For SkeptiCamp, innovations can come in many forms. You may seek to increase diversity in your group by reaching out to women or a local ethnic group. Or you may desire a keynote speaker to kick off the day's events.
If this is your first event, any experiment will have subtle risks. Your choices will set expectations in the minds of the participants that will carry onto future events, so sticking to the basics is strongly recommended.
Discuss the idea with your fellow organizers, asking whether the proposal enhances or detracts from the goals of the event -- i.e., to tear down the barriers to distribute knowledge within your community of skeptics.
Only once you get a feel for organizing an event should you be in a position to innovate and push the limits of the open skeptic conference.
Ultimately the organizers should listen carefully to all sides on a given proposal, consider the cost/benefit, and then vote it up or down.
Of course, if your event diverges wildly from the SkeptiCamp/BarCamp format, you can still go forward with it, but please don't call it 'SkeptiCamp'.
This is where you reach out beyond your community of skeptics to gain the participation of those outside.
Chicago's coming event will emphasize the participation of women and will likely seek outside their local skeptic community for female participants. But it's otherwise a standard SkeptiCamp event.
This will usually involve the Communication Czar and the Speaker Wranglers.
If you're in an area with a large ethnic population that is poorly represented in your group, you may want to post an ad in their paper or get an article on their websites.
Consider inviting local science bloggers, academics, researchers, grad students, librarians and teachers, asking each if they'd be interested in participating, perhaps to give a presentation in their field that would appeal to a skeptic audience. Ditto for psychologists and physicians. Be sure to explain what you mean by skepticism!
Similarly, contact local magic clubs about your event, asking for a presentation on misdirection, cold reading, spoon bending, etc.
If your local skeptic community is divided along generational lines where the older folks don't often interact with the young, consider skepticamp a prime opportunity to bridge that gap. Don't leave anyone behind and encourage everyone to participate. Talks that impart hard-won experience are as valuable as those that offer new ideas and enthusiasm.
Consider going way beyond everyone's expectations by inviting those who don't consider themselves skeptics but who may employ some of the tools...
* Local paranormal investigators (as featured at the Colorado skepticamps) to discuss their methodology and findings * A police detective to talk about overcoming bias in criminal investigation * Local clergy to discuss how critical thinking and science fit into their ideas about faith * A professional sports referee on maintaining objectivity on the field during emotionally-charged games * Local authors (science fiction, etc.) who have offered skeptical themes in their work
Those favoring a celebrity keynote speaker will point out that it will draw larger numbers of attendees. They will argue it's a great tool for outreach -- to get people in the doors.
Against the idea will be those who will say that it sets the wrong expectations for attendees -- that your event is just another skeptic event where little is expected of attendees and where many will leave immediately after the keynote.
As done by Ohio SkeptiCamp's first event.
Video and audio recording
Having a permanent record of the proceedings or even livecasting it to the net can be valuable.
However, if it deters people from speaking or burdens the organizing effort significantly, it may not be worth the trouble.
For some speakers, getting up in front of a crowd is difficult enough. To be recorded might be too much where they will cancel.