Happy to Seize the Throne from King Content

Honored to be included on MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list, which “recognizes 20 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways”. Here’s the description of my “quest to topple outdated models, including the one based on the idea that ‘content is king’.”

Making Change
I’ve spent 26 years working on changing outmoded mindsets about what we should be doing in meetings. Historically, topics had to be determined in advance, the meeting format was mainly lecture and did not encourage interaction, and content was king. To stay effective and relevant today, meetings must:

  • Respond to what participants actually want and need to learn
  • Adapt to the reality that we primarily learn from our peers rather than experts
  • Provide appropriate opportunities to connect with relevant peers in the sessions around content

And it is changing. The meetings industry is far more aware of the importance of treating and supporting attendees as active participants rather than passive consumers of education. You see this in the increasing number of industry articles about good meeting process, the rise of the term “meeting design” being applied to the group process we use in sessions as opposed to, say, F&B or production design.

I don’t take full credit, of course, for these changes, but I feel proud to have been an instigator and passionate promoter of them through speaking, and authoring Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love and The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action. I also moderated the #eventprofs Twitter chats for several years, and until recently, ran the weekly #Eventprofs Happy Hour Hangout for meeting professionals.

What’s Next
I am now writing another book with the working title of The Little Book of Event Crowdsourcing, and I’m starting to offer workshops where meeting professionals, designers, and stakeholders can learn first-hand about the power of the participatory techniques I’ve written about and use. And I continue to design and facilitate meetings, which is perhaps the most effective way to change mindsets: exposing participants to what meetings can be like when you adopt a participant-driven and participation-rich approach.

Best Business Advice
One of my mentors, Jeannie Courtney, taught me to trust my intuition and helped me see the power and joy that is possible when I respond to opportunity rather than what I used to think of as taking a risk by trying something new—and scary. Like much of my most important learning, that change of perspective happened experientially, rather than from a piece of advice.

Got a Spare Hour?
I would do yoga and meditation if I haven’t yet fit them into my day. I like to read a wide variety of nonfiction, mysteries, and science fiction. And I am active in my local nonprofit communities—I’ve been running or on the board of multiple associations continuously for over 30 years.

Stepping down as community manager of the #eventprofs Twitter chat

For the last twenty months I’ve been the volunteer community manager for the weekly Twitter #eventprofs chats. During this time, I’ve helped to produce over one hundred weekly chats.

Sadly, it’s time for me to step down.

Although I love our community, and have greatly enjoyed the work of discovering topics, finding and encouraging interesting guests, and moderating many chats, the work involved is taking too much time from an increasingly busy professional life. With a second book on the way, and a travel schedule that is becoming more and more packed, I don’t believe I’ll be able to dedicate the amount of time needed to do a competent job in the coming months.

I want to thank the hundreds of people who have moderated, been guests, or tweeted during #eventprofs chats, which have been running continuously since May, 2009. Though much has changed since we started, and the initial excitement of using social media to meet in a new way has become almost routine, the chats still provide a valuable opportunity for event industry veterans and newcomers alike to meet and share, irrespective of their physical locations.

Whatever the future of the #eventprofs chats, I believe they can continue to serve important needs of the events community, and I’m happy to have been able to play a small part in facilitating their development and value.

Upcoming #eventprofs chat with author Naomi Karten

Although I’m the #eventprofs Twitter community manager, I don’t usually mention our weekly  Twitter chats on this blog. But I’m making an exception for next Thursday’s chat (12-1pm EDT), because I’m such a fan of our special guest: Naomi Karten.

[Full disclosure: Naomi was a key influence in persuading me that I had something worth saying in print, which led to my first book: Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love. I owe her a big debt for that. And she also co-facilitated, with Jerry Weinberg, my 2002 Problem Solving Leadership workshop, from which I learned so much.]

Naomi is an incredible presenter (she has spoken internationally to more than 100,000 people), specializing in customer satisfaction, managing change, strengthening teamwork, and improving communication and presentation skills. She has published eight books, including the classic “Managing Expectations: Working with People Who Want More, Better, Faster, Sooner, NOW!” which will be a focus of our hour together.

