All posts by Dan Slee

What a commscamp first timer thought

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by Illesse Uppal

Having never attended a Comms Camp – or unconference – before, I gingerly made my way over to the giant foam finger waiting for me at New Street, my brain buzzing with thoughts of ‘what will it be like?’… ‘Will I get anything out of it?’… ‘What if I suddenly forget how to network?!’

My nervous energy began to be dissipate however as I was met with friendly faces and an air of excitement as we made our way over to the venue. I even made a few friends on the walk over.

Having no idea what to expect, the day exceeded my expectations and reminded me exactly what I love about working in comms.

From the innovative ideas flying back and forth, the open and honest atmosphere surrounding the talks and the eagerness to get back to the office and try out some of the ideas.

Over a week later and I am still on a high from the event. Networking with likeminded individuals not only gave me various campaign ideas to use back at work, but also allowed me to have meaningful conversations with people who share the same passion.

I have renewed zeal in my day job, and I am looking forward to putting forward some of the ideas I picked up on the day.

With just over two years in comms, I felt a bit inexperienced compared to others, however it was clear that it didn’t matter as long as I brought an open mind and enthusiasm to the table. I walked in to Comms Camp some what of a novice and walked out feeling like a Comms aficionado.

It’s safe to say I am already counting down the days until next year’s event.

Illesse Uppal is is marketing advisor at West Midlands Employers.

 

Our pre-event curry now has a dash of football in it

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Our pre-event social has been the stuff of legend as a chance to meet people ahead of the event.

We’ve gone for the same approach of a trip to the pub and then curry… but we’ve also added a special screen in the curry house so people can follow the England v Croatia World Cup final.

Let no-one say we can’t do emergency planning here at commscamp.

So, the plan is still to meet from 6pm at The Anchor, Bradford Street, Birmingham, B5 6ET. This is a real ale pub that’s a short walk from the city centre.

Next up, at 6.45pm we’ll head to Manzils, Digbeth, (the street), Digbeth (the area), Birmingham, B5 6DT. This is a curry house that first started trading in the 1960s so has the badge of a good place to eat.

The lovely management have allowed us to bring in our own special screen and projector just for us so we can watch the big match.

The eventbrite for the event is here.

See you there.

Picture credit: Your Best Digs / Flickr

 

 

The 9 types of session that take place at commscamp

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Always, the build-up to commscamp has been exciting and this year is no different.

At commscamp, there is no agenda. This gets set on the day and it is always fun to see the ideas emerge.

Of course, what gets kicked around ahead of time is not always what appears on the day but it can be a good indicator.

When commscamp first started in 2012, the focus was on platforms and tools. As time has gone on, this has shifted.

What types of session are there? Here’s my take.

The channel session

These focus on a particular channel and trying to understand how to use it better. Home to the old favourite: ‘Is anyone using Snapchat? Because I don’t even begin to understand it.’

The channel sub-genre session

Not content just to be using a rarely used platform this session fits around a real desire to see how a particular platform can be used for a particular audience.

Like: ‘Can we work out how to use Instagram for dog walkers who don’t pick up after themselves?’.

Or ‘Can we use Twitch for realtime CCTV monitoring.’ (Answer: probably not).

But I always think the four people who congregate around a particular topic are among the happiest of campers. They’ve found their tribe. It may only be four. But they have a love that endures and we will never understand.

The therapy session

This one is a belter. It is the AOB of commscamp and exists to be a safe space for venting your chest. Chatham House rule applies. If you are in it, it feels so much better to unload about an issue that’s bothering you and know that others have been in the same boat too.

The horizon scanning post 

This session sees a discussion around something new and different. Most people won’t be up to speed on the topic but it deserves some of your attention as you’ll find out about something. Going back a few years, I first heard about WordPress as a website and infographics at one of these sessions. We did virtual reality last year. I try and go to at least one of these to expand my knowledge.

The sharing the sweets post 

This session sees someone do something quite well and share how they did it. It’s rarely a 45 minute spell of someone holding court. It often starts in one direction and moves somewhere entirely unexpected.

