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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.

 

Why I loved Commscamp 2018

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I know, I know. I had hoped to write a really insightful post about some of the thought-provoking, debate-filled sessions at Commscamp but the truth is that as an organiser you sadly don’t always get the chance to go to what you want. So instead I’ve opted for a yippee post that celebrates a few of the best bits for me this year.

190 folk came

Yes you read that right – 190 PEOPLE took a day out to come. It was the biggest Commscamp ever and given it’s the sixth one, we’re pretty darn chuffed about that. Some events come and go but going by this last Commscamp, it still feels like one of most valued and embraced comms dates of the year. Given the positive vibes that poured out of attendees it also looks long set to continue.

Nearly 80 per cent of attendees were new

Nearly 80 per cent of the 190 people at Commscamp were new. That’s what makes the event rocks. Enough regulars who already know how good Commscamp is mixed with a huge number of people who have never been before. It’s an explosive combination of buzz, energy, new ideas, and good stuff shared.

An unconference works

I went to Commscamp pretty tired. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and working long hours. But at Commscamp that all got forgotten. An unconference means you can tailor your day exactly how you want and the law of two feet gives you carte blanche that if one session isn’t floating your boat, you can get up and go to one that is. It’s also a little odd to get your head around but the unconference approach really, really works.

There’s an ice cream van

The fabulous Polly’s Parlour saw Commscampers queuing across the car park. Hardly surprising – the flavours are to die for – and the socialness that came with it was just lovely to watch.And did I mention that the couple who run Polly’s Parlour love Commscamp too?

Doddle therapy

One of the sessions I was lucky enough to lead was doddle therapy. The lovely folk at Touch Design gave us paper and we had sharpies galore and a handful of themes. It was so great to let off steam and really have a chuckle. Who knew that drawing a picture of what gets on your pippin could have such a positive release? And also big up to the attendee who drew the most amazing picture of flies on food. Sounds totally random but it was ace and summed up the type of session that makes Commscamp go with a bang. I was only gutted to not take a picture.

The different parts of the sector that represented

At the beginning of Commscamp, Andy (@pigsonthewing on twitter) asked attendees to say which part of the public sector they were from. It felt like the most diverse Commscamp ever. Housing, health, emergency services, central government, local government, voluntary sector and more. The list went on and on.  I love that. I love that it happened in 2018. More industry comms people are coming not less. I think that’s awesome.

The film and the photos

The film and the photos that are taken at Commscamp are the best. That Nigel Bishop, Steve Davies and Sophie Edwards really are talented people. This year saw Film Cafe produce the first drone video (it was pretty darn cool) and the pictures that captured memories and good times in abundance really do reflect how ace it is. If you haven’t already seen them you need to check out the facebook group to see the best bits of this year.

Commscamp keeps on giving  

Finally I love that Commscamp just keeps on giving – the friendships, the blog posts, the connections, the learning, the laughter, the therapy and the solutions. So it’s pretty darn fab that 10 July is booked already for next year.

Thanks to everyone who came, volunteered, sponsored and who were generally ace. You are what makes Commscamp amazing. Until 2019.

Emma Rodgers
Commscamp co-organiser

 

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

 

 

A Cake Table is just a Table without the Cake

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It’s very nearly CommsCamp, back for the 6th year in its homeland of Birmingham.

I think it’s widely known that CommsCamp wouldn’t be CommsCamp without the famous CommsCamp cake table. So, the good news is that the cake table is back.

But, a cake table is just a table without the cake – and that’s where you come in. 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 anything fancy, a simple tray bake or a dozen fairy cakes will be great. If you’re not a baker, don’t worry, shop bought cakes look equally good on a cake table and will be just as welcome. It’s amazing how conversations and connections begin with a bit of lemon drizzle.

If you do bake, you stand a chance of winning the top prize of star baker or one of the three runner up goody bags, so dust off those cookery books.

So, now we’ve got a table covered in cake, we need some lovely people to eat all of the cake, and I know just the group – Comms People.

We ask those that can, to make a donation to charity in return for a slice of yummy cake. All money raised from the cake table will go directly to the CommsCamp chosen charity of the year The Sick Children’s Trust,   who provide free accommodation for families with children on intensive care wards. 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.

Over the years, the money donated for slices of cake has raised over £1,000 for charity, proof if proof were needed, that Comms people are lovely, kind, generous and massive fans of cake.

So, happy baking, happy eating, happy donating, happy CommsCamp. See you with your baked goods at the cake table on the 12th July 2018.

Kate Bentham, AKA Cake Bentham

Official Cake Monitor

(Best job in the world)

 

Why I love Commscamp – the Punk Rock comms conference.

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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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Ben Capper

Marketing Consultant. Grey Fox Communications and Marketing Ltd.

Picture by 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…’