Tag Archives: collaboration

Meeting Format – High Impact Storytelling

At the recent KMWorld09 conference in San Jose, CA; Nancy Dixon ran a session on the evening before the main conference began.  It was the true essence of “teaching-by-doing” rather than just “teaching-by-telling”.  She calls it, “High Impact Storytelling”.

In contrast, the majority of the sessions at KMWorld are traditional lectures with slides and a few questions at the end if there is time.  My open letter to the KMWorld organizers describes some ways to improve the conference.  I hope they will engage in a discussion to make KMWorld10 a better experience for KMer attendees.  One of my suggestions was to include more sessions like Nancy’s (eg. Buzz Sessions) and increase significant peer to peer interactions.

How the session goes:

After a brief intro, Nancy introduces herself and requests that people move into small groups (4-5 ppl).  Each group consists of chairs facing each other with no table in the middle.

  • Nancy asks each person to take turns telling a story on particular topic.  Ours was what was your best experience ever with KM.
  • Each person has 2 minutes to tell their story before a bell rings and you move onto the next person
  • Once you have made it all the way around the circle, she asks everyone to get up and find a new group
  • Everyone is asked to tell the same story again, but to a new set of people.  Of course, each of the other stories is new to you, even though it is the teller’s second time
  • She repeats this one more time so that everyone moves to a new group and then tells their story a 3rd time

To close out the session:

  • Nancy asks everyone to get up and put a hand on the shoulder of the person who they felt told the best story
  • The person who garners the biggest crowd around them is asked to tell their story one more time for anyone who may not have heard it.  Our winner was “2-5-1 storytelling
  • Then Nancy asks everyone to form one large circle and she facilitates a discussion about what was gained from the exercise

Here are some of my takeaways

  • Telling a story multiple times makes you significantly better at telling it
  • Because you want to get better at telling your story, you are not only listening to the stories of others, but also to HOW they tell their story in order to use their best practices to improve your own
  • There is a significant level of bonding that is gained from a participatory shared experience.  If one of your goals for a conference is to build relationships, this is a far superior format to sitting in a lecture.
  • Tables are useful to put things on, but they are also a psychological barrier between people

If you have other high-impact conference session formats, please share them in the comments below.


Chats for Associations

There is already a meta-discussion on Twitter called #assnchat where association leaders collaborate.  How many of those associations are using a Twitter Chat (overview, tools) to create an additional collaboration avenue for THEIR members?  Judging from the Twitter Chat Schedule, the answer seems to be, “very few”.

It seems that social media savvy individuals rather than associations are the ones starting the chats.  Lara Mculloch-Carter (@ready2spark) started #eventprofs.  It could have been MPI.   Jeff DeCagna (@pinnovation) started #assnchat.  It could have been ASAE.

On the recent Oct 6 #assnchat (transcript), I moderated a discussion of how and whether associations should be creating Twitter Chats for their membership.  The chat included some good reasons for an association to run a Twitter Chat

  1. It provides another avenue for collaboration
  2. It’s free so it can be added as a benefit without driving up costs
  3. Content tends to be very good on chats
  4. Less intimidating than a conference call for those who are shy to speak out
  5. Chat attracts attention from members and prospects due to its nature of tweets going out publicly

and some reasons why an association may not want to run a Twitter Chat

  1. Discussion is 100% open.  There might be a privacy issues which necessitates more of a walled-garden
  2. Participation may be low until more people are on twitter
  3. Yet another channel might spread the activity even more so that it is hard to gain a tipping point of activity in any one channel
  4. members may want a non-computer based collaboration since they are already on computer all day

In my personal opinion

  • #1 – Certainly a good reason that you should watch out for
  • #2 – Even with only 3 people in a Twitter Chat, you can learn a lot.  Get started.  Once word gets out, more will join
  • #3 – when done well, channels feed each other rather than take away.  Tout your website during the chat and talk about the chat on your website.  Mention the chat during your f2f meeting and gain registrations for f2f from the chat
  • #4 – I have found that most people who spend a lot of time on a computer, prefer additional means of communication that use the same device.  email, IM, and even Skype are often preferred over the telephone by heavy computer users.

A chat session is never going to replace face2face collaboration.  Due to human nature, we develop a significantly deeper/quicker bond when we can see and touch each other.  But, we should not consider the choice an either/or.  Chats can increase the demand for f2f and they can help with the hype.

