My Podcamp Experience: Leveling Up

I first learned about Podcamp Pittsburgh in 2009, when everyone in my Twitter feed started using an unfamiliar hashtag.  What was this #PCPGH4, and why didn’t I know about it?  Finally, I found a link and began to explore.  Once I realized that PodCamp was free to attend, that they would give me a free t-shirt, and a free lunch, I was determined to go.  (What can I say? I work at a non-profit. I’m frugal.)  I had also recently started a social media presence for our organization (including Facebook, Twitter, and a blog), and was interested in learning more about this new frontier.

And so I went.  But at PCPGH4, my participation was minimal. I went to the sessions on Saturday and Sunday, but didn’t attend any of the “extra” events.  I barely talked to people.  I was nervous, and I felt like an outsider.  When I did meet someone I knew from Twitter, I had no idea what to say.  But I walked away with pages and pages of hand-written notes (which I still have today), and boatloads of motivation.  I was inspired!  I couldn’t stop telling my (real life) friends about the sessions I attended, or the famous-on-the-internet people I had heard from.  I was already excited for PodCamp Pittsburgh 5.

So, when the following September rolled around, I signed up for PCPGH5 right away.  I promoted it to my followers on Twitter, and counted the days until it took place.  That time, I was ready.  I had been engaging more with people on Twitter over the past year, and when I showed up at the Meet’N’Greet at AlphaLab, I walked into a room filled with friends (and a lot of strangers, too, but friendly ones).  Throughout the weekend, I found myself striking up conversations in the hallway, and chiming in during sessions.  I again brought my trusty spiral notebook, and again filled pages with the wisdom of the presenters.  I left with a ton of new friends and a pretty extensive to-do list, ranging from “move from Blogger to WordPress” and “swear less on Twitter.”  (I’m still working on that last item. Sorry, Mom.)

This year, I felt that it was time to become more involved.  I wanted to share my knowledge and experience with others, and to contribute something to the community that had given me so much. (Cheesy? Yes. True? Yes.) So I signed up as a volunteer, and asked a few friends (fellow officers of our local 85 Broads chapter) if they’d be interested in hosting a session on “Social Media & Your Career.”  After our topic was approved, I was unbelievably excited (and nervous) for PCPGH6.  But, as I expected, the experience was tremendous.  Volunteering made me realize how much work the organizers do throughout the year to create a phenomenal experience for everyone who attends.  Being a presenter was terrific.  Our session had an amazing group (not that I expected anything less), and sparked great conversation about how Social Media can help (or hurt) your career.  And of course, I made new friends, attended some incredibly useful sessions, and left feeling inspired (and with another lengthy to-do list).

I’ve learned a lot from attending PodCamp; in fact, I’ve filled an entire spiral notebook with information from the sessions I’ve attended over the past three years.  The most important thing I’ve learned, though, is that PodCamp is what you make it.  You can go and listen, learn, and absorb.  You can develop connections, forge friendships, and begin conversations that continue throughout the year (and longer).  You can contribute to the PodCamp community as a volunteer or presenter.  So if you’ve attended PodCamp before, I challenge you to push yourself to the next level.  If you attended, try presenting.  If you were a presenter, sign up to volunteer.  If you’ve never been?  Sign up and attend PCPGH7.  Be inspired.  (And hey…did I mention the free stuff?)

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