Early Saturday morning, February 21, a cold day in Toronto, Yonge and Dundas, snow in the forecast, a street artist at work on a pop-art Mona Lisa rendering in chalk on the sidewalk, rock-and-roll blaring from one lone speaker propped on an angle in a shopping cart and somewhere in the distance Podcamp Toronto begins to stir as people gather and merge and Twitter.
I arrived two hours before the real excitement began because I was volunteering and as I gathered, I met my first Twitter friend @jessbennett who works with @martinwaxman at Palette PR, who would be co-hosting Inside PR later that morning. Jess was also volunteering. What a thrill to meet someone in person you’ve talked to online. As Jess and I took a few minutes to get to know each other, I struggled to put the face-to-face image I had of her now in front of me with her avatar on her blog, which is kind of ethereal and blue and feathery (visit her blog and you’ll know what I mean). It was weird seeing so many avatars come to life with arms and legs walking about. Weird in a good kind of way. As humans we’re gregarious creatures and I don’t think we ever get over that excitement of meeting and gathering, especially with people who share a common interest.
That common interest is, of course, social media with a spotlight on podcasting. There was an impressive lineup this year for the sessions and a variety of topics, including a live recording of Inside PR. I shared the daunting task of clicking the broadcast button on the laptop that was connected to the camera for live streaming. I think it was my partner in crime, @RaWeiss, who actually clicked the button, but my directing skills enhanced the quality of the livestream as @DoctorJones kept blocking @TerryFallis out of the shot; but you know those two, always kidding around.
Even though I was volunteering, I managed to go to a few sessions, including a look at blogging and blogger relations from both sides of the fence. Moderated by @KeithMcArthur, the panel consisted of David Jones, @EdenSpodek, @geekigirl and @mstradiotto. As someone who works in digital PR, what interested me most about this session were the things I could apply to my own blogger relations.
It was a real treat sitting in on Heresy, Hipocrisy and Sin by the master himself, @chrisbrogan who, much to everybody’s surprise and delight, was handing out books and promoting this old-fashioned art of communicating. Perhaps it has something to do with his new book that he is writing with @Julien. This session was very entertaining. I think Chris must have been a stand-up comic in a previous life, maybe it was Second Life.
Sitting on the subway on my way home, ruminating on what I had learned, trying desperately to ignore the man beside me snapping his paper with every page turn, and feeling slightly amused by the audacious girl reading over the shoulder of another passenger, I felt a stronger connection with the people I had met that day, stronger than the bandwidth that brings us together on a daily basis. Podcamp is more than just a place to learn from social media experts. It is an opportunity to network, meet new and old friends, and share common interests. These kinds of events dispel the myth that computers isolate people. Au contraire, they bring people together and sometimes, when we come together, we do great things.