Speaking at BarCamp

It can be daunting to speak at a BarCamp, but it's also the most relaxed place to try your hand at speaking for the first time. We asked past BarCamp attendee and experienced conference speaker, Christian Heilmann, to explain more...

BarCamp talks can be about anything, as Billy Abbott demonstrates

BarCamps are a wonderful opportunity to get your first experiences as a public speaker. I've organised a few and attended a lot in the last few years in various countries and love them to bits. Lately, however, I found that the original ideas and freedoms of BarCamp have been washed out and people get stressed far too much about them (or don't use them to their advantage). When I talked to the organisers of the upcoming London BarCamp about that they asked me to jot down some of my ideas on how you approach speaking at a BarCamp without getting yourself worked up too much.

So what is a BarCamp? It is an Unconference and as such totally the
opposite of a conference:

All of this is a wonderful opportunity to do a few things:

OK, but what if you are scared of the mere concept of standing up in front of a lot of people and talk but really want to face that demon? BarCamps are your opportunity to do that. Simply keep the following things in your head:

The main trick is to concentrate on the subject you want to cover and not the talk. However, if you want to make sure you deliver an amazing talk here are some resources I've written for training:

Another great tip of course is to look for videos and presentations given at other BarCamps and learn from other people's mistakes and successes. Be aware of not falling into the trap of copying other people's style - you are you and the speaker should be you not a faded carbon copy of another person.

Personally I don't show up much at BarCamps any more. The reason is that space is limited and I don't want to take away the ticket from someone who'd love to come and have their first go at presenting. If I go there I love seeing new talent and giving feedback though so if you see me and I attend your talk, don't be shy and ask.

I think it is time for us to re-think our BarCamp strategy and go back to its roots. I've been to quite a few unconferences lately that end up with an empty grid with only a few talks by already known speakers. This is nice as it gives people a chance to see those speakers in action without spending money on a conference ticket but it also means that others are scared of presenting themselves or hunt the known presenter instead of concentrating on sharing some of their knowledge themselves.

BarCamp is there for you and for others to learn about you. They are free, but they do cost a lot of time and money. If both these are wasted on people not presenting but instead consuming or playing Werewolf for a whole night we might as well call them GameCamp. It is hard to get funding for unconferences when there is nothing coming out in the end - so if you like the idea of BarCamps be part of those who make them a fertile ground of information sharing.