Toward a definition of Open Source Events – BarCamp and the Unconference

Previously, I’ve been busy talking about the significance of bringing the open-source methodology to Events.

In fact the concept of invite-only conferences, where two or three heads decide what is to be discussed, who discuss it and who is going to attend, belongs more to the 20th Century than to the 2.0 era.

As said before I started to explore the subject few weeks ago and I must admit I was completely unaware of the concepts of Unconference and BarCamp

I have to say that the answer has always been there in front of my eyes. The concept around open-source marketing, reinforced by the Cluetrain Manifesto, is control. Open source marketing activities give control to consumer as they are the ultimate end user of products. Particularly appreciable is the note that consumers DO NOT need a shepherd to stimulate them with the saddest pavlovian techniques. Consumers know what is best for them and continuous stimulation brings ahead only disasters in terms of customer satisfaction.

As a customer, being in control is a great source of satisfaction. So what the unconference concept is saying is why don’t you leave it up to those participating?

In my opinion especially the concepts and thematics of a conference must be driven by participants. Too many times I’ve read on feedback forms that the topic wasn’t quite relevant or that the speaker was completely out of subject. The work of a scientific committee must be transferred to participants, as usually such committees make choices according to what THEY assume the attendees might like. So why don’t you leave it up to them.

Well, easy answer here. The logic of sponsorship usually drive choices and not the interest of attendees. But again, do you reckon sponsors are really into bored customers looking at their brands?

Therefore,I am completely positive that content and concept goes to the consumer. How? Maybe arranging a forum on the event website before the event starts or using the available social networking tools.

But that is not all. I reckon also other parts of the game might be left to the participants such as choosing location, tone of the event, facilities needed. etc. In this view the role of the event planner and manager changes dramatically.

I have met a lot of events people that act like mums or dads driving their children to the buffet or to the registration desks, preparing baloons and flowers to make them feel they are protected. The role of event planners is much more difficult than that. Event planners should satisfy the customer to the extreme point of really going along with his or her wishes. This is too often a way to promote a business instead of a proven practice.

What open-source as a movement is telling people holding control is that we are a lot, we know how to do things and we don’t need you. If someone has skills, degrees or experience it’s ok for her/him to coordinate, clear the way and suggest valuable options, but control is a thing of the past.

I think that this does translate in new business opportunities rather than a penalty for the category. Those who feel attacked by such words in their status quo are those that have nothing to offer, the rest that feels invigorated have a bright future in front of them.