Podcamp, from its very inception, has been more than mere how-to’s about recording audio or video and posting it online.  It’s been about finding your voice, expressing your creativity, finding a niche and a community, and personal development, clothed in this thing called Podcamp.

While Podcamp started as a local attempt to have a podcasting conference not located on the West Coast, it almost immediately developed into a conference about how people were using digital tools to create community,for any purpose, ranging from business to non-profits, to a passion for knitting, and beyond.  While it’s still called Podcamp, it’s been about so much more from its birth.

At Podcamp Philly, I’ve tried to get this across by adding “Search Camp” to Podcamp- local experts in search engine optimization and more help people understand how to make their digital media projects more easily indexed and hopefully more successful as a result.  After all, if you understand in one half of the conference  how to make digital media, you also need to know how to help people find it and how to understand the analytics to be able to measure how well you are doing.  We’re doing this again at Temple University October 3 & 4th this year, and the folks who run our local Social Media Club are adding Social Media Camp sessions as well.

The name of the conference itself is becoming less important.  What happens there remains as important as ever.  This past weekend at Podcamp Boston, we had almost 75% of the attendees attending their first Podcamp.  The discussions ranged from What’s next in new media, to having people like CC Chapman and Ron Ploof discuss what’s on their plate, to sessions about the Kindle, and Women in New Media.

Podcamp is More About Finding Your Voice

Sometimes, the most important thing about Podcamp is finding people who are open, honest and helpful.  It’s having discussions that aren’t always comfortable, but do get you thinking and give you a to do list a mile long.  The discussion we had about women in digital media had a lot of people expressing their views, in an open, non-judgmental way, pushing each other to see their side, and challenge their beliefs.

Chris Penn had a great blog post about this today, regarding arguing your limitations.  I wrote a blog post back in 2006 about the Fear of Success that’s relevant to this discussion as well.  I think many times, we’re held back by our fear of taking chances, of what other people might think, of trying and what failure might feel like.  But if you decide that failure isn’t so bad, and you can learn a thing or two from whatever mistakes you might make, you don;t have to risk being perfect all the time.  You lose that sense of fear and doubt and just start swinging for the fences.

This change in mindset is vitally important for everyone to have.  I’ve been talking about how fame itself is not always the Nirvana everyone expects it to be- it doesn’t solve your problems, but adds pressures of its own.  But that doesn’t mean fame or popularity is bad- you just have to be prepared for it.  I honestly feel I can do anything, but I just have to be ready for the consequences of my actions, which include criticism, and I consider that a good thing.

It makes me sad when people feel powerless in their lives.  You always have choices.  Sometimes they are good or bad; sometimes they are limited by things like money on hand, but you have to look at every barrier in your path to success as nothing more than a hurdle you need to pass through.  It’s not a brick wall, just an obstacle that you need to figure out how to get around.

People seem to have a hard time with the concept that there are few, if any, rules in this new digital media space.    No one has a magic formula for you to follow, but many people can help guide your path, because each path is as unique as you are.  And it does take work and dedication to find your voice and your niche, but when you do, it’s the best feeling in the world.
Podcamp itself started as an experiment, a laboratory of people and passions, and to date, its been wildly successful.  By standing up and offering to help at the first Podcamp, I got to know people who are now some of my closest friends ever, people who I admire and who challenge me to take risks, to try, and to do every day.  They will tell me when I’m crazy, and help nurture ideas and watch them come to life. They are my friends, my mentors, my colleagues, and my extended family.

Podcamp, in all of its forms, continues to be a lab where you can make anything your heart desires or dreams of, and where you can find others who will help you make that dream a reality.
But it requires extending yourself, dreaming out loud, sharing, trying, risking and going beyond your comfort zone.

Letting go of the fear is really hard, but the rewards, the freedom, the sense of possibility, is worth every risk you take and more.

And as I said almost three years ago now:

We are all in charge of our own personal destiny. We have to be able to recognize opportunity when it comes knocking, and not be afraid to take a risk or say Yes, when No seems so much safer and more conservative and more “Sensible”. We have to be willing to take in other perspectives, but be willing to have the confidence in our own ideas and vision, and be willing to drag those dreams out into the sunlight as well.

What do you think?

Finding your voice, your superpowers, what makes you special is key to finding your place, your niche, and what makes you special.  And I could not be more proud to meet the fellow travelers on this path through a little conference with the subtle misnomer of Podcamp.