The punch-up

Some of the best sessions I’ve ever been to have involved borderline raised voices and tempers. It’s never quite spilled over into a discussion on the car park, I have to say. The session about press releases being over from one of the early commscamps was a thing of beauty.

The specialist session

These sessions are run by experts in their field and can cut through months of anguish. I’m thinking here of David Banks, the media law expert. Or Andy Mabbett on wikipedia.

The plea for help session

These ones start with a request for all hands to the pump. The session proposer is bailing out in a sinking boat and wouldn’t mind a hand. These can bring surprisingly good results as people rally round. In the early days of social media, the plea was often to try and understand it, which feels slightly archaic.

The non-digital session 

While the focus for commscamp has been digital we’re not against the idea of people talking about some good old fashioned analogue issues. Like should we have a council newspaper. Or whether posters are always a good idea (A: not always, but they can be.)

The corridor session

These are gems. These are what makes commscamp beautiful. The chance conversation that leads to a wider discussion with someone you may or may not have met. They can take place in the corridor, during a lunch break or sat by the pool (actually, the canal).

Qualifications you need to pitch for a session yourself at commscamp

You need a ticket and a pulse.

That’s it.

We find that anything more just complicates things.

You can see the ideas emerge for sessions for commscamp in our Facebook group here.

Picture credit: Nigel Bishop.

 

 

#commscamp ticket release info

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We’ve been on the road to Sheffield so far this year… and now we’re coming home.

The 6th annual commscamp will be held at The Bond Company in Birmingham on July 12.

We loved it in Sheffield for #commscampnorth but there is nothing like the magic of the original event.

For those that don’t know, this is an unconference for public sector comms people. It happens because of volunteers and lovely sponsors. The aim is to do, share and help each other do things better.

There will be THREE chances to get a ticket. They will be released from a link to a secret eventbrite page posted ON THIS PAGE as well as on our Twitter @commscamp.

6.6.18 at 10am

11.6.18 at noon

13.6.18 at 9pm

Good luck!

My life changed at an unconference and I hope yours does to

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by Dan Slee

I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now without an unconference.

There wouldn’t be comms2point0.

There wouldn’t be this blog.

There wouldn’t be the things I do that I love on a day-to-day basis.

The starting pistol fired at an unconference in 2009. It’s all because of that.

Why did I go to that first one? Because it was in Birmingham not far from where I live and some people who I rated were going. I’m glad I did go. It was mind blowing. Ten people from that crowd of 120 went on to start their own company inspired in part by what they heard and said that day. I’m one of them. I’m still friends with people I met that day.

Why was it mind blowing? Because I realised that my voice could count.

But do you want to know something truly remarkable? Your voice counts too.

The beautiful thing about that first unconference is that job titles were left at the door and anyone could pitch for a session, make a point, talk to someone over a cup of coffee or leave a session early.

The beautiful thing about #commscampnorth is that these principles remain. Myself, Bridget, Eddie and Emma are clear on that.

The amazing thing about doing comms in the public sector is that it can change lives for the better.

At #commscampnorth, I’m looking forward to seeing some new ideas.

But I’m also looking forward to the reminder that people are not alone.

There is a tribe of people like you and me.

It’s alright.

It’s going to be alright.

In fact, it’s going to be bloody brilliant.

As the great Sheffield bard Jarvis Cocker once wrote: ‘Something changed…’

10 things I took away from an unconference

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by Bridget Aherne

This is not a drill – we are  24 hours away from #commscampnorth so get ready to get yourself to Sheffield for some lovely learning and networkin’.

We’ve got a bit into our Pulp theme, being in their home town and all that, and continuing with that: you’re not thinking of going all Ian Dalton on us and bailing out before things have even begun?

If so, let us try and convince you to channel your inner Jarvis Cocker, go the distance and make it on Friday.

We’ve got a vested interest in convincing you to come – we’re the organisers and we don’t want to be eating the sarnies we’ve bought in until June – but we’ve also got 10 genuine gems to share, if you’re wobbling right now and thinking of cancelling.

