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‘Twas the Hangout before Christmas…

December 19th, 2014 by Adrian Segar

‘Twas the Hangout before Christmas, when all through the net
#Eventprofs were stirring, their email to get;
The BEOs were hung on clipboards with care,
In hopes that the caterers soon would be there;
Attendees were nestled all snug in their chairs;
While visions of aerialists danced in the air;
And friends on their laptops, and I on my Mac,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s hack,
When out on Twitter there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my Steelcase to see what was the matter.
Away to my browser I flew like a flash,
Quick opened a new tab and beefed up the cache.
The glow of the screen on my new bluetooth keyboard,
Gave a lustre of ROI promised reward,
When what to my wondering eyes did arrive,
But a whole slew of tweets and +Thom Singer alive
With @PinkDeb +Brandt Krueger +Brad Wilson — a riot!
Followed by +Dan Parks & dear +Jenise Fryatt
+Sue Pelletier +Brad Wilson +Andrea Gold — a battalion!
+Heidi Thorne +Elizabeth Glau & +KiKi L’Italien
So I whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
Now +Tahira Endean, you grand superstar
+Anne Thornley-Brown +Dahlia El Gazzar
To the top of the page! to the top of the list!
Duck under the velvet rope, come to be kissed!
As leaves that before the room turnover rise,
When they meet with an obstacle, we all improvise;
So up to the hangout the #eventprofs they flew
With the click of a mouse, and some first-timers too
Appeared on the chat with a beer in their hand
Or an old-fashioned cocktail (all fresh, nothing canned)…

So come join us shortly if that’s what you’d like
If we say we can’t hear you please unmute your mike!

Details: Google Plus Private Hangout Friday December 19, 2014, 4-6pm ET
You’ll need an invite—if you want one just contact me on Google Plus!

Status and event design

December 15th, 2014 by Adrian Segar

We all like to feel important some of the time. Having status in some of our human relationships is important to our psychological well-being. As psychologist Matthew Lieberman explains:

“We desire status because it suggests that others value us, that we have a place of importance in the group and are therefore connected to the group.”
—Matthew Lieberman, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect

The problem with many conferences is that limited, unchangeable status is frozen into the event structure. The people who have high status are the ones who have been predetermined to be at the front of the room. Everyone else is just one of the lower-status crowd.

The beauty of a peer conference is that it provides many more opportunities for each participant to be high-status some of the time. The Conferences That Work opening roundtable format guarantees that everyone gets a short time (the same amount for each person) at the front of the room. During the event, you can be a learner (lower status) one moment and a teacher (higher status) the next. And it’s far more likely that expertise or experience you have that others value will be recognized and turned into a learning experience for others.

Let’s be clear—peer conferences don’t impose similar status on everybody. An industry veteran is likely to spend more time in higher-status situations than the novice first-time participant. But a peer conference makes no initial assumptions about who has something to offer, and I’ve seen plenty of situations where an industry novice turns out to have valuable contributions to make from her prior experience in another field.

Isn’t a conference format where everyone gets to be appropriately high-status once in a while healthier than one where a tiny minority get it all? I think so, (and thousands of evaluations back me up!)

Thank you for your feedback

December 4th, 2014 by Adrian Segar

1000 commentsAlthough some say that comments on blog posts are passé, I still think they provide valuable feedback and connection for communities that develop around posts and the topics covered on a blog.

So I’m happy that,as of today, readers of this niche blog (albeit one that will surpass 6M pageviews this year) have shared 1,000 comments on the 343 Conferences That Work posts I’ve written over the last five years. Many commenters are now friends, and some of you I met first through a comment on a post.

Thank you for your feedback!

Change is a verb not a noun

December 1st, 2014 by Adrian Segar

metronome_2397582359_9e3e7bbb9b_bTo make something change, we need to act.

Yes grammar wonks, “change” can be a noun. But change(-noun) is about the past or the future—”He dyed his hair! orI’m determined to lose a few pounds!”

Change(-noun) is static.

Change(-verb) involves us.

We can observe, wish for, or announce we’re in favor of change until we’re blue in the face. No action required.

The change that counts is a verb.

