I’m long-winded, so I’ve got a TL;DR version for you:
- Shay, Brad and I run Chicago Camps, which are $50 single-day events
- This year, we’re doing Mobile Camp (April), Speaker Camp (June), Prototype Camp (August), and Sketch Camp (November)
- We don’t want people to feel like they’re not included or considered in our events; the reality is that we have a very limited budget that we mostly exhaust on trying to add as much value as possible.
- We haven’t frequently reached out to many people outside of Chicago because we have a tight budget, and it’s tough to ask someone to show up and foot their own bill. (it’s been offered and we’ve taken those folks up on it because it’d be silly not to!).
- Now that you know our budget concerns, we hope you know you’re welcome to reach out to us and let us know about your ideas, or if you’ll be in town, and we’ll do our best to try to make something work out! We’d love to host all of you at a Chicago Camps event, and hope you won’t be shy about reaching out to us using the contact form at the various websites.
- If someone else foots the bill for your expenses to get you to a Chicago Camps event and you’re a speaker, let us know–we’d be happy to talk to them about how our sponsorships work and include them in the event in some way, as well!
Last year, Shay Howe and I pulled together a little event called Prototype Camp on a bit of a whim/crazy idea-and-email-exchange, and we had a lot of fun doing it. We learned a lot from each other, and recognized that we wanted to do more, but needed some help, and we could probably do even more with the right mix of people, so we added Brad Simpson to the mix and became Chicago Camps, LLC, an actual formed business and everything. And we do these nifty, focused $50 events throughout the year because the topics are timely and important, and hopefully, a rising tide will help to lift all ships.
And well, here we are.
We’ve got Mobile Camp under the belt and Speaker Camp is just around the corner. Prototype Camp is already catching up to us, thanks to ticket sales that are comforting and a bit frightening all at the same time. Okay, I think I covered all the URLs.
Recently, a friend reached out to me and asked me a question that I sincerely had not been prepared to answer, and has had me doing a bit of reflection on how to communicate what’s been rattling around in my brain about that brief conversation.
The question was, essentially, why are we not more inclusive of some of the talented folks in the community who likely are quite perfect for our topics?
To me, this was such an easy question to answer–I know exactly why it could appear this way. But, oh, crap, I didn’t really ever think that anyone would see a reason to call this into question. That’s what has really had this going through my brain-I know the back story, but not everyone else does–attention is at a premium and our little side project isn’t likely hitting someone’s radar until some spoke of the wheel makes a ping. Rough analogy, I know, and I’m sorry.
The events that we put on cost $50 and we end up with a cap of 100 people. We learned this the hard way when we oversold and not everyone could watch Jared Spool give a keynote, and I felt like crap for an entire day because I had let people down, and I don’t want to see that happen again. We do our best to find sponsors for things like breakfast, lunch, and snacks so that people get a little more value for hard earned money, and their precious Saturday that they’re giving up to spend with us. This is important; we focus on trying to give back every penny spent in one way or another–food, books, software licenses, and other stuff from our sponsors. We want to be the best Event Groupon we can be (and if you’re watching, Groupon, we believe you’d make for an excellent sponsor!) in terms of providing value for your money.
Our sponsorships are pretty lean, I guess, if you went to get all popular with descriptors. We don’t try to make a lot of money off of events–in fact, if we break even on Speaker Camp, it’ll probably be a miracle; we believe in the event and supporting the community that wants to be your next round of speakers so much that we believe it’s worth it to take it on the chin a bit, and we hope that someday employers will see the value in having folks who present at events on their roster and they’ll pick up the tab for lunch. Until then, well, we’re forging on.
Back on track, Russ. Our budget is tight for our events. I do a lot of reaching out to people and asking for just about anything. Sometimes it involves cash, and a lot of times it involves those books, software licenses, webinars, event passes, t-shirts, and so on and so forth. Value!
We go after the things that make sense, and we’re getting better at the sponsorship focus. We’re continually evaluating and identifying areas that we can improve and do more for everyone. It’ll be great when we get to a point where we feel that we’ve got it nailed–but I don’t really see that point actually arriving, so we’re going to keep on trying to just get a little better each time.
To try and wrap up this long story, what I’m trying to get at is hopefully simple: It was pretty heartbreaking for me to think that anyone could ever feel “not invited” or “not included” and frankly, that’s the farthest from the truth.
If you’ve read this far, you know we’re a small event run by passionate people for passionate people. And along the way, we try to have some fun in the mix, too.
What we don’t have is a big conference budget. If you have some budget, or you’re going to be in Chicago and we’re having one of our events–please let us know! If you’ve got topical content, new content you want to give a try, or you’re just looking for an excuse to get our great city, we’d love to have you. We’ll do our best to at least try to get some sponsorship or budget or, hell, our own money to share a meal and drinks with you!
You’re invited! We’d love to talk to you, hear what you’re thinking, and how we can try to help. If your company is willing to offset the costs of you coming and sharing your brilliant content, we’re willing to make them a sponsor and make sure that our attendees know!
We are a Chicago-based event, but we are open to everyone, everywhere. We wish we could fly you all in to hang out with us! Maybe someday we will be able to do that, but for now, please don’t be shy! Our attendees are some of the most thoughtful, attentive, and appreciative folks you’ll ever meet–they’re hungry to learn from you, hang out with you, and drink a beer with you (did we forget to mention that we try to have a custom brew at every camp? It’s a new highlight that has gone over well!).
Thanks for letting me ramble, and hopefully we’ll get a chance to see you at a Chicago Camp!