Well, at this point PodCamp Toronto has come and gone. I mean, seriously – it was almost a week and a half ago. It wasn’t my intention to wait this long to recap my experience and the more time that passed the more I wondered if it was even worth writing about anymore. Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t worthy or anything, it’s just, y’know… a week and a half late. But then I started thinking back to it and remembering what a great experience it wound up being and I realized that it would pretty much be unfair of me just to ignore it a carry on like it had never happened.
You see, contrary to what all of my pre-event enthusiasm might lead one to believe, I wasn’t originally planning on going to PodCamp this year. Last year’s event (my first) had been good but aside from a couple notable presentations I hadn’t walked away feeling as though I had learned anything incredibly groundbreaking to take home with me. Add that on top of some lingering fatigue from a busy autumn semester and conference schedule and I was just feeling burnt out.
But then, about a month and a half ago, my good friend and colleague Candice and I got to talking about things like social media and our work. This would seem like a routine conversation for some people but what you need to understand about Candice and I is that when we get talking about this stuff, we get fanatical about it. We feed off of one another’s passions and drive each other to new challenges professionally speaking. So, without much by way of warning, I found myself all fired up and in desperate need of mental fuel.
Which is about when I remembered PodCamp (actually, it was the good people behind PodCamp tweeting my blog post about last year’s event that put it back on my radar). I remembered what a great networking opportunity it had been and how fun it was to spend a day sharing ideas with like-minded people. I also wouldn’t be presenting this time around which would leave me more time to attend presentations. I registered right away.
In the end I was really glad that I decided to go. There were a couple of minor hiccups such as moody WiFi that took way too many tries to log-on to (I think this was a problem last year as well) and the fact that the official #pcto2013 hastag spent most of Saturday overrun with spammers (it was <b>SO</b> frustrating). But other than that, this year’s event wound up being pretty amazing. I learned something valuable in every session I attended and was actually pretty blown away by how innovative some of them were.
Here’s a quick run down of the sessions I checked out:
Canadian SEM and Your Business with Ira Kates
This session focused on paid search and gave you a bit of background on how the whole thing works. I won’t lie – this is a subject that I knew very little about and I did learn a thing or two throughout the presentation. That said, it was listed as a beginner-level session but conversations between the presenter and a few people in the audience often got off-track and therefore there was a lot that was shared that went over our heads (I say “our” because I definitely wasn’t the only one. One person had to eventually interrupt the speaker and ask him to get his presentation back on track…)
Persuasive Psychology for Interactive Design with Brian Cugelman
Originally this session didn’t even register on my radar and the decision to check it out was 100% Candice’s doing. As it turned out, this was hands-down my favourite presentation of the day. Brian Cugelman presented his Persuasive Communication Model which, in my opinion, perfectly combines two of my greatest geeky loves: social sciences and social media. It was so incredibly fascinating and I enjoyed every minute of it. Check out a video of his presentation on his website.
Measure or GTFO with Mark Farmer
Mark presented my favourite session last year when he discussed the work he was doing with the Royal Ontario Museum to move its experience online (read more about that one here). This time around he was presenting on social media measurement and analytics, something I’m always trying to learn more about. It didn’t end up being exactly what I was expecting but it was still informative. Mark basically gave us a crash course in a variety of measurement tools ranging from paid to free (including Sysomos, Radian6, SproutSocial and Hootsuite). In true Mark fashion, there were also plently of lulz along the way.
Chocolate Lima Beans: Business Planning for Entrepreneurs with Ian Gordon
Another session that I wouldn’t necessarily have considered but was glad I went to, this session wound up being a hidden gem in my opinion. It didn’t have a lot to do with social media directly but, let’s face it, entrepreneurship and social media often seem to go hand-in-hand these days so learning about how to write an effective business plan was really great. I got more out of this session than I was expecting and, judging by the engagement during the Q&A portion of the hour, so did everyone else.
Killer Content Marketing with Shelley Pringle
This session was very sales oriented, which, given the nature of the work I do right now wasn’t directly related to my interests but was still valuable information in general. My biggest take-aways were learning how to create buyer personas which is a useful skill in any kind of content creation and digital strategy.
So there you have it, folks. While my experiences with PodCamp are still fairly limited I’d have to say that this year’s event was definitely my favourite with regards to key learning and inspiration. As always, there were a couple of sessions that I couldn’t make it to because of scheduling (I would love it if anyone who attended the panel on post-secondary education and the session on automation and/or Dave Fleet’s presentation could leave a comment on their learnings!) I met a couple of cool new people and saw some wonderful old friends (although I didn’t get the chance to see everyone I was hoping to which makes me sad!) All-in-all, I’m definitely glad I decided to go.
What about you? Did you check out PodCamp Toronto this year? What sessions did you go to and what were your overall thoughts?