Catching up with Conference 3.0

Alright folks, we’ve been throwing stuff out there to start making changes in the way we see conferences, and we think it’s time to open this up to the greater community for discussion. But first, we wanted to provide a re-cap of what’s been posted so far – by us, by other student affairs folks, and those outside of student affairs. Take a look-see, and join us for a chat today by following the #conf30 hashtag – we’ll be here all day today answer questions, fueling conversation, and just generally talking Conference 3.0.

You can also join us again in a couple of weeks at the #satech chat – July 18th at 2 p.m. CST.

The Conference 3.0 series:
4/3/2012 All About Development – (the one that started it all)
4/11/2012 Programming at a Conference –
5/18/2012 Here is the call to action, call back!
5/30/2012 Planning Teams –
6/7/2012 Attendee Bill of Rights –
6/25/2012 Joining a Conference Committee -

A library of links relevant to the Conf30 discussion.

Student Affairs folks respond:
@EricaKthompson’s Storify –
@EricaKThompson’s Blog Response –
@BryceHughes’ Blog Response –
@KateMcGK’s Blog Response –
@JenniferKeegin’s Blog Response –
@AmmaMarfo’s Blog Response –

Conference 3.0 outside Student Affairs:
Plan your meetings – Top 5 meeting trends
Jersey Alliance – Innovative Event Planning Boot Camp
EDUCause – Call for Proposals
Jeff Hurt Blog – Campfire Experience

This is cross-posted on my co-conspirator’s blog as well: .
You can follow her at @Kristendom.

Conferences 3.0: Planning Teams

This is a continuation of a discussion centering around the improvement, growth, and evolution of conferences (not just higher education conferences). Follow and contribute to the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #conf30, which stands for Conference 3.0.

In previous posts, we’ve outlined what you should expect when joining the conference planning team, as well as what participants should be able to demand from a conference experience. But what does all this get you as a student affairs professional? Why do it?

As you can imagine, we have a few ideas. Conference chairs, please take note!

Members of the Conference Planning Team should be able to…

Understand the role
– Have access to information from previous conferences or planning meetings early in their process of participation.
     (Giving me the wrap-up report from last year’s conference as we set up
     for registration does not help. It just gives me something else to carry
home in my luggage.)

– Have a clearly defined set of expectations, time commitment, responsibilities, etc. BEFORE they commit to the role. See: Joining the Conference Committee for a general list.

– Have an “out” within the first two months of membership on the board.
     (No questions asked, just not the right time, something came up, etc. It
may have seemed like a perfect fit 3 months ago when they applied and
get hired but things didn’t work out. Let me go so I’m not dead weight and
don’t judge me for doing so. Remember, I’m thinking of the greater good
of the committee.)

– Have access to conference chair beyond scheduled conference calls and meetings.
     (Please, please return my phone calls, emails, texts, Facebook messages
and tweets. I really DO need your help!)

Expand and Grow (your mind, not your waistline)
– Be challenged.
     (The Wii entertainment tournament, not the challenge we are talking
     about. We don’t mean overloaded with extra work and given everything
conference chair doesn’t want to do – we mean stretching your mind    

– Be able to explore an area of interest unrelated to their specific job position.
     (Don’t we preach not to be all “oh you are a marketing student, you can
make all the posters!”, let’s not do that to each other. And guess what?
People tend to work harder and do a better job when it’s something they
love and don’t get to do as often.)

– Have the ability to be innovative, try new things, and experiment.
     (Do not, I repeat, do not allow the committee to come up with lots of fun,
exciting new things and then tell them, “Actually, we’re just going with
what we did last year.” Sure to be a buzz kill.)

– Think creatively of how to document, catalog, log, write, shoot, the entire experience resulting in a post-conference report filled with “what we did, why we did it, how it worked, how it didn’t work, what can be improved, snapshots of attendees, snippets of attendee reactions, and follow-up with attendees post conference.”
     (Bullet points and summaries are no longer suitable. Show those who
missed out on the conference what they actually missed out on. Bullet
points and summaries don’t tell me what the experience was like, photos
and voices do.)

– Be ok with their idea not working out as planned.
     (Practice what we preach to our students – mistakes and failure also
teach us something.)

