Monday, November 21, 2011

Team Of Friends

I've been on the PodcampAZ organizing committee for 4 out of 5 years. Last year I bowed out, blaming it on having too much to do. Which I think, looking back, was total BS. EVERY year is busy. I will always have a ton of things going on, and a ton to do. I am (for the most part) happy that way. I like being a part of things, being involved. I know I always bitch and moan about Arizona, but that's really all political. Oh, and the heat. Gorram heat and the air quality and... oh well nevermind.

Seriously though, the community in the Metro Phoenix area just can't be beat. Even my friend Scott was telling me that it would be hard to find this unique community involvement in the Manhattan area, or even the Boston area. It just doesn't happen. The Valley really is a place where you can find a group for just about anything- and probably run into at least 5 people you know at each, who will welcome you with open arms. And beer. So when PodcampAZ was in its beginnings, I jumped at the chance to get involved.

I look at PodcampAZ as sort of an underdog in the big scheme of events that happen in the valley. In some ways, it's harder to sell a free conference than a paid one. You just don't get the same level of commitment from attendees, and in some cases volunteers, not to mention the fact that you're trying to explain why this is even worth the time when it's free. For some reason putting a dollar sign with something adds value in people's minds. And explaining the whole "un-conference" theme to people? Sheesh. I'm so glad we've changed the name!

This year of organizing was without a doubt the best year I've had working on PodcampAZ. Sure, you get your bumps in the road. People join in, then disappear. We scramble to get things done last minute because well, you know we all have a life and that takes precedent at times. But for the most part, everything stayed on track, and we all worked together really well. Another committee member mentioned that she felt for the first time that she truly felt included and actually contributed this time. This was a good thing. We stuck together, and have been there all these years because we see the potential this (un) conference has to offer, and we work our booties off to show this to you. Things went so well, we actually had time to sit and get to know each other better during the weekend- and I consider that a win. My fellow volunteers are awesome, and I consider them all my friends. I'm proud of them and what was accomplished this year.

We don't make a penny off this conference, it all comes from amazing sponsors and goes right back into the weekend. What brings us together is our love of this community and all it has to offer. We all ready know this. We know how awesome the community is, know a lot of the people all ready in it. We also know many more who *should* get involved and learn more about these things as well. We know the benefits, and we want to share.  We believe in this cause, because it's helped us in so many different ways, and we want it to help you too. That's why we volunteer. For me, it's worth every Saturday spent driving across town to meet.

Even though we all are in it together, you can't have a committee without someone taking the reigns and leading. He doesn't make a big deal out of it, but without Tyler keeping us on track we never would have pulled it off. I think he took on too much at times, but that's to be expected when you're the go-to person. I think I can speak for all of us who organized the weekend when I say how grateful I am to him. Tyler made us a team. He's not going to be as involved next year as we plan for TechPhx, and he will be missed. We also know that we have a strong enough backbone to continue on and make the inaugural TechPhx one of the best weekends ever!

We're always looking for more to help too! As you see from my last post, we all have multiple roles in this. We're not just organizers. We're attendees. We're presenters. We're there just like everyone else, and the more the merrier. We had 9-10 people this year, and as I said it was the smoothest year I've had. I can only imagine how 20 volunteers would be. Or 30. Almost makes me feel like I could lead it. ;)

When things get rolling again after the holidays, be on the lookout for how to get involved with one of the most original, innovative conferences that's not a conference in the valley!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Continuing to find my voice

For the first time in 5 years of attending PodcampAZ, I was a speaker. I have no idea what finally made me feel ready to do so. Back in February I spoke about Podcasting to a bunch of Girl Scouts. That was fun, and it went well. Then I spoke about Podcasting at Gangplank Jr. for their journalism program. Also went well. Maybe I figured, "hey, if I can speak to kids (who can be the harshest, most honest critics), then talking to adults should be cake!"

Or maybe I just need to up my meds.

At any rate, I did it. My topic was "How To Podcast Your Politics (and still have people listen)." It started out a little bumpy. I was nervous, even though there were only 12 people in the room and I knew 8 of them. I don't like being noticed. Seriously. I'd rather sit back and listen, ask questions now and then. I'm much better (and louder) behind a microphone. Plus, I kept looking at my outline, and stumbling around a bit. Felt a little like an idiot.

What changed was when I told everyone to jump in and contribute at any time. After that it became more of a discussion. The session led itself, and I just made sure to get through all SIX of my slides! It was a really good time, and I got some really positive feedback. I might just know a thing or two about something! I did record this session, so when I finally get through all the audio to post- I will.

