Did being a woman influence my decision to present at PodCamp? Not in the least!

So, there's a conversation on a couple of women's blogs (linked to below) right now that highlights a concern about the lack of women on the session agenda at PodCamp, and now I've decided to weigh in with my own thoughts, as I've been thinking about this a lot in the past couple of days. I'm really upset with the suggestion (even in the faintest) that the organizers of PodCamp did not do their best to make sure women were on the agenda. I simply cannot even begin to see how this could be true.

To read the posts that got me thinking, click on the links below:
Podcamp Boston, lack of women speakers, and bringing things to neutral

Not so processed thoughts from the Girl Power Session at PCB4

The power of language – what does sexy mean?

Is it blind arrogance or good upbringing? The idea of the ballsy woman in today's society...

I value knowledge, not gender
The key organizers of the event, one in particular Michelle Wolverton aka ChelPixie to most of us, was a rock star as far as I'm concerned in bringing this all together. After reading comments from Chris Penn, I've just learned that the Director of Operations for PodCamp is also a woman, Whitney Hoffman. If you ask me - the two heaviest lifters of the entire event were women - and were again and again acknowledged and thanked by the likes of CC Chapman, Chris Brogan, Chris Penn and many others during the event. All the rest of us had to do was show up and converse! Anything beyond that was optional and encouraged, in my opinion.

Leadadiscussion While I wondered why there were not more women facilitating discussions at PodCamp, it did not for one minute cross my mind that it was in any way, shape, or form, the fault of or neglect of the organizers of PodCamp. I've never been to PodCamp before but - to be blunt - it was as easy as can be to find out how to lead a discussion on the website. The link to "Lead a Discussion!" is right along the main navigation at the top for every page. And I clicked it because I’m nosy like that, and as soon as I read what it was all about, I thought “Hey, I can do that and it'll be fun!”

What did cross my mind, however, is that it's a shame that more women didn't volunteer themselves to share their knowledge by signing up to facilitate a discussion that would show up on the agenda. But, sometimes life happens, and priorities change and maybe some women meant to sign up but never got around to it. Maybe that’s what happened, maybe not. I don’t know. And to be honest, I didn’t give it that much thought. Until now.

I didn’t give it much thought because I don’t value information coming from women more than information coming from men, or vice versa. I value information coming from knowledgeable people who converse with me, share their knowledge, and ask for mine in return. I value conversation.

We all have choices We always have choices
I really believe that. I chose to click that button, fill out a discussion topic and facilitate what turned out to be a fantastic discussion. Not because I’m a woman. That didn’t even cross my mind. I did it because I wanted to help people who are where I have been and I wanted to learn from them in the process. And I'm thankful for it because I learned a lot from the folks in that discussion. And in the end, that's what it's all about - not the claim to fame that I led a discussion - the fact that I learned something new and hopefully helped some others do the same.

Others chose not to click that button, and didn't end up on the formal agenda. But you know what - that's ok, too. There were still opportunities to get together at PodCamp, and many people I talked with did just that, including the bloggers referenced above.

Being a woman
The list of obstacles I've overcome is way to long to even begin listing them here, but suffice it to say that being a woman has never driven my choice - or worse yet – dissuaded me - to participate in something I was passionate about. Never. I probably have my own mother to thank for that. She instilled in me that anything is possible if I just put my mind to it, and I believe her to this day.

Did being a woman influence my decision to present at PodCamp? Nope. Not in the least. No more than being a woman influenced my decision to attend.

Take responsibility
What I don't understand is how not clicking that button was someone else's fault other than your own. Man or woman, social media guru or newbie, you had a choice to click the button. If you didn’t, that’s your fault, not anyone else’s.

When we choose to box ourselves into a corner and stop pushing ourselves to be the best we can be – whether facilitating a discussion at PodCamp or anything else – we’ve essentially thrown in the towel and just about guaranteed our own failure. Why would you want to do that to yourself?

Chris Penn just made an interesting post with a great quote that I’m stealing:

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.” – Richard Bach Sky's the limit

Me? I'll argue against them any day because the only thing that limits me is me. 

I think that’s a perfect note to close on.

---- Jamie

PodCamp 4 Boston Wrap Up

UMB Campus Center, photo courtesy of

This past weekend, I attended my first PodCamp here in Boston at PodCamp 4 at the beautifulUniversity of Massachusetts Boston Campus Center right on the waterfront.

