Airplanista Blog Editor
Last night in the press tent at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, the aviation community known as #Avgeeks came together for two hours of real-time chatting and networking at my annual #Oshbash Social Media meetup event. The turnout and support from the people I call family at this show was incredible, with about 100 people stopping by.
I had no idea what to expect, because in years past, attendance at #Oshbash has either been SRO or, like last year, pathetic at about 30 people. So to see a full room again - with everyone having great fun meeting those they might only know online - was a very good thing.
With the seven #Oshbash events that Airplanista has hosted before, I always crafted some sort of program to entertain the guests. But after finding through a poll on my blog that 70 percent of attendees said socializing with other #avgeeks was the #1 reason they attend, I changed the event structure so that it was all about the social aspect, with no program. Comments last night from many indicate I made the right call.
The main thing with any event hosted during this massive show called Oshkosh is that people are all being pulled in nine directions every second of every day. You need to give them a serious reason to put your event above the others happening at that precise moment. You need a lure, and WOWZA did I ever find one:
Bacon. OK, technically it was bacon jerky, provided by Pork Barrel BBQ and sponsored by Mark Spencer of Avilution XFS.
When fishing for bass, most anglers carry a large tackle box filled with an endless assortment of lures, trying different ones until they find the exact one that the fish will bite on. And the bacon jerky at last night's #Oshbash was my "lime green Sneaky Wiggler with Woolly Worm double flasher," - just the lure to reel in the #avgeeks.
Not knowing how many people would actually show, I settled on buying 60 bags of Pork Barrel's really tasty bacon jerky. It looked like a LOT of bags, but just after 530P when the air show concluded, #avgeeks started pouring in, and most headed straight for the bacon jerky. My job was to open the bags and keep the serving plates full, and it was hard to keep up at times. In the time it would take me to rip open a new bag and remove the silicone packet, the plate would empty and I'd fall farther behind. Of the four flavors at this "tasting," Spicy Sriracha and Sweet BBQ were flying off the plates. By 6P, we'd gone through 30 bags, and the serving plates were wiped clean by 7P. The rumors that I ate it all to make it look good are unsubstantiated, but I made sure to try them all...for, um' quality control. 60 bags wiped out in 90 minutes...you do the math...this stuff was a a huge hit!
After #Oshbash, the same clan that was a in attendance migrated over to Camp Bacon for a Jambalya/chili feed, and while there, I heard several positive comments about my event. Seems the combination of a pure social event that served a snack very closely related to real bacon is the golden recipe, which gives me hope for successful #Oshbash events in the future.
There were three keep people who helped make this event happen. Chris Palmer of the AviatorCast Podcast succeeded in getting many in the younger demographic in the door. Jennifer Adams aka @jen_niffer on Twitter was my receiver for the jerky, drove them to Oshkosh, let me store ice chests in her car, and drove me to a local store to nab some drinks and ice. And EAA Communications director Dick Knapinski came though as always by providing the very nice, air-conditioned venue, and even drove me and the ice chests back to Camp Bacon so I didn't have to schlepp two miles to return the ice chests.
The fact that Knapinski offered to drive me in one of EAA's very cool drop-top VW bugs is itself an "Oshkosh moment." He's the busiest guy at this show, putting up with 1,400 or so media crews from around the world...all at the same time, or so it seems. He would not leave the grounds Tuesday night until after 11P, and would be back for day three very early. For him to take 15 minutes out of his day to drive me somewhere speaks volumes about the people from EAA that put this show together. Wisconsin people are by nature very friendly and willing to work hard, and at this show, the dedication displayed by the staff and volunteers is a wonder to behold. They're the reason this gigantic event comes off without many hiccups. Doing "whatever it takes" is they way things get done here, and it has made this the world's largest aviation celebration.
Nice job, #avgeeks, nice job EAA! We've got to do this again!