I was also on a couple of panels this weekend. The Podcasting Panel, which was just general Q&A about the what, where, why's of Podcasting. It was ok. I'm very basic in my set up, and I think others make it more complex than it needs to be. They definitely make it more expensive than it needs to be. I just let the others do all the talking. I might skip participating in that one next year if they have it. Unless they really want me to contribute. I just wasn't feeling it this time, but that's cool.

The panel I *really* enjoyed being a part of was the Being Visible Online panel. I didn't think I qualified to be on it, honestly. I just do my thing and don't really worry about who's watching. Turns out I did have something to contribute, and it was an awesome discussion about what you can do, and probably shouldn't do to be visible online. I'm definitely an "oversharer"- every little thing and even a little bigger thing will make it into a tweet or a Facebook status update. It's just what I do. I don't worry about it being too much, I enjoy it. In the political world, it certainly has its drawbacks, and I talked about the time a troll decided to attack me personally after hearing my show. For the most part, if you have an awareness about what you do, you can still be very open AND secure online. The thing that is great about all of this is the control is in your hands, so you can decide if you want to follow what I'm doing, listen to what I'm saying, or read what I'm writing. And if you don't want to, hey that is just fine. We all use the series of tubes for different reasons, and some want to use it more, and some less.

My *SQUEEEE!* moment- Carey Pena of 3TV spoke this year, so I sat in on a bit of her talk. Afterwards, I saw her at the front door talking, and decided that I would go up and thank her for coming and speaking (as an organizer, that's the next post!). So I introduced myself, thanked her for speaking and said I was an organizer.

She's all "You mean 'tsdivadani?"
And I'm like "Uh... yeah...."
And she says "I follow you! I love reading your tweets!"
And I'm thinkin' "Girl I'm supposed to say that to YOU!"

It was my little fan girl moment, but also drove home the point of visibility. You're probably more visible than you think.

All of this speaking just makes me more visible too, not to mention more confident every time I do it. Which is good, since I want to start writing more and getting into more audio editing as a business sort of thing. I have a ton of hands-on experience now in many areas, why shouldn't I try and make a couple bucks here and there too?

I'm very grateful to those who have the faith in me I occasionally lack to do these things. This was a great weekend, and a great one to be a geek too!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The last Podcamp. Not in my eyes.

What. A. Weekend. I'm sitting here in a dazed, confuzzled state trying to get all my thoughts together and write this. I could probably wait until tomorrow, but I also know that I should get this down while it's all still semi-fresh in my head. So many things I want to get down from an organizing, attending, and presenting point of view, I don't know where to start. The best way to do this is to just start writing.

*UPDATE: So, it looks like I ended up talking about the big name change. And I did end up waiting until tomorrow. Next post will cover my specific thoughts as an organizer and presenter this year.

The 5th PodcampAZ was this past weekend. Yes, the shirt says "Last." It was our big surprise, but leaked a little bit early. No biggie. I think everyone was expecting some long, drawn out ramble about a big PodcampAZ- podfade. Or that we merged with some other conference that made podcasting a side note. Instead, we on the committee** simply decided to change the name. That's it. So PodcampAZ has now become TechPhx. Since the beginning, although we stuck to the "unconference" rule that Podcamp has stood by for 5 years, it's never been solely about podcasting. PodcampAZ wasn't even created by a podcaster! It was an awesome dude who saw the Podcamp model and understood the innovative possibilities behind it, and me and many other local podcasters were quick to get on board. But PodcampAZ from the start has always been about the tech community and social media in general, and for the most part the conferences each year have been fairly successful. The problem was getting new people to understand what the conference is, and "Podcamp" to the general public simply isn't as easy to explain.

TechPhx is. I'd really be surprised to say the word "tech" to anyone and have them not know what I was talking about. Technology is our present, and our future. Podcasting is part of that technology, and PodcampAZ will be just one track of many next year. When I have more to say about that, you will be the first to know. As a podcaster, I'm very protective of my medium, just like anyone who believes in something they use often, and serves them well. I never would have been pro-active to a name change had I thought podcasting was going to be edged out the way it has in other conferences.

I get it. You have to move with the changes, and incorporate them with what you're doing, rather than struggling to polarize an event that was never that polarized to begin with. It's a big tech-world out there. We want everyone to know they have a place to go, with a strong community that will help them get started, or expand on what they all ready know.

That is what PodcampAZ was, and what TechPhx will continue to be. See you next year!

**Don't sit in the background and grumble about things you didn't like about the event. Join us and be a part of getting your opinions known and turned into reality! Only you can be the change... that Gandhi guy was awesome. And if you thought it was awesome just the way it was- then you should join us too! We're always looking for more bodies to make the organization process run even smoother than it did this year!