The anticipation 
While I’ve heard good things about PodCamp in past years, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of participants – would they be seasoned users of social media, newbies or somewhere in between? Would there be folks there that don’t use social media at all, don’t see its value and really don’t even understand what all the hype is about? The answer is yes on all counts. And you know what, it made for some interesting and rich conversations, in my opinion. It was fun being taken back to the time before I used social media daily and hearing all of the “how do I?” and “what if this and that?” questions. It was also very rewarding to have an opportunity to help even a few people see something in a new way. And I look at a few things differently myself, thanks to PodCamp. The sessions looked interesting enough, and I even proposed my own discussion session that made it onto the schedule of events (more on that below), so off we went! 

The first day 
PodCamp Boston, photo by @JamiePappas
My favorite session of day one was “What’s on our minds?” an extension of Chris Penn's Marketing over Coffee podcasts with guest commentators CC Chapman and Chris Brogan. This session more or less consisted of Chris facilitating a discussion with CC and Brogan chiming in with their wisdom and responses for the first part, followed by audience participation for the last 2/3 or so. 

Two important points that stand out in my mind came out of this session: 

1. Charging for Social Media events, even a nominal fee drastically changes the crowd, reduces no shows and changes the conversation. Once people have committed money to something, they’re much less likely to blow it off, and much more likely to participate. It also helps to bring in the people who are interested in the event for its true intent vs. the ones just there to rub elbows. 

 2. If you really want people to find your blog or website, you really need to focus in on what they believe their audience is going to search for when naming your blog/website, using key words, etc. This seems like somewhat of a “no brainer” but it’s often overlooked when people try to come up with a unique and clever name for their website, they often miss out on great opportunities to connect with people that are actually very interested in the topic they’re blogging on, but don’t have any reason to search phrases or key words that have no meaning for them. 

The second day 
Day two was Mike Langford’s “Whatchutalkinabout?” The purpose of the session was to explore the conversational web and how we use it to create conversations of value with friends, colleagues, and customers. This session, however, took an interesting turn when it became apparent that most of the folks in there were not active users of social media, rather they were trying to discover what all the hype was about. Most had been enticed to join Facebook to view family photos or event photos after they had been directed there. A few were also using Twitter or trying to figure out what value they could get out of using Twitter. The conversation was filled with tips and ideas from participants for making use of Twitter by searching, using organization tools such as TweetWorks or TweetDeck

The topic of privacy concerns came up in this session, as well. Lots of examples of people’s photos ending up in marketing materials and even a billboard, I believe. Mike gave good advice in that you should be aware of what level of detail you’re sharing when you’re using any social media or social networking sites. I couldn’t agree more. 

My session 

@JamiePappas PCB4, photo courtesy of @PappasNick I signed up to facilitate a discussion entitled “How do you get your company to see the value of social media?” and I have to admit, I am thrilled with how the session went! It was hard to know how it would go, if people would show up (since I didn’t know the make-up of the attendees), and I was the last session slot of the last day before wrap-up. It’s understandable that at the end of day two of intense conversations and learning, folks would be exhausted and might bow out early. I sure hoped that wasn’t going to be the case, but I was prepared for it. 

The conversation was great! It was interesting, lively and continued for the whole time. The reason is that the people in the room were passionate and interested in social media for business use, how to pitch the idea, what others have done, and how they might be able to go about making it work in their own situations. They were having a discussion, sharing tips with one another, asking questions and advice, and generally engaging much more than I had seen in most other sessions. All in all, I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out, and I’m excited to facilitate another discussion next year! 

In case you’re interested, here are my slides from the session:
Overall, I am pleased with how things went at PodCamp, and am very much looking forward to next year’s unconference! I’m hopeful we’ll see more of a mix of social media being used in both personal and professional fashions next year as more and more companies figure this stuff out. 

Thanks to all the folks who were friendly and engaged in open and reciprocal dialogue both in my session and in the others. And a great big thanks to ChelPixie, Chris Brogan, Chris Penn, CC Chapman, and others who made this event a success! 


Reflections on Enterprise 2.0 2009 in Boston


I’ve been looking forward to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference this past week in Boston for some time. I had the pleasure of being on the panel organized by Peter Kim (@PeterKim) - “Lessons Learned from Internal Communities” – with the likes of extraordinary women like Joan DiMicco (@JoanDiMicco) at IBM and Patricia Romeo (@PatricaRomeo) at Deloitte.


Photo courtesy of Alex Dunne.

Lessons Learned From Internal Communities

View more presentations from Peter Kim.


In addition to the panel session, which went very well, I enjoyed quite a few other sessions. Rather than recapping each session, I’d like to call out my overall observations from the conference.


