All posts by Dan Slee

A love letter on how the cake table will work at #commscampnorth

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by Kate Bentham

Dear #commscampnorth attendee,

It’s heading towards #commscampnorth, which coincidentally is the same day that it’s OK to eat cake for all your main meals and any snacks in between. You’ll love it. It’s like when you get to eat chocolate for breakfast on Christmas morning.

Some might say that #commscampnorth is all about the comms, but those people would be wrong.

It’s more than that. It’s about the pitches, the ideas, the sessions, the photos and videos, the friends you’ll make, the people off Twitter you’ll finally get to meet, the networking, the sponsors, the pre-event curry and most importantly the CAKE! that really makes it #CommsCakeNorth more than anything.

Where cake comes from

The term “cake” has a long history. The word itself is of Viking origin, from the Old Norse word “kaka”. Impressive enough, but that cannot rival the cake table at CommsCamp, within a long history, dating back to 2013 when the first CommsCamp was held in Birmingham.

For those who haven’t been to a CommsCamp before, let me fill you in on the main points you will need to know about the cake table.

What you need to know about the cake table

  • 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 show stopper, a simple traybake or a dozen fairy cakes will be appreciated. It’s amazing how conversations and networking improve with a bit of lemon drizzle.
  • If you do bake you will be entered into the CommsCamp Star Baker competition. It’s a fiercely fought contest and there’s no surprise in that, the prize is amazing.
  • If you’re not a cake baker, don’t worry, there’s no shame in bringing along a shop bought cake, we appreciate them too. All cake is welcome at the cake table.
  • We also need cake eaters. We ask those that can, to make a donation to charity in return for a slice of yummy cake. This year all money from the cake table will go to MacMillan Cancer Support who offer emotional, physical and financial support to the millions of people, and their families, who are affected by cancer. This is a charity close to our hearts and chosen by our very own Emma Rodgers so please look out for the donation bucket and please give generously. Just think how much you’d pay for a slice in one of those fancy coffee shops and give it to a good cause instead.
  • Since CommsCamp started our lovely attendees have raised over £1,500 for various charities. Proof, if proof were needed, that comms people are kind, generous and massive fans of cake.
  • If you donate for cake, be sure to take a raffle ticket. This will enter you into the end of camp tat raffle, where you will amaze yourself with a sudden desire to win chipped figurines, obscure LPs and jigsaws with pieces missing.
  • As an experienced cake eater, my cake table tips include a visit to the gym the day before to help ease any guilt, wearing baggy or elasticated clothes, and bring the big coins to donate to charity.
  • And remember, scientists have proven that all cake calories consumed during a CommsCamp don’t count. Bonus.

So, happy baking, happy eating, happy CommsCakeNorth. See you with your baked goods at the cake table on October 23.

Yours,

Kate Bentham or Cake Bentham as Dan Slee once introduced me as.

Official Cake Monitor

(best job in the world.)

Picture credit: cake at commscampnorth, 2018 by Nigel Bishop

 

#commscampnorth: It’s Bradford’s time to shine

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Ladies and gents, there will be a commscampnorth and it will be in the glorious West Yorkshire city of Bradford.

It will take place on 23.10.19 at Kala Sangam in the city centre.

The event will be an unconference.

This means the event will be free, not for profit and will be run and organised by volunteers.

But it will be fired with the graft, spice, tea and bright ideas of Bradford and people from across the North. You want Northern Powerhouse? You can have it.

Why Bradford?

This will be the third commscampnorth and as with the others we are rotating it across the region. We’ve been to Manchester and to Sheffield and really, they were just a warm-up for the big one.

I was chatting to Albert Freeman about the requirements for an unconference. A big space with some smaller spaces off them. Tell people about it and then trust the process.

Why Kala Sangam?

Talking to Albert about he need for a city centre venue he had a moment of clarity. The arts centre in a converted Post Office sorting depot right on the edge of the city centre. So, together with Josephine Graham we looked and were impressed.

Who can come?

We want comms, PR, marketing, digital or frontline people from the public sector – or third sector – who are doers, tryers, makers, experimenters or who know there’s a better way of doing things.