There is a very different set of opinions based on the same chat session over on Memberclicks.  I hope you will chime in with some of your thoughts either here or there.

Future Conferences – Part 2

Mapping the Edges
Mapping the Edges

Part 1 talked in more general terms about the ways that conferences can be improved.   This post will list some specific suggestions as well as some of the software providers who are starting to make it happen.

The basic premise is that if you are going to bring people together to a single location you should maximize the collaboration during that time.  Here are some ways.

  • Pre-conference lectures via the web can establish a common foundation of knowledge  and discussion topics
  • Pre-conference online collaboration can help identify interesting people to seek out at the conference and can establish the hot topics that should be covered at the conference
  • Collaboration tools can be integrated into the conference as it runs to help people find the right sessions and the right people whom they would like to meet face-to-face.  Many of the people who are not speakers are likely experts.  Give them a voice too.
  • Post-conference the discussion can/should continue.  Think about how hard it is to get everyone together once a year.  Everyone has to clear their schedule, make travel plans, and incur significant costs.  Yet the collaboration is so valuable to us that we overcome that inertia and attend.  We, of course, would love to interact with those same people throughout the year if given the chance

Some of the companies/tools focused on this space are:

  • Speaker Interactive – providing “Professional Speakers in Digital Form”.  Can be helpful in providing presentations ahead of the event or for supporting “online attendees” who could not attend a live event.
  • The Social Collective – Facebook and Twitter for conferences
  • Crowdvine – Amplify the networking value of your event.
  • EventMingle – configurable event based online social networking
  • EventChatter – Twitter add-on for tweeting around events

Other services out there that will change conference collaboration in some way?

Future Conferences – Part 1

Live pay-per-view has been around for decades primarily for sporting events: mainly boxing and now ultimate fighting (UFC).  On-demand is another variety of content revenue which cable has come to embrace:  allowing us to pay for movies and shows that we want to watch on our own schedule.  Audiences have begun to use these functions, but because of the interface and the low tech-savvy of the TV audience, they must have a very simple user experience (UI).  The internet conversely provides a better interface to search/find content, but so far is not well tied into the HD larger screen viewing experience that we get through TV.

Movies and concerts through TV and online don’t have much to do with Future Business.  However, there is another content type that could be available on-demand which does support business: conference content.   This post will view how conferences could (should?) evolve over time to support Future Business.

I have always found it strange that conferences have two primary and often conflicting goals:

  1. Impart best practices knowledge
  2. Connect attendees who are in the same Community of Interest

Conferences often do not give enough time for #2 (networking).  Hours are spent in powerpoint sessions sitting and listening.  Yes, there is usually time to ask/answer questions, but even that is usually very “one-to-many” broadcast oriented.  Some of the most interesting time at conferences is spent at meals, in the lobby, and at cocktails.

This is not a new issue.  As far back as 2005 Vicki Suter, Bryan Alexander, and Pascal Kaplan wrote an excellent paper on the topic.  Luis Suarez and Matt Simpson recently discussed this problem on their Sweettt podcast.  Sean Bohan also discussed the topic on his blog earlier this month.  I have heard the same complaint many times myself.  It is certainly important that conference goers have a common frame of reference in order to have valuable discussions, but building the frame to the exclusion of the discussions misses the point.

So, what are the alternatives?  Travelling is getting very expensive and conferences are often one of the hardest hit industries in a downturn.

In the short-term, online conference content would be valuable to people who cannot make the conference and would provide an additional revenue stream to conference providers.  Not only could content be video-streamed, but it could be paired with asynchronous online collaboration together with the content.

In the longer term if attendees absorbed some of the presentation content on their own time pre-conference, they could make better use of the networking that is best done face to face.  In fact, interacting with the information before the conference would allow for some asynchronous online collaboration even before we arrive.  We would have a head start on identifying some of the people with whom we would like to have in-person conversations.

With some pre-knowledge, attendees arriving at the conference would be ready to attend sessions that are more discussion oriented.  They could ask some of the questions that have been plaguing them and work on some of those that their colleagues contribute.  Far more time could be spent asking/answering questions based on the pre-conference learning rather than having that content broadcast with us all in the same room.

Part 2 includes some of the providers who are improving the way conferences are structured and some specific recommendations about potential conference improvements