Connections & Networking (Call me maybe?)
– Have the opportunity to make connections that are relevant to their current job.
     (Most of us are not looking for a job in the hotel restaurant, but we sure
would like to be introduced to that up-and-coming SSAO over there.)

– Be able to trust their fellow planning team members – when someone says they will finish something, it will be finished.
     (Not referring to the cookie plate.)

– Be engaged with prospective conference attendees and organization membership via blogs, tweets, hangouts, videos, and *gasp* phone calls. *If you want to be really original, start a fax chain letter.*
     (Weddings now have websites where you can read the story, see the
pictures, and get updates from the Bride & Groom. Why can’t a

Takeaways, SWAG
– Be able to have fun.
     (Not get plastered in your conference fleece vest fun. Fun as in, high fives
behind the curtains fun.)

– Be recognized for their efforts.
     (Not everyone gets stars, but you should expect a handshake and a pat on
the back even if it comes from an unlikely source (hotel staff?). Accept it
knowing your work was recognized.)

– Be encouraged/empowered to share with their supervisor, colleagues, campus what they are doing and learning as part of the experience.
     (There is nothing more frustrating than having an awesome experience at
a conference and then not being able to share in the wealth. Except for
being out of reach of the cookie plate.)

This list is certain to grow and we want you to cultivate it. So please share with us, what do you think conference planning committees are entitled to as part of their “rights, expectations, wish list”?

This is cross-posted on my co-conspirator’s blog as well: you can follow her at @Kristendom.

Webinars & Telephones: We can do better

Webinars 1.0

Have you sat in on a webinar lately? Did you end up looking like this?

Click for photo credit.

Webinars were such a great idea.

You can get a “conference” level presentation at your desk with the audio corresponding to the slides that slowly go from one to the next on your screen. Your audio is most likely pitchy, cuts out, and is monotone (regardless of presenter’s efforts, the connection drowns out any enthusiasm).

Webinars were such a great idea.

They remind me of AOL chat rooms. Great at the time but now we have Facebook pages, Ning communities, Twitter hashtags, and Google Hangouts. Very few people still use AOL chat rooms (my sister being one of them). The question is why haven’t we changed the way we do webinars? Why is it still the same, boring (admit it, it’s boring) format?

I’ve done webinars. I’ve tried to make them interactive but it is still a struggle to get people to focus for 60-90 minutes on static materials.

Webinars 3.0

Make it a two-part series.

Part One: Have the speaker give a tape presentation either TED Talk style, or simply at her desk switching between her webcam and her presentation. This allows me to see your face, watch your body language, and at the same time see the slides that you deem important enough to convey the message that your words cannot. Now, when you register for the webinar you are sent a link to the video of the presentation.

Part Two: Discussion. With Google-On-Air have the present host a discussion. Utilize Twitter for a backchannel, invite 10 lucky people to be in the Google Hangout live OR rotate a spot in and out for people asking questions. ENGAGE! There is nothing engaging about reading me your powerpoint slides through terrible audio quality. Especially when I already have the slides because you sent them before hand.

Conference Calls 1.0

Here is the number. Dial in. Say your name. Sit back and listen. Respond when necessary.

Now this works if you have a very, very large group. If you have more than 20 people in a room to have a discussion you are basically having a town hall meeting or a very large staff meeting….over the phone. Really? Is this the best we can do?

Conference Calls 3.0

If you have 20 people or less to engage in a group conversation, you can do one of two things. One, this product Social Hangouts, utilizes Facebook to have up to 20 people video chatting at the same time. I haven’t had a chance to use it but I can’t wait to try it out. Two, break it up. If you have 20 people on the phone chances are much discussion isn’t happening and you’d be better off soliciting feedback via an e-mail chain.

If you have 10 people or less to engage in a group conversation, why aren’t you hosting a Google Hangout? It’s more personal and more productive in my opinion. You see faces, you can collaborate LIVE on a Google Doc or one of the other sweet apps they have available. I’ve used Google Hangouts over the past year to engage with a group of folks on a collaborative project with great success. Some hangouts have been fun for an hour, others have been productive and fun, none have been just productive (we are a fun group).

It’s time to ditch the phone on your desk for anything more than interoffice calls. All new employee spaces should be standard issue with ear buds or a headset, and a web cam. It is 2012 people, we can do better with the technology that we have and there is no reason why we shouldn’t be already.