Bizcampbe #11 – lessons for academics from the start-up world


Ana Adi at Bizcampbe  It is the start-ups that I look up to these days. They look for the bright ideas and for the ways in which the world can be a better place and people can be happier. They do it on the move, endocrinologist out of traditional office hours and sometimes even out of traditional offices. And, salve in my view, symptoms it is the start-ups that pick up on the needs of the “new workforce” and therefore inspire and inform my teaching.

While in Belgium during the first week of June, I took advantage of the fact that Bizcamp was taking place in Kortrijk (the city of Vives, an insitution that I collaborate with and visit as a visiting lecturers for many years now) and joined. Bizcamp is “a free “un-conference” organized by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs which brings together about 100 people twice a year in Belgium”. It is a great event where ideas are encouraged, solutions are sought and expertise is shared. At the start of the event people who want to deliver a presentation are asked to put it up on a sticker-board and then pitch it in less than one minute to the other participants. After that they have 20 minutes to deliver to their promise.

As an academic, used to conferences and talks prepared well in advance, pitching was new – at conferences the schedule is set in advance and in some instances so is the audience. I used my “in the works” workshop idea for the upcoming Festival of Learning at BU and then tailored my talk to the audience trying not only to address their questions but also linking my learning points to the presentations delivered earlier.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. An elevator pitch is not for the weak. It needs to provide enough information about the session without giving out the content. It therefore needs to spark curiosity while showcasing the experience of the speakers and making a value-promise to the attendee.
  2. Humor (and small size) can help you attract attention. To know what works, it is a good idea to observe the crowd and the way people interact but also keep an eye on the social media stream of the event.
  3. Relevance. This can be achieved in three ways: providing your own answer to a problem that is stated, help people find their (own) answers or ask people to help you find an anwer/solution.
  4. Keep people busy. The traditional academic delivery includes a large audience and a sole speaker. At Bizcamp it was dialogue, humor and most importantly interaction that made sessions attractive. People had to complete tasks within a limited time or provide fedback while contributing finding solutions to given problems. I think we should include this model (from once in a while) into the academic lecture mode of delivery. Apart from breaking up with monotony, this “disruptive” learning should help remind our students that solutions (and learning) come in many shapes.

And there’s one more thing: Bournemouth could have its own Bizcamp but ours could perhaps include the university as well: A sort of DCS Showcase and Festival of Learning pumped up and expanded to include and celebrate the many talented people in the South.


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