Innovative Meetings

Pass the Marshmallows

This is my first EventCamp experience … and to be honest it is my first time at any camp.

We welcome Christine Melendes, CAE, PCMA’s director of member relations, as a special guest-blogger, here with the first of a three-part series on the second annual Event Camp National Conference, which was held in Chicago February 11-13. 

I knew that a lot of great people who were part of #eventprofs would be there, so I didn’t feel nervous that I would walk into a room and not know anybody. Still, I was going to camp for the first time. It was an unknown.

On Wednesday, I started seeing Tweets from participants saying that they were heading to Chicago, and my excitement began to grow. Finally, I was  going to get to meet people who I’ve been connected to, and friends with, on Twitter and Facebook for more than a year. I was not just excited, I was pumped up!
Somehow, I muddled through Thursday and Friday until, on Friday night I attended the Event Camp Opening Party at a local Chicago bar, where we enjoyed “camp-style” fare: Homemade tater tots, Rice Krispie treats, s’mores, mini-BBQ sandwiches and more.

I immediately was one happy camper. 

One of the benefits of online communities, like the hashtag group #eventprofs , is that it is possible to connect with someone before you actually meet in person. For instance, I connected in person with Twitter friend Liz King (@lizkingevents) for the first time, and reconnected with Jessica Levin (@jessicalevin), KiKi L’Italian (@KikiLitalian), Glenn Thayer (@glennthayer), Greg Ruby (@GregRuby) and Jeff Hurt (@JeffHurt) as well as many, many other friends (sorry that I can’t name all of you, here!). 

At the party, we also were treated to an amazing team-building experience: writing an EventCamp  theme song with Grammy- and Emmy-nominated, Country Music Association-award-winning songwriter Billy Kirsch (@BillyKirsh) – who is also an #eventprof. To sum it up in one line: “Everyone’s a champ at Event Camp!”

On Saturday morning, I arrived at the whimsical Catalyst Ranch to join the other campers in education sessions, peer-to-peer discussions, and general networking. EventCamp did not disappoint, as I spent hours talking to some of the brightest, most fun people I have ever met. We tackled issues of engagement, community building, new ways of thinking of problems, new uses for technology – and much more. 
Looking back at the end of the day, what I found most amazing (but probably not all that surprising) was how everyone there brought a unique perspective to the problems at hand. In the world of event professionals, everyone has a story to tell about a time “when,” and can sympathize with you when you talk about a disaster or near-disaster.  These people get events, they get the experience, and they get the value that face-to-face meetings bring to organizations.   And that’s what EventCamp was all about – finding a common understanding and elevating the discussion to the next level.
I will be back next year, and until then, you can bet you will be able to find me on Twitter (@camelendes) staying connected to this group long after this is posted!

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