Why The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

by Adrian Segar
(updated for EventCamp East Coast 2011)

A number of people have asked whether EventCamp East Coast #ECDC11 will be livestreamed. The answer is a qualified “no”, and since this is a different choice from those made at the original EventCamp in New York City and then Chicago and EventCamp Twin Cities I thought I’d explain why.

We’re concentrating on the face-to-face experience of the local audience at EventCamp East Coast for three reasons. Two of these factors are straightforward, while the third requires clarification.

The first reason is philosophical. Traci Browne and I—want to create an effective, uncomplicated event. Serving a remote audience well, as was done at the recent EventCamp Twin Cities, adds a significant level of complexity, not only to the organizer’s workload but also to the demands on presenters and the local audience to integrate the two audiences successfully.

The second reason is a matter of logistics. We two organizers enjoy busy professional lives, and possess a limited amount of time to make EventCamp East Coast the best conference we can. Creating an excellent remote audience experience (we wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less) would significantly shift our focus from other important components of EventCamp East Coast.

The final reason is event design related and, perhaps, the most fundamental. The Conferences That Work design that we are using adds a default requirement of confidentiality to what happens during the conference. Let me explain what this means and why we’re doing this.

The thought of providing confidentiality at a conference may seem strange or counterproductive, especially these days where event sessions are routinely streamed and videoed for anyone who wants to watch. But in fact, there’s always been a need at some meetings for a commitment to confidentiality.

The classic example for a need for confidentiality is diplomatic meetings, where, to make best progress, participants need to be sure that what is said isn’t broadcast to the world. In this case, the reason for off-the-record conversation is to benefit relationships between the institutions that the diplomats represent.

But there’s another reason why confidentiality can be useful when people meet face to face; the personal benefit of the participants.

Perhaps the most well known example of events that provide this kind of environment are the 30 years of Renaissance Weekends, where participants “CEOs, venture capitalists, business & social entrepreneurs, Nobel Laureates & Pulitzer Prize-winners, astronauts & Olympians, acclaimed change-makers of Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street & Main Street, Republicans, Democrats & Independents” agree to the following policy:

All participants are expected to respect Renaissance Weekends®’ tradition of the candid and welcome exchange of diverse opinions, safeguards for privacy, confidentiality, and non-commerciality, and family ethos. Comments, behavior, or public references which could compromise the character of Renaissance Weekends® are unacceptable.

In my experience, all peer groups can benefit from this kind of environment. For example: more than once I’ve been told by different doctors I know that they regularly meet with a small group of their peers to confidentially discuss professional issues. In each case, the doctor I was talking with said, in effect, “There are some things that I can only talk about with other doctors.” The Conferences That Work format extends this kind of possibility to any peer group, and I believe that providing this opportunity can be important to any group of people with a common interest.

At every Conferences That Work event I’ve run, there are some sessions where the attendees decide not to share the proceedings publicly—in a few cases not even with other participants at the event. A common example is a frank discussion of the pros and cons of commercial tools and services available to attendees. And it’s not uncommon for a session or two to delve into work- or industry-related issues where attendees are looking for support and advice from their peers. Although these sessions are in a minority, it’s impossible to reliably predict in advance whether a specific session will turn out to require confidentiality.

All sessions at Conferences That Work have a recorder assigned to them, who makes notes or otherwise records the session. Because of the default requirement of confidentiality, unanimous agreement of the session’s attendees at the end of the session is needed for the recording to be made public.

In conclusion, it’s likely that the recordings of most of the sessions at EventCamp East Coast will be made available publicly, but they won’t be streamed live. So if you’re interested in fully experiencing EventCamp East Coast, please join us on site at the National Conference Center! I hope this article has explained why we’ve made these event design choices, and welcome your comments and questions.

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5 Responses to Why The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

  1. Dave Lutz says:

    Adrian, not sure I’m tracking with you on this decision. I can see your point on how certain professional meetings might desire confidentiality…but I don’t buy the confidentiality claim for this audience. It’s a community. In this case, I think you’re missing a major opportunity. Live-streaming and engaging the virtual audience is one of the main reasons the previously held eventcamps received so much positive buzz. Here’s the opportunity you’ll be missing:

    1) When streaming the live audience are superstars. Virtual participants wish that they could be there and participate at the same level. Your live participants have bragging rights of being part of something special.

    2) Your message about how to do better events and improved results is going to have much less reach.