So please join me and Naomi on Thursday (12-1pm EDT) as we explore with you how to work with difficult clients (who may think of us as difficult too!) to create win-win business relationships.

To be reminded of this and upcoming #eventprofs Twitter chats, follow @epchat on Twitter. A schedule of upcoming chats is always available on the #eventprofs wiki. And here’s a great explanation of how to participate in Twitter chats.

The future of #eventprofs chats

Thank you everyone who participated in last week’s two #eventprofs chats about …the future of #eventprofs chats. Here are links to the survey results and the Tuesday transcript. I’ve had a chance to think about the discussion, and, as the de facto #eventprofs community manager (other drivers welcome), here’s what I plan to do in the future:

Organize one chat per week
Although we have had two weekly time slots for #eventprofs chats for some time (Tue 9-10pm and Thu 12-1pm EST), in practice we have been averaging just over one chat per week (58 in 2011). There was clear agreement that we should change how often we meet to once a week. I’m still open to anyone suggesting an additional short-notice chat on a hot topic, but I won’t be scheduling more than one chat a week.

Rotate the day and time we hold the chat
It was clear from the discussions that about half those who responded preferred daytime chats and half preferred evening chats. Rather than disenfranchise half our audience permanently, we’re going to rotate our chat times weekly between our existing Tue 9-10pm and Thu 12-1pm EST times. I’m not going to to be a robot about this; we may chat two Tuesdays or Thursdays in a row. But over the year, we’ll hold about the same number of chats on each day. Follow @epchat to be informed about upcoming chats.

Chat hashtag
We will keep using the #eventprofs hashtag for the chat. Yes, it contains a lot more, sometimes irritating, announcements (aka spam) than the good old days, but that’s the price of fame. The same would eventually happen for any new hashtag we adopted. Event professionals new to Twitter often discover our chats via the #eventprofs hashtag. Besides, do you really want to have to remember to check one more hashtag?

Chat topics
We have had a neat tool for suggesting and voting on #eventprofs chat topics for some time, but it has not been used much, though I publicize it regularly on Twitter. I did not receive any ideas on ways to increase suggestions for chat topics, though several new topics were suggested (thank you Michelle & Marvin!) which I’ve added to our tool. People liked the idea of having more guest speakers on the chat and I will try to solicit more of them. And I would really appreciate suggestions/introductions from the #eventprofs community (that means YOU); contact me, it only takes a moment!

OK, so how can I help?

  1. Follow @epchat to be informed about upcoming chats.
  2. Take just a couple of minutes to suggest and vote on #eventprofs chat topics. If there’s a topic you want to talk about, suggest it! If there’s a guest you want, suggest him or her, together with the topic! If everyone added at least one topic just once a year and did comparison voting on five pairs of suggestions, we’d have a great pool of suggestions.
  3. If you are interested in moderating or being a guest on an #eventprofs chat, just let me know! Include your name, suggested topic, and the day you’d like to be on.
  4. I would love to move our #eventprofs site from the creaky (but free) pbworks wiki to something more streamlined (a free WordPress site would probably work). But I don’t have the time to do this myself right now. If you would be prepared to help with this project, I promise to have your likeness, links, and a generous profusion of thanks prominently displayed on the resulting gloriously updated version. Contact me!

In the end, as always, the health of the #eventprofs community is up to you. My continuing goal is to support making the #eventprofs chats maximally useful to the greatest number of event professionals, within the constraints of volunteer time and energy. Comments and helpful suggestions are, as always, welcome.

Survey results on the future of #eventprofs chat

Earlier today I posted, via Twitter, a five question survey to gather opinions about the future of #eventprofs chat. Here it is:

I received 23 responses in the following 8 hours—thank you to everyone who took the time to respond! (And a big thank you to several respondents who offered to moderate a chat for the first time.)