Photo attribution: Flickr user odolphie

Publicly recognize the people who do the work

November 24th, 2014 by Adrian Segar

“Tim paused ever so slightly, and what seemed unscripted (at least I hope it was unscripted) he asked all Apple employees present in the auditorium to rise up from their seats.
With a round of applause initiated by Tim, he thanked everyone for their hard work, their creativity and their commitment to the launch and everything leading up to the day.”
—Dan Pontefract, Apple CEO Tim Cook and his moment of open culture

At the end of Apple’s September 2014 blockbuster product launch of the iPhone 6, Apple Watch, and Apple Pay Tim Cook did a simple thing. He publicly acknowledged the work and commitment of Apple employees in making these new products and services possible.

Is there any reason why we can’t offer appreciations at every event to the people who made it possible? Even if your event is so large, like Tim Cook’s, that you can’t share individual appreciations, you can at least do what Tim did. It took, perhaps, a minute.

I’m assuming that you —at least—privately recognize the work of your team and volunteers. Taking a minute or more to publicly recognize the people who made your event possible is an easy thing to do: a small but significant gift to the workers, and an opportunity for participants to show their appreciation. It’s the right thing to do—yet sadly missing from many events.

Let’s change that.

Image attribution: linked from Huffington Post

RIP Conference Curator

November 16th, 2014 by Adrian Segar

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.
—Albert Einstein

In 2012 I challenged the concept of the conference curator: someone who somehow curates a conference program, like the curator of an art museum. Seth Godin backed me up a year later. Despite my requests, no one ever supplied a single real-life example of a successful conference curator. People thought it would be great if a conference curator actually existed—which brings to mind how Anglosphere parents talk up the tooth fairy to their kids.

I’ve never found any program committee that predicted more than half of the sessions that conference attendees actually chose when given the choice. (And I’ve been running conferences where the participants get to choose what they want to learn since 1992.)

Do you remember that moment in your life when you realized that the tooth fairy was a fantasy? Perhaps it’s time for you to give up the fantasy of the conference curator too.

I believe in the value of good meeting facilitators and designers who can create appropriate process and an environment to satisfy conference learning, connection, engagement, and action objectives, but I don’t believe in the tooth fairy or the conference curator, nice though it would be if either actually existed.

Let conference attendees choose conference content. That’s what I’ve been doing for a long time, and I can tell you, based on thousands of evaluations, it works very well. The fantasy of the conference curator is dead. Rest In Peace.

Image attribution: Flickr user storm-crypt

Scenes from a peer conference

November 10th, 2014 by Adrian Segar

A slideshow of images from the Third Annual Vermont Vision For A Multicultural Future peer conference, held at the Mount Snow Grand Summit Resort November 6-7, 2014.

Meeting Design—the big picture

November 3rd, 2014 by Adrian Segar

Here are the annotated highlights of an October 2014 etouches webinar on meeting design with Dahlia El Gazzar (host), Maarten Vanneste, and me. It’s just under an hour of video: watch the whole show or use this guide to focus on the topics that you want to hear more about—the choice is yours.

01:30 Dahlia: Introduction.

03:05 Adrian introduction.

04:10 Maarten introduction.

05:00 Maarten: A big picture description of Meeting Design.

08:10 Adrian: Two fundamental reasons why meetings must change: the rise of online, and the change in how we learn what we need to know to do our jobs.

13:05 Maarten: Meeting stakeholders.

16:45 Adrian: One way to get meeting owner buy-in.

19:50 Maarten: The steps for designing a meeting.

30:25 Maarten: A meeting toolbox.

39:10 Adrian and Maarten: Resources for meeting design—books.

44:20 Adrian, Maarten, and Dahlia: Online resources for meeting design.

47:15: Maarten: Answers “Which step do you feel is most beneficial, leading to the largest ROI?”

49:15: Adrian: Answers “Tell me about an epic fail of a meeting design and how you solved it.”

52:05: Maarten: Teasing out objectives from stakeholders.

54:10: Maarten and Adrian: Answer “Where do you see meeting design going in the next few years?”

