I participated to many barcamp/camp/unconference (more information on the Wikipedia article) style events, and I even hosted some of them. I was happy to see at the last I’ve been to, that many attendees were brand new faces, and new to the concept. Too often, organizers think that attendees will know how it’s working , but it’s not always the case, so I thought it would be a good exercise, and maybe a good reference for camps’ organizers, and attendees, to make a list of my non-written “rules” for these events.
The camp will be as successful as the participation of the attendees
The foundation of camp is the attendees: we aren’t talking about a conference where you sit, and listen to one speaker. It’s a group conversation, and everyone is invited, or should I say, highly encouraged to participate, and share his opinion on the topic.
There are no stupid topics, questions or comments
Don’t be afraid: nobody is there to judge you. People may disagree with you, but nobody is there to ridicule you. So add any topic you want to discuss on the post-it, or share any opinions you have, whether you are an expert or not on the subject.
The moderator is there to facilitate the discussions, not to overtake it
This one is one of my pet-peeve: the moderator is there to… moderate the discussion. Usually, organizers tend to give this role to someone who is well-known, and quite often, well-knowledgeable on the overall topic of the camp event: some mc tend to take too much of the floor space. If you want to do this, step down, and let someone else facilitate the discussion.
This is not the place to have a discussion between two people
I have an argument. You have an argument. We disagree. We do back, and forth on our different statements, and guess what? The rest of the room gets bored! We aren’t alone in the room, so we shouldn’t make a discussion between the two of us. A good moderator should manage this properly.
Be respectful in all circumstances
Like in everything else in life: if you want to be respected, respect others. As I said before, you may disagree with someone, but it will never be a reason to act like an asshole.
If a topic runs out of steam, the facilitator should start a discussion on the next one
This is also a rule for the moderator: if a topic becomes boring, nobody has something to add, it’s just a discussion between two people, or all the opinions come to the same conclusion… move on! Most of the time, there are too many topics for the time we have, so it won’t be a problem to cut this one before you wanted to.
Having a side discussion is disturbing for others
I think this rule is a duplication of the respectful one, but for whatever reason, people don’t seem to think it’s a lack of respect. While someone is speaking, don’t start a side discussion or continue to argue with the last person who shares with the audience, it’s really annoying.
To facilitate the discussion, raise your hand if you want to talk
I would also be able to add this one in the respect bucket, but this behavior of certain people really annoys me. I totally agree; we aren’t at school, but it’s an easy way to have a healthy discussion with all the attendees, and facilitate the job of the moderator. It’s his job to manage who will speak next: of course, he may have not seen you right away, but you turn will come! There is nothing more frustration while it’s your turn to speak, that someone just interrupt you. Everybody is equal: your opinion isn’t more important than the one from the other attendee.
Those are the rules I came up with from my own experiences, but overall I felt those helped different camps to work well. Anything that I’m missing or doesn’t make sense?