The weekend's activities started last Thursday with RE BarCamp. Then, there was the NAR Convention that ran through the weekend. And, of course, the ASTD-OC Chapter leaders transition meeting last Saturday.
RE BarCamp was a hit with over 500 people in attendance at the Stingaree in San Diego's Gas Lamp District. In a nutshell, in addition to getting a whole buncha folks in the real estate profession together for a day to learn from each other about various topics ranging from Facebook, video blogging and social media to Google Wave, professionalism and legal issues of social media technology, we also had the pleasure of raising funds to sponsor schooling for two under-privileged children in a third-world country.
What's a barcamp?In case you've never heard of a barcamp, it's basically a grassroots gathering where like-minded folks come to help each other learn. It's typically a free event run entirely on volunteerism and the occasional sponsorship from a company, organization or community. Frequently, there's also some kind of charity-sponsorship activity that attendees raise funds for. As I alluded above, last Thursday's event was honored to raise funds to help send a couple of kids to school via Mothers Fighting For Others.
BarCamps can form around any theme and can form anywhere in the world. Folks like YOU and me make it happen. Last Thursday's event happened to be themed on the real estate profession. It coincided with this year's NAR Convention (National Association of Realtors), which was also kind enough to sponsor part of the event. In many ways, a barcamp is like a convention, in the sense that there are breakout sessions where some expert facilitates discussion to learn about a certain topic. Unlike a convention, however, these sessions are free to attend. Also, cross-selling and cross-promotion of products or services by session speakers are discouraged. The event is strictly about learning. Well, learning and lots of networking.
How are session speakers selected for a barcamp?
You think it, you decide to do it, you sign up on "the board", it happens.
It's like this: event organizers identify sections of the venue to split up into rooms. (Rooms can be formal rooms, or they can be a group of chairs pushed together in one corner of a large room.) Meanwhile, in some central gathering area, a large white board is posted. On the white board is a matrix. Columns in the matrix identify rooms. Rows specify meeting times, typically in 30- to 45-minute increments. In the cells of the matrix is white space for anyone -- any attendee -- to write the name of a topic and, of course, their own name to identify the facilitator.
Attendees regularly visit the white board to see the list of topics. If one interests you, simply show up in the designated meeting "room" at the appointed time. If there's a topic you'd like to discuss that isn't on the board, simply fill in your name and the name of the topic. Of course, lots of networking also tends to happen during the session breaks, lunch gatherings and the evening mixer that typically happens at the end of the event.
Barcamps are a great way (and did I say free?) for professionals to come together to network while teaching each other about trends and current events going on in their industry. Some industries have more critical mass than others. The RE BarCamp (real estate industry professionals) happens to be one of those with critical mass and seemingly a new event someplace in the U.S. happening at least quarterly. You can learn more about barcamp here. And, real estate barcamp here.
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