I first went to Commscamp in 2015.
At the time I was a Marketing Manager in the NHS, with a need for inspiration and a thirst for new ideas.
I got both in absolute spades, and have made it my Number One go-to event of the working year ever since.
I love the informal “unconference” way of learning, and it has been incredibly enriching to me in so many ways.
If it’s your first time at Commscamp, here’s what you can expect, if your experience is anything like mine:
- It’s the punk rock comms conference
The comms counter-culture is real, and it’s never louder and prouder than at Commscamp.
We don’t have the money, time or inclination to fly to Dubai for a 3-day linen-suited conflab. So us comms people in the public, third and charity sectors have come together to do it for ourselves.
We don’t need motivational keynote speakers – we’re motivated anyway.
We want to get down to it and put our skills and energy to use to help make our communities’ lives better.
You don’t get a certificate or a professional accreditation for coming to Commscamp. But what you do get is way more important than that: a sense of people helping each other out, a sense that people out there in totally different parts of the country are looking out for each other, and a sense that, yes, you can make a difference too.
We don’t need permission or a big budget for that. All we need is like-minded people, a big room in a post-industrial part of a big city, and the willingness to help each other out.
That’s why it’s the punk rock comms conference.
- You’ll learn. You’ll learn lots.
I can honestly say that I’ve learned more from Commscamps that I’ve ever learned in more formal work-based training.
Back in 2015 there was a massive problem at the NHS organisation I was at around staff morale and internal comms.
I tagged along to a session about internal comms, learned the “Engage for Success” framework, suggested implementing it back at work, added a touch of creativity, and our staff engagement scores increased massively year-on-year (resulting in a HSJ award for staff engagement). If I trace the key moment in that improvement journey, there’s no doubt in my mind that it was that session at Commscamp in 2015.
- Others will learn from you too
But here’s the thing: you’ll turn up at Commscamp thinking you know less than everyone else, and it’ll turn out that you’re actually a fountain of insight yourself! Who knew?!
This is absolutely something that is amazing about this get together. Everyone has something valuable to contribute.
Though everyone has a unique set of circumstances, they also have common challenges: reduced budgets, the deadlines, the “can’t you just put it on Twitter” mentality of our colleagues.
But with those experiences comes learning from others in similar situations. If you’ve done comms in the public or third sector you will have interesting perspectives that will be useful for others to hear about: how you approached a particular challenge, how your commissioning process works, that time you had that game changing brainwave in the middle of the night.
These are invaluable experiences for others. So as much as you’ll learn loads from others; you’ll be surprised, and delighted, how much they learn from you too.
- There is NO hierarchy
There are no bosses, and no juniors at Commscamp. Everyone is equal, and everyone’s experience is valuable.
I’ve been in sessions where Heads and Directors of Comms have been listening open-mouthed as junior social media execs blind them with science on Google Analytics, DIY video, and Snapchat (OK the Snapchat one was all the way back in 2016).
Equally I’ve been in sessions where NHS people have helped solve Housing Comms issues; where Local Gov people have made Central Gov people think very differently about an issue; and where a graphic designer has helped to move a Head of PR into a different mindset.
It’s a great leveller for everyone.
- Everyone is bloody lovely
This can’t be overstated.
Just by being involved in Commscamp, I’ve made contacts and friendships that I never would’ve had otherwise; and that have been transformational for my career.
There’s a real sense of community among the organisers, the volunteers, the sponsors and the participants. And once you’ve been to more than one Commscamp, you’ll never feel alone at a Comms2.0, NHS or Local Gov event ever again.
Not only that, but your Twitter feed will be fresher and nicer than it’s ever been.
It’s a community of people that are committed to improving the life chances of the people we serve; and who really believe in the power of comms to bring that about. We’re like-minded people, with similar passions and similar experiences; but each with a unique perspectives.
There are no egos or big heads. Everyone genuinely loves what they do, and wants to help each other do it better.
And everyone loves sharing cake. That too.
Sound good? Of course it does.
See you in Birmingham.
Marketing Consultant. Grey Fox Communications and Marketing Ltd.
Picture by Nigel Bishop.