The survey responses

Responses to Q2 (changes => more likely)
1x a week would make it easier for me. it was more about the consistency then the times. I used to have them in my schedule then took them out – inconsistent. it has been much better now.
I think it would be good to have some testimonials and do a bit of promotion around that. You know “great chat learned loads and all very useful”
I would rather see it as a once monthly event to look forward to where the whole community was online and more engaged
none
once a week during the day.
I would prefer a change to the hashtag so that there is less interference during the chat from other #eventprofs users. Reminders via email are helpful (thanks for today’s reminder).
timing is not as important as topic although day time chats are better for me.
Looking forward to that discussion this evening. (Sorry, still pondering.)
mid-weekly chats 8 or 9pm
I am on EST time. The chat on Tuesdays at night never works for me. I try not to work after I leave the office 🙂 I think lunch time is great on Thursdays. Two per week is a lot. I also think that having people from the community is a great way to promote the chats. Wish we could make the community a little more organized in a way. The wiki is ok but having a whole site dedicated to #eventprofs would be cool – chat schedule, topics, past topics, transcripts, list of members, list of moderators and frequency, twitter stats, maybe even syndicate the blog content or have a location that lists all resources everyone is sharing, meetups in your city, links to other sites, etc. Any way you can help the moderators and members promote themselves would get more people to engage and contribute I think. The #eventprofs hashtag is also used very widely know… maybe we should have a sepearte tag for the chats themselves. It would be cool to have an #eventprofs member badge! [Adrian: there is an eventprofs badge!]
I would like to attend on Mondays rather than Thursdays. With my kids 9PM on Tuesday is never doable and Thursday is always a busy day. It would be nice to start the week off with Eventprofs!
Would prefer chats on Friday & Monday instead of mid-week. More convenient times for Europe GMT+1 = end of the afternoon or early evening after 8 pm Less chats; one topic only. Other platform then twitter not to bother no event tweeps to much 🙂 More attendees also like to see more end-users/customers to get their insight
I believe 1 chat per week is appropriate…2 is too many. Plus there is a difference between a corporate event and a special event; a public event and a private event. Someone who plans education for associations does not have the same needs/problems/challenges as someone who plans an awards dinner. Yes, there is some overlap, but… So I believe extremely focused chats are the best solution with the specific audience listed in the promotion of the chat. IMO that is the best way to have successful, solution driven chats.
Once a week during the work day with existing format and a way to filter out sales promotions.
Evenings are tougher for me, maybe a bit earlier in the day would make it easier.
I think once a week would be sufficient. You can rotate between Thursday and Tuesday to hit people with different time zones,
It’s always hard for me, on the West Coast to attend the Thursday chats as they are during work hours. If we could have them at 5 pm Pacific or 8 pm EST, then it would be easier to attend. 6 pm is also a little tough as it is time I normally would be driving home.
I’m usually too busy during the day for the chats, and I’m usually off the computer before the evening chats. I might be able to join more with an early evening time. Timing doesn’t affect how I recommend them, though, as this is just my schedule.
Use of different technology occasionally along with twitter, (Google Hangouts, Skype, Webinar format, video, etc)
earlier times for late chat (due to time difference). format is good. maybe more chats with guests (ask a colleague), or chats about specific events and their challenges. change in hashtag for chats?

 

Responses to Q3 (changes => less likely)
i like when there are more questions – or more then one – also – they could be posted somewhere before the chat
I should be able to attend on a more regular basis. My problem is working out what time they are happening. A GMT note would be really useful for me
While evening chats are more convenient, I am often busy with personal plans and would rather not use that time as work
I’m on pacific time. Any chats that take place during the night aren’t good for me.
more chats, less chats
Again, topic more important but evening chats ET cut into personal time and that is tough to make each week.
Can’t think of any reason except that maybe if the chats decline in frequency so that you can’t always count on them, or if less people start showing up. I always recommend the chats to colleagues tho!!
Hosting the chat in the evening or in a different format: conference call, webcast or G+ hangout. Most of my colleagues are on Twitter and have yet to embrace G+ fully.
Content is more of a driver than the timing and format, etc.
No not at all. People are very busy having to put forth tons of time and effort for business development. Projects are being assigned with short windows for planning and execution so people have less time.
If they were always just during working hours.
Staying the same week in and week out. Let’s experiment and diversify as much as possible
pushing the time to later in the day or evening – that would make it impossible to join

 

Summary of survey results
[Warning! Small sample! Apply caution before drawing conclusions!]