Sometimes you CAN learn from experience

October 27th, 2014 by Adrian Segar

banana peel 1517673819_8a2720cdd1_b

People do not learn from experience. You may think you learn from experience but…People only learn from reflecting on their experience…

…This is why all education programming needs to adopt and adapt reflection and debriefing exercises during the session. If not, people will not learn.
—Jeff Hurt, Time To Face This Ironic Truth: We Do Not Learn From Experience

Jeff Hurt’s recent post makes the case for incorporating reflection/debriefing into all conference sessions. While I completely agree with him that these activities should be included, I think a small clarification is in order.

His post implies that you must debrief participant experience at events in order for learning to occur. If that were true, you would never learn anything from a lecture. While it’s true that lectures are one of the worst ways to attempt to teach people anything, there’s no question that some learning occurs via lectures for some people some of the time.

You probably discovered at school that if you took notes during a lecture (interestingly, handwritten notes seem to be more effective than typed notes) you retained more of the material than if you simply listened and tried to remember the lecture points later. This is because note-taking is a form of personal reflection/debriefing; it forces you to process, to some degree, the information you are hearing and this improves your associated memory and understanding, and consequent accuracy, quantity, and length of recall.

What this means is that it’s possible to learn from experience without external prompting or exercises—if you are capable of doing the necessary reflection yourself. One of the most powerful learning disciplines you can cultivate is the practice of regular reflection on your own experiences. I know that many impactful decisions and changes in my life have occurred through ongoing self-reflection rather than the feedback or advice of others.

During our education, we are rarely taught the value of regular honest self-reflection. By “honest” I mean self-reflection that neither avoids beating oneself up over “mistakes” or hard-to-stomach experiences nor glossing over them. Instead, cultivating your ability to dispassionately notice what is happening to you and periodically reflecting on what you have noticed allows you to learn effectively by yourself.

Having said this, I want to be clear that there is great value in learning from others. Conversation and connection with others give you opportunities to uncover and clarify your tacit knowledge: things bubbling under the surface that you don’t know you know. I think that a majority of our important learning occurs in this way. But we should not discount our significant capability to learn by ourselves.

John Dewey said, “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” Reflection with others and by yourself will allow you to maximize your learning throughout your life.

Photo attribution: Flickr user markybon

Facilitation tool: Capture sticky notes with Post-It Plus

October 20th, 2014 by Adrian Segar

Port-it® Plus
When facilitating, I often use sticky notes as a flexible tool that allows movement from individual work => small group work => a visual summary for an entire group. 3M has just released a useful free tool for iDevices running IOS 8, Post-It Plus, that organizes and documents the results of such activities, which otherwise tend to end up as untidy rolled-up sheets of flip-chart paper or hard-to-categorize digital photographs.

I ran a quick test of the app on a year-old flip-chart sheet with stick notes scattered hither and yon. Post-It Plus quickly identified all the notes (it superimposes a checkmark on each one it recognizes.) If a note is missed you can tap on it to expand it, adjust the edges, tap Done and the note will  be added to the collection. Once you’ve captured all the notes, you can create a Board that holds them.

But that’s just the start. Each Board can contain multiple Groups. Tap and hold a note to move it to a new Group. When you’ve categorized notes as desired, you can name your Boards and Groups appropriately and share them via iMessage, email, Twitter, and Facebook, or save them to your photo library, or export them to pdf, PowerPoint, Excel, or as an image. If you link the app to your paid Evernote account, you can use Evernote’s OCR capability to make all your notes searchable. Integration with other apps, like Dropbox, are also possible, though I didn’t explore this.

Before digital photography, sticky note process was essentially an in-the-moment facilitation tool. Today, even though it’s simple to capture images of a group’s wall work, manipulating the ideas shown afterwards is tedious and rarely done (well, to be honest, I never have taken the time to do so.)

Post-It Plus makes further categorizing and analysis of notes post-session just about as simple as possible. The sharing and export functions make it easy to communicate uncovered themes to others. I look forward to using this app to extract more value from the rich information exposed by group sticky note process. Post-It Plus is a tool with great potential—and you can’t beat the price!

Want to try out Post-It Plus? Download the free app here.

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I was particularly aware of your calm demeanor, your thoroughness and attention to every detail. The way you organized the spective to fit our needs was excellent. It was great to be able to experience your open approach in action…….to see its power……and the positive response of the participants. Thank you…….for all you gave to make the conference such a success. — Diana Wahle

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