These are things that we got out of previous unconferences that have made us and the day job better…

  1. Free learning. As a public sector communicator, what other events will you attend this year at no cost?
  2. It’s rare thinking time away from the office that isn’t your holiday. Precious time to think, develop new ideas and not just do the job.
  3. A chance to work with others on the issues facing you in the day job right now because the sessions are agreed there and then.
  4. Therapy and solidarity. It’s a safe space to talk about new ideas or that problem that’s bugging you. Following on from reason three, if you can’t come up with the answer, other people will be living it too or can empathise.
  5. Cake.
  6. A raffle.
  7. Finding out something you didn’t know. A new skill, some insight into a social media channel you’ve not used before or tips for a good internal comms plan – all things we’ve taken away from other unconferences.
  8. Cake.
  9. Meet some amazing people. We’ve widened our professional networks and worked with many of these people since in many different guises. Better still, we’ve made some friends for life.
  10. Refocus, reenergise and fall back in love with your work. Being a public sector communicator is an amazing privilege but can also be incredibly hard work when you’re communicating cuts, difficult adult social care issues or serious incidents. Every unconference we’ve been to has helped us remember what’s good about our jobs and why we do them.

Hopefully, that gives you the Jarvis Cocker-like discipline to go all the way and make it on Friday and we’re looking forward to seeing you there*.

*On a serious note, if you can’t make it, please let us know as we have a long waitlist and want as many people as possible to be there on the day.

you’ll need to bake if you’re coming to #commscampnorth

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by Kate Bentham, commscampnorth cake monitor

I’ve done my research and it turns out that there’s loads more to Sheffield than steel, hills, and Def Leppard. It’s now also hosting the famous Comms Camp Cake Table as it continues its tour of the world, taking cake to the masses, giving people what they want, powering comms on baked goods alone.

I’ve been lucky enough to be the Official Cake Table Monitor since the first CommsCamp in Birmingham in 2013 and for those who don’t know the situation with the cake table let me fill you in on a few pointers.

  • The cake table only works because of the lovely people who bake cakes and bring them along for others to share. If you can, please bake a cake. It doesn’t have to be a showstopper. A batch of fairy cakes, a traybake or anything else that travels well will be much appreciated.
  • If you do bake you will be entered into the CommsCamp Star Baker competition. It’s a fiercely fought contest with prizes for the winner and 3 runners up.
  • If you’re not a cake baker, don’t worry, there’s no shame in bringing along a shop bought cake, we appreciate all cake – although please don’t try and pass it off as one you’ve made. You may think that adding a bit of decoration, or taking it out of the packet and putting it into a tin will fool some but we’ll find out. We’re cake professionals.
  • We also need cake eaters, and not only because it’s amazing how conversations and networking improve with a bit of lemon drizzle, but because we’re after your money. In return for a slice of yummy cake we ask those that can to donate to charity. Since CommsCamp started in 2013 our lovely attendees have raise over £1000 for local charities. Proof, if proof were needed, that comms people are kind, generous and massive fans of cake.
  • This year all money raised from the cake table will go directly to The Sick Children’s Trust – Treetop House which provides free accommodation for families with children on intensive care wards at Sheffield Hospital. This charity runs entirely on donations so please look out for the donation bucket on the cake table and give generously. Just think how much you’d pay for a slice in one of those fancy coffee shops, and give it to this amazing cause instead.
  • At CommsCampNorth it’s OK to eat cake for all your main meals and any snacks in between. You’ll like it. It’s like when you get to eat chocolate for breakfast on Christmas morning. Perfectly normal.
  • As an experienced cake eater, my cake table survival tips are ease any cake guilt by visiting the gym the day before or take part in the CommsCamp Runch, wear baggy or elasticated clothes to allow for tummy growth, and bring the big coins to donate to The Sick Children’s Trust.
  • And remember, scientists have proven that all cake calories consumed during a CommsCamp don’t count. Bonus.

So, happy baking, happy eating, happy CommsCampNorth. See you with your baked goods at the cake table on April 27.

Kate Bentham, or Cake Bentham as I was once introduced as, Official Cake Monitor (best job in the world).