more (and will do more in the future) for people who are new to the event. I know how great it is to have someone you don’t know reach out to you and say “Come, join us.”. I want the same to happen to everyone at PAB. Maybe appoint ambassadors to help new people or something. I know this group is very receptive, and would go out of their way to make someone feel welcomed. Perhaps as organizers it’s something we can help facilitate.

That being said, no matter how much is done, there’s a limit to what conference organizers (be it PAB, Podcamp etc..) can do to help with socializing. It’s a social event, for people who tend to live very public lives. At some point you have to stick out your hand and say “Hi, I don’t know anyone here.. Let’s chat”..  It’s a VERY hard thing to do.. There have been many occasions I’ve not done it and I wish I had. It can be so hard to put yourself on the line like that. Oh but there’s the reward. Podcasters/social media types tend to be a pretty friendly and welcoming bunch. So it’s not like you’re asking the prom queen to sleep with you, you’re asking someone with similar interests for a conversation.

I’d still love to make it easier for people to connect, and there have been great suggestions, both from happy attendees and less-than-happy attendees. The great thing about this space is we can learn and grow together.

What are your thoughts? Whether you were there or not, how have you connected with people at an event like this? Or how have you made people connect?

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7 Comments

  1. It was my second PAB and the first time I actually didn’t care as much about knowing other’s podcasts and telling others about mine. This result in me having interesting conversations that didn’t appeared to be forced by that “Tell me about yourself and I’ll tell you about me” kind of vibe.

    When John Meadows point his camera towards my face and asked me to describe this year’s PAB in one word, I said “Better” and I think that the mood I was in this past weekend helped me appreciate the event differently.

  2. With love, I’d say that I’m glad it wasn’t about how-to stuff as much. I got something out of this event that I’ve not felt at any event in the last many months: hope. I got pure, unbridled hope. I felt excited (yes, excited) about the idea of maybe starting a new podcast.

    Pretty good considering I’ve been a professional guest for well over a year, eh?

  3. John Meadows says:

    I’ll repeat a couple of suggestions I sent in to the podcasters across borders email address a couple of days ago, as I believe they might help with some of the issues that have been raised:

    1. if we could get some volunteer gurus to be the informal equivalent of a “genius bar” on various tech topics I think that might help. And some Friday sessions would be good too in this area; but I agree that repeat visitors won’t want to see the “101” topics every year.

    2. For newbies, how about a voluntary “1st-timer” supper meet-up (with a few of the old guard) on the Friday night, before the official kick-off? That way, the most bashful of newcomers is assured of having somewhere to go the first night, and people to hook up with.

  4. First as newbie there I find the outreach from the community was great. I personally don’t want people holding my hand or forcing me to talk to them. I like the informal-ness (not a real word) of the breaks in between speakers. If I decide to talk to someone (or some group) I would like it to be done as an active effort on my part (which makes it better then the “hey so you like podcasting too” or “so what podcast do you do topics”. I find that prompted social is more like speed dating then interaction in my opinion. I found the majority of people more then accomidating. I remember I was just looking around for the merchant pub (I tend to get lost) and Bob saw me and chatted with me. It wasn’t hey you’re new, let’s talk kind of thing. That is the kind of interaction I would like. On the other hand the option of the supper is a good idea. It might of helped me get up to speed with the in jokes ha ha.

  5. Andrea says:

    As someone who suffers from extreme (possibly hidden) social anxiety and who is a veteran of all 3 PABs, I often feel invisible at PAB. I would, however, find forced or formal mixing tactics artificial and torturous. Perhaps the solution is as simple as reminding bunches of closely knit PABsters to occasionally slow down and look patiently and actively beyond their well-established circles.

    Then again, those circles are full of really awesome people and are pretty entertaining even from the outside — and I feel invisible most places — so I think we should be very careful about messing with a dynamic as great as PAB’s.

  6. vivian says:

    I agree with Andrea and Damien. I’ve witnessed formal mixing tactics fail time and time again, in school settings, outside school settings. People will hang out with whomever they want regardless of what measures are put in place to avoid this. The worst side effect of such tactics is those folks for whom they are created are often marginalized even further as it becomes more obvious who is at the center and who is at the periphery.

    I remember a conversation during the first PAB where we talked about finding ways to ensure better representation of women and increased cultural diversity. I think keeping such issues in mind (doing something about this as Chris Brogan reminds us) and having this conversational exchange creates spaces for getting at some of the issues raised.

    I for one will do my best to get to know more people next year..looking forward to PAB 2009.

  7. I totally get the social anxiety aspect of this conversation. But I managed my fear because I was able to approach conversation on my own terms. I really liked this year’s PAB (I was really anxious about going since I don’t podcast). I like the genius bar idea that has been put forth. But I don’t think that getting bogged down in editing technique will be the solution either. I think more importantly some focus should be done on creating and polishing ideas for content/ creating a podcast (if it wasn’t already talked about) would be more helpful to new podcasters then anything else. Something short (not a full presentation length. So many times I come up with good ideas and have them get watered down/ killed in the creation process. I hope that made sense…

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