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Welcome to the Conferences That Work blog. You're in the right place for the latest posts on conference design, facilitation, and peer conferences—or sign up for our RSS feed so you never miss another post.

Liberating Structures 1-2-4-All has a big problem

Liberating Structures 1-2-4-All has a big problemWhile Liberating Structures include many useful ways to improve meetings and organizations, one of the “simplest” offered — “1-2-4-All” — has a big problem. It claims to uncover a group’s “important ideas” in just twelve minutes. But in practice it invariably misses innovative ideas that need time for the group to understand and value.

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How to enable Verizon free call filtering

Verizon is now offering free call filtering, but enabling it can be incredibly frustrating! Many reviews complain that, after downloading the Verizon Call Filter app, no option for the free version appears. Instead, you are only offered a free 10-day trial or the option to purchase a monthly subscription.

Here’s how to activate the free version of Verizon Call Filter

I found these instructions buried in a comment on the wonderful TidBITS website, posted by Paul7. I have cleaned up Paul’s explanation and added a couple of screen shots, but Paul deserves full credit for this solution.

The crucial step omitted from Verizon’s incredibly brief explanation of how to activate free call filtering is that if simply enrolling via the Call Filter App doesn’t work, you need to log in to My Verizon. Here’s what to do.

  1. Sign in to your Verizon account.
  2. Go to My Plans & Services and select Manage Products & Apps.
    Or your menu might look like the image below, in which case go to Plan and select Add-ons and apps.
  3. Click on the Get Products tab and the Premium Products option.How to enable Verizon free call filtering
  4. Scroll down till you find the Call Filter app and select the Call Filter Free option.How to enable Verizon free call filtering
  5. You’ll see a Checkout box where you can add Call Filter Free to the lines in your plan. Select the checkboxes next to the lines you want, and click Confirm Purchase.How to enable Verizon free call filtering
  6. On your phone, close the Verizon Call Filter app if it’s currently open. Now, when you reopen it you’ll see that free call filtering has been turned on!
  7. Paul notes that if you have more than two lines, you may have to go through this process multiple times since it only shows two lines at a time. Alternately, your My Verizon may offer this process for each device/line separately. If that’s the case, select each device in turn and repeat the above process.
  8. Finally, follow the steps in Josh Center‘s helpful TidBITS article to enable Verizon Call Filter’s spam filtering.

That’s it! Did this work for you? Do you have comments/additions/corrections? Please share them in the comments below.

The job you’ll be doing in the future hasn’t been invented yet

The job you'll be doing in x years hasn't been invented yet

“The job you’ll be doing in the future hasn’t been invented yet.

This is old news.

The story of my professional life

1977: I earn a Ph.D. in applied elementary high-energy particle physics. Get a post-doc position and move to the United States. Work at major U.S. particle accelerators for a year. Leave academic research forever.
Since 1978  — that’s 41 years! — every job I’ve had didn’t exist a few years earlier.

1978: I join the management of Solar Alternative, a solar energy manufacturing business founded the previous year. Five years earlier, there were no such businesses in the United States.

1983: I start teaching computer science using personal computers in the classroom. IBM introduced the PC in 1981.

1984: I begin IT consulting for clients using personal computers. Businesses didn’t start using personal computers until the early 80’s.

1992: I organize a conference where there are no expert speakers available (it’s a new field, there are no experts). Invent a way to make the conference successful based on the collective needs, wants, and experience of the attendees. (The conference has run annually for the last 27 years.) This is something new. Organizations hear about this and ask me to design and facilitate their conferences.

2005: I realize that the conference process I invented and since improved is incredibly popular with participants. I decide to write a book about it, and in…

2009: I self-publish Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love. (Five years earlier, self-publishing was a minor industry for vanity projects. Now it’s the most common way authors publish.) I quickly discover the size and interest of the meetings industry. In demand, I become a meeting designer and facilitator of participant-driven, participation-rich meetings. Yet another career that had not existed before.

A conventional career

My parents once suggested I become an accountant. I politely declined and continued studying physics. I have nothing against conventional careers, but my life hasn’t turned out that way.

Yet.

If I had to guess, it probably won’t.

And it probably won’t for you either.

