Thing 8 of 30: Send a bunch of staff to an unconference

September is 30 things I would implement or consider implementing at my credit union if I was a credit union leader.

Thing 8: Send a bunch of staff to an unconference

I read a Callahan & Associates e-mail today (speaking of the importance of opt-in e-mail lists!). Within the e-mail was this quote, "According to 2Q 2009 data, credit unions reduced travel and conference expenses by 24.8% from the same quarter in 2008."

I can certainly back this up. Three of my speaking engagements have been cancelled this year due to a lack of conference tickets sold (I'll blame the economy instead of the lack of interest in hearing me—it's easier on my ego).

But before you scrap your conference budget entirely, there is another type of conference that is very affordable and extremely valuable. They are called BarCamps.

From Wikipedia: BarCamp is an international network of user generated conferences—open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants. The first BarCamps focused on early-stage web applications, and related open source technologies, social protocols, and open data formats. The format has also been used for a variety of other topics, including public transit, health care and political organizing.

BarCamps have also been established in the finance arena. In fact, in the last two years, there have been about a dozen BarCampBanks all around North America starting with BarCampBankSeattle in July 2007. Don't the "Bank" in the name fool you—there are always plenty of passionate credit union people in attendance.

I attended the Seattle event and thought it was fantastic. I also helped organize the inaugural Canadian event last year—BarCampBankBC—which was held in Vancouver in September 2008.

And we are doing it again in less than two weeks:

BarCampBankBC2
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Vancity Head Office
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Cost: $10
+ Visit the wiki and sign up today

William Azaroff, from Vancity was able to secure a fabulous location for zero cost! The ten bucks will cover the pizza lunch. If you have not experienced a BarCampBank, you should give it a try. If you have experienced a BarCampBank, you know it will be a worthwhile use of your time.

Can't make Vancouver? No problem, there are sure to be more next year. If I were a credit union leader, I would send a dozen employees (including myself and members of the executive team right down to frontline staffers) to a BarCampBank in my area. Everyone will come back energized and brimming with great ideas.

Tim