Many companies, both big and small, are interested in social media as a business tool. The general feeling I got though, and still do, is that they’re not sure where to start. People are hungry for the knowledge of those that have gone before them on where to get started for both an internal and external social media presence – be it communities, how to use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, etc – it’s all on their minds. I imagine that’s one of the many reasons our panel was jam packed.  Types of questions that were consistently circulating around (of which these will make an excellent future post):

  • What are some steps to get started?
  • How do I convince executives that we need to do this?
  • Who funds the initiative?
  • Who manages/staffs the initiative?
  • Who monitors/moderates?
  • Where do HR and Legal come into the picture?
  • How do we treat international participants? Is there translation?
  • How do we deal with international laws, regulations, etc.?


Analytics are a hot topic.

Everyone’s trying to figure out how to measure success of these initiatives. Nearly all of the vendors offering community solutions, also offer some sort of analytics package to go along with it, and some (although few and far between) even offer independent analytics packages.


One huge miss I was feeling is that the push was on the numbers themselves, but there were no actionable recommendations coupled with the tools to suggest what could be done with the analytics. Numbers are only numbers without a keen understanding of what you want to gather, why you want to gather it, and what you want to do with the numbers to improve.  You need not only to know what you’re trying to measure, but what your goals are and why they are important, and then you need to take action and be willing to modify your plan if you’re not getting where you want to be. Key questions that need to be answered include:

  • What are your goals?
  • What are you trying to measure?
  • Why is the measurement important?
  • What will the measurement tell you?
  • What actions can you take as a result of the measurement?
  • What changes will you make if you’re not meeting your goals?


There was a keen interest in understanding the complete social media/social strategy package.

Many folks seemed to be interested not only in what the tools are that are available for use, but how they are being used currently. There definitely seems to be a tendency to want to be “everywhere” (have a presence on all of the tools) NOW vs. slowly moving into using each of the tools as one is mastered. I’d personally recommend the second option – get involved in a few and see how that goes rather than joining all that are out there and attempting to master them all simultaneously.  Key questions on a social strategy include:

  • What are your goals for using social media?
  • What are the tools available to you and what can they be used for?
  • Who is your key audience? Or who are you trying to communicate/converse with?
  • Where are they already conversing?
  • Is there anyone that has experience/expertise in these tools at your company already? Find them – you’re going to need them!


Twitter is still huge, but…

There was hardly a person in each of the sessions, myself included, that was not busy on their laptop or cell phone tweeting their way through the sessions.


…How do we use Twitter as an enterprise tool?

Clearly at the forefront of everyone’s mind was how can people use Twitter to achieve business goals. The first step to that is, of course, defining your business goals. My strong recommendation is that you do not need a Twitter account just because “everyone else is doing it.” You need to instead, answer the following questions about Twitter and then create an account:

  • What are your goals for using Twitter? How do you want to use it?
  • Who is your target audience? Are they on Twitter already?
  • Are others (companies) doing it and can we learn from their example?
  • Who will be responsible for monitoring and engaging?


It's about the people and the technology!

It’s not practical or even possible to just focus on only the people or only the technology. For the longest time, many have said it's about just the people, and the technology doesn't matter...but a consistent theme at the conference this year was that if you're not also paying attention to the technology, you're missing out.


My favorite quote on this topic was by Peter Kim "If its just relationships and technology doesn't matter, we should all go home."


A good social media strategy will take into account both the people and the technology. The people you expect to use the tools on behalf of the company, the people you expect to communicate with, the people that will be impacted by your strategy. The technology you wish to use to support your strategy, the technology people are already using, or will need to learn to meet the organization’s goals. It must be about both the people and the technology.


Enterprise 2.0 tools are an extension of other tools, not a replacement for them.

There has been buzz off and on that these tools will replace other tools we use to work and live, such as email, phone calls, traditional media, etc. However, the consistent theme at the conference – which I wholeheartedly agree with – is that these tools will not be replacements, but that they will and should work in harmony with other, existing tools as supplements to them. Amen.


Social interaction in-person is just as important as online interaction.

Might seem like a no-brainer for those of us that use these tools and talk to people, but we’re all aware of the perception that is out there than people would rather interact online using social tools instead of chatting with folks face-to-face. The response to that theory - and also self-evident by the participation at the Tweetups during the event – is an overwhelming I don’t think so.


This is particularly important to make note of companies who may be relying heavily on community or Enterprise 2.0 tools in and of themselves to help with employee satisfaction and employee retention. Keep in mind that they are only a part of the bigger picture. Sure, they’ll help, but they’re not a replacement for face-to-face interactions and discussions.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions and conference in general. Although the sessions were great, my favorite part of the entire conference was finally meeting, in-person, folks that I've chatted with for weeks, months, even years online or via phone, but never had the opportunity to meet until this wonderful event!