Has the job you’re doing now just been invented? Share your experience in the comments below!

Q&A with Adrian Segar on Crowdsourcing

This (slightly edited) interview by JT Long appeared in the March 2019 issue of Smart Meetings Magazine.

What led to writing the book, Conferences that Work?

I invented the format by accident 26 years ago when there were no expert speakers to invite for a conference on administrative computing issues in small schools. We needed a format that would allow a room of strangers to learn about each other and the issues we were interested in by using the expertise in the room.

I asked people, “If this conference could be amazing for you, what would it be about?” Then I built a program around those topics, with people in the room leading impromptu sessions. Often, the results are unexpected. The sessions are not polished; there is no PowerPoint. Often it is more like a discussion than a presentation, but that is why it is effective. My research shows that asking in advance doesn’t work. At traditional conferences with fixed programs set in advance, at best half of sessions offered are what attendees want.

That participant-driven conference is still going as a four-day program, with sessions generated over the first half-day.

I discovered that people love the format, and that led to writing the book 10 years ago. I was an amateur in the meeting industry, and that led to some mistakes, but it also gave me a fresh perspective at a time when meeting design wasn’t really a “thing.”

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Stay on time!

Stay on time

Stay on time! Though it’s clearly sensible to keep a conference running on schedule, we’ve all attended meetings where rambling presenters, avoidable “technical issues”, incompetent facilitation, and inadequate logistics have made a mockery of the published program.

So one of the agreements I always ask for at the start of a session or conference is for organizers and participants to stay on time. (By which I mean, of course, don’t run late!)

It seems obvious to do this. When meetings don’t stay on time:

  • It’s unfair to the later presenters and sessions.
  • It becomes OK to be late. (“If that session overran, mine can too.”)
  • Participants don’t know what the actual schedule is. Chaos and cynicism follow.
  • Meals and breaks are abbreviated or, in extreme cases, eliminated.

When meetings don’t stay on time, the event is out of control. I can’t think of any situation where this is a plus. (Well, maybe a conference on world domination by a quintessentially evil cabal, where failure would be a good thing.)

In particular, there are a couple of ways in which out-of-control schedules can wreak havoc on sessions. I’ll illustrate them with examples from a presenter’s point of view (mine).

“You’ll need to shorten your session by twenty-five minutes.”

A client asked me to run a 75-minute interactive session on participant-driven and participation-rich meetings at a daylong conference. They scheduled me for the last session before the closing social. During lunch, the A/V crew asked the two remaining presenters to check our slide decks were ready to go. I did so, and noticed that the other presenter did not.

You guessed it. When the afternoon sessions began, the entire 150-person audience sat around for twenty minutes while the first presenter fiddled around trying to get her laptop to project.

She then added insult to injury by exceeding her allocated time, with no correction from the conference organizers.

When she was finally finished I asked if we could run late so I could get the session duration I’d planned for.

No, sorry, you’ll need to shorten your session by twenty-five minutes,” was the reply.

Experienced presenters are able to creatively improvise in response to last-minute changes to their environment. However, losing a third of my time with no notice was a challenge. I did a good job, but had to omit the major exercise planned for the session. The resulting experience was less impactful than it could have been. Ultimately, the attendees are the losers when this happens. They don’t know what they missed — and, of course, I don’t come across as well as I might deserve.

“Sorry, but we’re starving and exhausted.”

Here’s another less obvious way that chronic lateness can sabotage a session. A client asked me to facilitate a 90-minute workshop for 600 attendees. It was scheduled as the last session of the day, in a distant ballroom separated from earlier sessions by a five-minute walk. With a scheduled 30-minute break before my session, there was plenty of time for participants to get to my room.

Or so I thought.

The session required extensive set up, so my crew and I worked solidly for three hours to get the room ready and rehearse our workshop tasks. But when it was time to start, no attendees appeared.

We waited for 30 minutes before people began to trickle in. Clearly, the entire day’s schedule had been running severely behind all day. Luckily, an organizer told me I could still use my full time for the workshop. That was a relief to hear.

Hundreds of people were standing as I was about to start. But then the conference owner arrived and asked to present an award first. He made a short introduction of the recipient, who embarked on a long, rambling thank-you speech.