    3) I find that the insight of the virtual participants is additive to the experience and learning. It also allows more introverts to speak their mind.

    4) Your not giving your sponsors the best shot at getting ROI out of their investment.

    Twin Cities definitely raised the bar as it pertains to quality production and remote audience engagement. East Coast doesn’t have to be like them, but you should look harder at this decision. Perhaps demonstrating that live streaming can be done on a shoe string budget. In my mind, the benefits of going hybrid far outweigh the negatives.

    • EventCampEC says:

      Hi Dave, thanks for the thoughtful comment!

      You’ve made several points in favor of adding a remote audience to a face to face event, turning it into a hybrid. But you seem to be minimizing the value of confidentiality for members of the EventCamp community.

      Are you really claiming that everyone attending EventCamp East Coast has nothing they would share with their peers if they were assured of a confidential environment, as opposed to what you’re proposing: a live video stream broadcasting everything they say to anyone who wanted to watch?

      That’s never been my experience at any conference I’ve run where confidentiality is agreed to by all the attendees. Have you ever been to such a conference?

      One other point. You say that you “find that the insight of the virtual participants is additive to the experience and learning. It also allows more introverts to speak their mind.”

      Isn’t it sad that many introverts are reluctant to contribute at traditional conferences and that they may need to be remote and anonymous in order to be brave enough to speak up? In contrast the Conferences That Work design provides a safe and supportive environment for introverted attendees to actively participate.

      There’s no question that livestreaming conferences can add value for remote attendees and provide more eyeballs for sponsors. But EventCamp East Coast, as I explained in my post, focuses on the value for the local audience, by taking full advantage of the advantages of face to face meetings. And, as I also explained, process, content and discussions that attendees decide can be shared will be made available, to the best of our ability, to the public as soon as possible after the event. Just not in real time.

  2. Pingback: Is Confidential Content the Best Approach for an EventCamp Conference?

  3. Swan says:

    Adrian, Sounds like #ECec10 went really well. Congrats. I think I probably agree with Dave that for this community, expansion of the reach is probably way more of a PRO than the loss of privacy is a CON. However, you guys did the work and it was your decision to make. Each event must decide what tools will best serve their in-person and overall community.

    If you ever want to look into using twebevent for future events, please let me know. Here is my old MPI article about very cheap way to stream events: http://www.mpiweb.org/Magazine/Archive/US/October2009/Video

  4. Gang, I agree that ECTC 2010 and 2011 broke magnificent new ground in bringing live and virtual audiences together. I also agree that the local focus without live streaming is central to the model that has emerged for the (now) two ECEC conferences. And I think it’s a strength of the Event Camp brand that it has room for two (or more) very different approaches and philosophies, and for dialogue back and forth between them.
    I want to strongly reinforce two of Adrian’s points:
    * If a volunteer organizing team lacks the time or bandwidth to take on the detail and complexity of a streamed event, I can’t imagine how any of the rest of us have the standing to second-guess that decision. And from the experience so far, I would argue against lowballing or oversimplifying the technology (sorry, Swan) if we actually want it to work as seamlessly as we need and expect it to. To quote a Canadian demographer, speaking many years ago and in a different context: “You don’t do more with less. You do less with less.”
    * This is getting to be a very long-standing argument, but I do agree that there are times and places when people in *any* audience — whether they’re diplomats, professionals, or a community like #eventprofs where most conversations are out in the open — need to go offline. Adrian makes the crucial point that we can’t reliably anticipate when that will happen, but I would add that there’s one thing we *can* reliably predict — if those sensitive conversations need to happen and the setting is wrong, the moment will pass and a potentially transformative opportunity will be lost. We could theoretically make the case for two, three, or a handful of participants to somehow intuit that it’s time to go out to the hallway, away from the prying eye of a livestreaming camera. But I thought a key purpose of Conferences That Work and other Unconference-type formats was to take the good stuff that happens in the hallways and bring it back into the session room. CTW does that and, yes, once again, there are moments when a live feed would defeat the purpose.

    There’s one other benefit to the CTW format. I’ve been going onsite for a quarter-century, and I can’t remember any other two-day meeting where I formed such strong, lasting bonds with so many other participants. At the time, a number of people drew a direct line from an incredible onsite experience to the fact that everyone was engaging in the room, rather than tweeting to the outside world. I know that whole conversation was very controversial at the time, but I would like to think a community that is all about innovation would be wide open enough to accommodate many paths to the same goal.

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