Frequency
Six people preferred reducing the frequency to one chat a week. Five people seemed to imply through their comments that the frequency be kept as is. The remainder did not mention changing the frequency, except for one person who suggested once a month.

Time of day
Five people preferred holding the chats during the day/working hours, while three preferred evenings. Not surprisingly, the  three European respondents did not want 9pm EST chats.

Separate hashtag
Three people suggested having a separate hashtag for the chat.

Other suggestions
Promotion: do more, use testimonials, help promote moderators, better website.
Platform: use other platforms besides Twitter.
Content: more guests, post questions before chat, focused topics.

Conclusions
Keeping the small sample size in mind, I have to conclude that there wasn’t an obvious majority in favor of any specific change. That’s not to say we should keep things the way they are. If we tried out a once per week chat, I’d be in favor of rotating the day/time so that people who can’t make a specific date/time combination wouldn’t be completely locked out. I’d also love to improve the functionality/ease of use of the website as some suggested, though I’d need some help to make this a reality (offers  welcome!) Finally, I’m still really undecided about changing the hashtag for the chat. Using a new hashtag might cut down promotional tweets (though I suspect they’d invade any new hashtag eventually) but would cut off exposure to the 2+ years development of the #eventprofs brand, such as it is.

Did you miss the survey, or this evening’s chat? Feel free to add your comments below!

 

A challenge to anyone who organizes an event

Here’s a simple challenge to anyone who organizes events and asks for evaluations.

(You do ask for evaluations, don’t you? Here’s how to get great event evaluation response rates.)

Publish your complete, anonymized evaluations.

You may want to restrict access to the people who attended the event.

That would be good.

You may decide to publish your evaluations publicly, as we just did for EventCamp East Coast 2011, and as we did a year ago for EventCamp East Coast 2010.

That’s even better.

If you believe in your event, and want to make it better, why not be transparent about the good, the bad, and the ugly?

#eventprofs chats are back!

eventprofs logo

Yes, the #eventprofs chats are back! These popular, one hour, Twitter chats on a wide range of topics of interest to event professionals will be once again held twice-weekly: on Tuesdays 9-10pmEST/6-7pmPST and on Thursdays 12-1pmEST/9-10amPST/7-8amGMT starting on May 3, 2011.

Got questions? Here are some answers.

What is #eventprofs?
#eventprofs was founded in February 2009 on Twitter by Lara McCulloch-Carter. The #eventprofs chats were one of the earliest Twitter chats—find out more by reading Lara’s history of #eventprofs.

Who will be moderating the chats?
Twenty(!) members of the #eventprofs community have each committed to moderating a chat every 6-7 weeks. Our current volunteers are:

Traci Browne
Midori Connolly
Susan Lynn Cope
Tahira Endean
Jenise Fryatt
Ray Hansen
Brandt Krueger
KiKi L’Italien
Melissa Lawhorn
Lara McCulloch-Carter
Michael McCurry
John Nawn
Carolyn Ray
Lindsey Rosenthal
Deb Roth
Greg Ruby
Paul Salinger
Adrian Segar
Kate Smith
Andrea Sullivan

Please thank these sterling volunteers at every opportunity! I have volunteered to act as a moderator manager, working to keep the chats scheduled as regularly as possible.

How are chat topics chosen?
Anyone can suggest and vote on possible topics for #eventprofs chats at our new AllOurIdeas page. We urge you to do so! The more suggestions, and the more votes, the better our chat topics will be. Moderators will occasionally use their discretion to choose chat subjects, particularly when there are topical events or issues to discuss.

How do I know what chat topics are scheduled?
There are two ways to stay informed about upcoming #eventprofs chats:

Can I moderate an #eventprofs chat?
We welcome offers to moderate chats. Please read the moderator instructions first. Check the chat schedule, pick a time, and send a description of your proposed chat to me.

I have a question that isn’t answered here. Can you help?
I’ll do my best. Email or tweet me!