Finally I began my workshop, which required participants to be present for the entire session. (Early leavers would significantly impact their working groups.)

I’ve run this workshop many times, and in the past when I’ve announced this requirement (“If you have to leave before [finishing time], I’m sorry but you should not participate in this workshop”) typically two or three people leave.

To my astonishment, hundreds of people — two-thirds of the room — left!

Dumbfounded, I nevertheless knew that the show must go on.

It was a great workshop for the folks who remained. (No one left when it was over; they simply sat and talked with each other for at least ten minutes before anyone left the room. And several people came up and thanked me.) But I was disappointed and puzzled that so many attendees had missed out on an excellent experience. Obviously, I wanted to find out why. But first we had to break down the room set, and by the time this was over the attendees had dispersed.

At breakfast the next morning the reasons for the mass exodus finally became clear. The morning program sessions had run over so extensively, that the organizers slashed the lunch break to 30 minutes. Since lunch was not provided at the conference that day, many attendees didn’t have time to eat any lunch at the restaurants nearby.

The afternoon sessions also overran, so the organizers also eliminated the scheduled 30-minute break before my session. When the hungry and exhausted attendees appeared in my room, only to be asked to attend my entire workshop in its entirety, the proverbial straw broke the camel’s back and most of them walked out.

As a participant, I would have probably joined them.

Stay on time!

From my perspective as a presenter and facilitator, I’m not sure there’s much I can do when others cause truncation of my contracted sessions or fill them with hungry, tired attendees. Perhaps a contract clause that doubles my fee if the session starts late or my available time is slashed?

I can dream.

Regardless, the moral is pretty obvious. Stay on time! That goes for everyone: conference organizers, emcees, facilitators, presenters, and attendees. Ultimately this is a matter of careful planning, firm and effective time management, and simple respect for everyone who spends time, energy, and money attending and producing an event.

Three differences between genuine and phony experiential conferences

phony experiential conferences “Experiential” is the new hot adjective used to describe events. “No more listening to speakers; you’re going to have experiences!”

Sadly, many of these so-called experiential events are phony. The promoters slap a novel environment (e.g., clowns walking around or chairs suspended from the ceiling) onto a conventional format (e.g., a social or a group discussion) and claim their event is now “experiential”.

So what are the differences between genuine and a phony experiential conferences?

Here are three.

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Struggling to meditate daily

Meditating
For three months now, I’ve meditated for twenty minutes every day.

Personally this is a big deal, as I’ve struggled to maintain a regular meditation practice for decades. I’ve resolved countless times to meditate daily, and fallen off the mindfulness wagon over and over again.

Three years ago, I began attending silent meditation retreats and continue to do so a couple of times a year. These experiences are important and transformational. Each retreat deepened my resolve to start a daily meditation practice. But, despite this increased desire, I was unable to do so.

Until now.

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Participate! Lab at The EVENT MPI, April 4-6, Montréal

Participate! Lab The EVENT MPI
I’m excited to present my Participate! Lab at The EVENT, April 4-6, Montréal! I’ll also facilitate a panel/audience “fishbowl sandwich” discussion on industry lessons learned (see the comments), and a closing Group Spective.

After a highly successful debut in 2018, three Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Chapters — MPI Toronto, MPI Montréal/Québec, and MPI Ottawa — have again joined forces to provide cutting edge, innovative, experiential education at The EVENT.

Organizer Karen Norris, who invited me, summed up The Event as follows:

“We pride ourselves on the fact that our conference is not a typical, didactic conference and we are an ‘experience.'”

Using peer to peer learning techniques, innovative technology, and creative meeting design, The EVENT‘s objectives are to:

  • encourage participants to collaborate with industry peers;
  • cultivate new ideas; and
  • elevate the entire meeting industry.

I’m happy to offer a rare Participate! Lab at The EVENT, and hope you’ll be able to join me there! For more information, check out the full program, registration, and accommodation and travel details.

Leadership for meetings

Leadership for meetingsWhat might leadership for meetings look like?

Let’s turn to Harold Jarche for inspiration:

“Those doing the work are often the only ones who really understand the context. Leadership is helping build the structure and then protecting the space to do meaningful work.
—Harold Jarche, work in 2018

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