We want people who would like to learn and would like to contribute who can bake a cake and can encourage new ideas. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ever been to an unconference before. We leave our job titles at the door and what you think is just as valid as someone who has been doing the job 20 years longer than you have.

When do tickets get released?

The FIRST public ticket release for public sector and third sector people will be at 1pm on 17.7.19.

A SECOND release is at 9pm on 25.7.19.

A THIRD release will be at noon on 6.9.19.

After this a wait list will operate and tickets will be released directly.

The link to eventbrite is HERE and will be password protected until they go live.

How can I beat the ticket stampede and become a volunteer?

In return for a pledge of some of your time you can register as a volunteer and we’ll send you a ticket before the public release. We’d love to see you and we’d love the extra pair of hands. Warning: there will be cake and a feeling of inner warmth.

Who can support or sponsor?

Anyone. Chat to Dan by email dan@danslee.co.uk.

What is an unconference?

This video explains it.

 

Who is behind it all?

There’s a range of volunteers who are part of the wider team and are helping on the day. The include Dan Slee (freelance comms person and commscamp co-founder), Albert Freeman (Bradford City Council), Josephine Graham (Bradford City Council on secondment to NHS Digital), Bridget Aherne (Keolis Amey Metrolink), Kate Bentham (Shropshire Council), Eddie Coates-Madden (Sheffield City Council).

I’m sure we’ll see Emma Rodgers on the tea urn on the day even though she’s taking a sabbatical from organising events this year.

On the day, everyone who turns up makes it.

 

We’re having a fallow year for commscamp in 2019 but we’re be back in 2020

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by Dan Slee

Ladies and gentlemen, cut yourself an extra piece of cake and try to be brave… there will be no commscamp in 2019.

There will be no cake stall by the canal, no fresh ideas will be crafted in Digbeth and no new friendships will be struck in the sunshine eating an ice cream.

Stop the clocks.

Muffle the bells.

We’ve decided to take a fallow year for the Birmingham event after six straight years to let the cake bakers recover.

But wipe those tears away….

But the good news to help you wipe away your tears and blow your nose is that planning is already taking place for commscamp in 2020 and we’ll be back refreshed at the Bond Company on 15.7.20.

And we’re also making an announcement imminently about #commscampnorth our touring event for those in t’north for people as call their tea a brew and who y’know, speak to each other on buses.

Why a fallow year?

Someone once said that commscamp appears effortless but the truth is it takes some planning. My colleague and good friend Emma Rodgers was always going to take a 12-month sabbatical this year and be back in 2020. I was ill earlier this year and my time allocated for planning was lost. Rather than chuck something together it made sense to take a year off.

I’ve held off announcing this just to see if anyone would notice and the touching truth is they have. There’s been a number of messages which has prompted plans for 2020.

The place for commscamp…

Is there a place for Commscamp? It’s a question we ask ourselves each time we run it. The event is deliberately democratic. Anyone can pitch an idea and if you’re public sector comms you can come. It’s also free and it is blindingly important that it remains so.

I’ve no interest in charging for the event and we don’t really have to mount a year-long campaign of getting in people’s faces to flog tickets. I’m really glad about that. When its commscamp time we’ll tell you. Otherwise, go about your business. We even only have sponsors who get the event and who we like.

While there’s a need to come together in an informal way compare notes and find a better way of doing things we’ll still do it. When that ends we’ll pack up.

I’ll be watching my daughter’s leaver’s school assembly this year

As fate would have it, days after we decided to take the year off my daughter came home from school with a letter. The letter gave the date of her leaver’s assembly as July 10, the day we’d earmarked for commscamp.

So, this year, I’ll miss being with people by the canal in Digbeth but I’d have hated to have had to miss out on my daughter’s last assembly at junior school.

Stay in touch

Don’t miss out on commscamp and commscampnorth news. We’ll update this site and keep you posted with our commscamp email bulletin. You can sign-up here.

Picture credit: Nigel Bishop.

Video credit: Steven Davies and Sophie Edwards at filmcafe.

 

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!