Conferences That Work https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/ Unconferences, peer conferences, participant-driven events, and facilitation Sun, 25 Sep 2022 12:40:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.0.2 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/The-Power-of-Participation-front-cover-square-115x115-1-100x100.jpg Conferences That Work https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/ 32 32 Doing peer conferences right https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2022/09/doing-peer-conferences-right/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2022/09/doing-peer-conferences-right/#respond Mon, 26 Sep 2022 10:08:17 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=25573 Software testers do peer conferences right! (They even call them a peer conference, rather than unconference, a term I don’t like.) As evidence of software tester conference awesomeness, I offer three examples below. But first… …a short history of the peer conference […]

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peer conferencesSoftware testers do peer conferences right! (They even call them a peer conference, rather than unconference, a term I don’t like.) As evidence of software tester conference awesomeness, I offer three examples below. But first…

…a short history of the peer conference

I first designed and convened what I called a “peer conference” in 1992 for a group of IT managers at small schools that eventually became known as edACCESS.

During my 20+ years as an IT consultant and software developer, I got to know a delightful international crowd of software testers: those all-important people responsible for the impossible task of making sure that software works. After I talked about my meeting design work with pioneer tester James Bach at the 2004 Amplifying Your Effectiveness conference, the testing community somehow adopted the term peer conference for their get-togethers.

My code development days are long gone. I miss hanging out with the folks I got to know at these events. (Though I’m still in touch with some of them.) Regardless, peer conferences in the world of software testing are still alive and thriving!

And now…

Three examples of how software testers do peer conferences right

1. The 2022 SoCraTes peer conference

Lisi Hocke wrote a long detailed post about her first-timer experience at the 2022 SoCraTes (Software Craft and Testing) peer conference held in Soltau, Germany.

For a quick visual impression of the event, watch this!


Here are some illustrative extracts from Lisi’s post.

Keeping participants safe

Feeling safe is an important psychological requirement for people in any situation, and conferences are no exception (1, 2, 3). Lisi shares another participant’s experience:

Providing a welcoming and supportive environment for first-time participants

SoCraTes 2022 included a Foundation Day “with less people and hence a smaller crowd to get used to. A day covered with fundamental topics without them being too basic, so I learned a lot even with topics I knew about. A day where we had a schedule set in advance, which took away the uncertainty of what would happen. A day to get to know people a bit already.”

Notice how this optional first day used more conventional session formats to make it easier for first-time attendees to integrate into the existing community.

“Over dinner, I realized I was not the only one joining this conference for the first time. Later on, we realized lots of people were new joiners indeed, based on recommendations they chose to give this conference a try. Was really great to see.

In the beginning, things were still a bit new, strange and even stiff; as it often is for me these days when suddenly seeing lots of people in real life. Within a short period of time I could loosen up, though. The more people I got to know, the more I relaxed and felt at ease.”

A participation-rich session format — World Café — was introduced at the end of Foundation Day

The World Café supplied an appropriate introduction and transition to the Open Space format used during the rest of the conference.

“To set the scene, a World Café was hosted by the wonderful Juke, getting all of us connected to SoCraTes and each other. How it worked? We had three rounds, a new question each round. For each group, one stays at the same place while all others look for a new group to join. The one who stays welcomes the new people and shares what the previous group had talked about. Usually this is supported by taking notes and drawing on flip charts or similar means.”

Open Space

SoCraTes 2022 used the participant-driven Open Space format to determine what sessions participants wanted to hold. Though Open Space is just one of the formats you can use to create participant-driven and participation-rich meetings, it’s probably the most well known and is often an appropriate process to use.

“In short: we build the agenda we want to see! And that’s what happened. It’s fascinating how you can really trust in the system. The queues to briefly present the proposed topics were really long, and the emerging schedule looked amazing. So many awesome topics…”

Session leaders used a wide variety of participative formats

Check out Lisi’s post for descriptions of many appropriate innovative session formats, including ask me anything, brainstorming, blind ensemble programming, the pipeline game, exploring feelings while reading code, a Code Retreat, and a retrospective.

Some closing insights

About listening and learning…

“The entire conference felt like a version of the world that could exist. Many small and large customs help people to get along better with each other. It starts with the name tags alone: ​​take off the name tag if you’re too introverted to talk to people right now. A red tape means you don’t want to be photographed. The name tags are magnetic and hold the creative badges that people use to announce their pronouns – with a lot of artistic flair if you like.”
—Eric, SoCraTes 2022 — a conference report [translated from German]

Compare the innovation and excitement at SoCraTes 2022 with just about any other conference you’ve attended. Can you see why software testers like Lisi think that peer conferences rock?!

2. The Unexpo Experiment

Here’s another example from a software testing peer conference, TestBash Brighton 2018. The conference designers invented a way to create “highly engaging, interactive and fun” poster sessions. Check out my post that describes this “excellent example of how to invent, explore, evaluate, and improve new meeting formats”.

3. A free guide to creating peer conferences

Want to create a peer conference, but don’t want to buy any of my excellent books on this topic? (Hey, you can buy all three for just $29.99, but that’s OK 😀.) No problem, the Association for Software Testing published an excellent free introductory guide to creating peer conferences. Learn more about it, and download it here.

Final thoughts

I love and respect the software testing community because its practitioners think carefully and seriously about how to design their conferences. And then they implement and test their innovative designs, discovering what works and what doesn’t while also being open to the joy and excitement of the unexpected. A beautiful mixture of serious exploration, learning, and fun.

That’s the way to improve meetings!

Image attribution: #SoCraTes2022 peer conference photo by Markus Tacker

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Pros and cons of consulting for large organizations https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/consulting-2/2022/09/consulting-for-large-organizations/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/consulting-2/2022/09/consulting-for-large-organizations/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2022 10:32:10 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=25451 I’ve consulted for more than a thousand organizations. My clients include branches of the U.S. Government, large international agencies, and for-profit and non-profit companies. Over the last four decades, I’ve found the size of a client’s organization affects many aspects […]

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consulting for large organizationsI’ve consulted for more than a thousand organizations. My clients include branches of the U.S. Government, large international agencies, and for-profit and non-profit companies. Over the last four decades, I’ve found the size of a client’s organization affects many aspects of my work. Here are some of the pros and cons of consulting for large organizations.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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A class is a meeting https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2022/09/a-class-is-a-meeting/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2022/09/a-class-is-a-meeting/#comments Mon, 12 Sep 2022 12:11:31 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=25488 Though I don’t teach college anymore, I’m interested in educational class design because a class is a meeting. And much of what we can do to design great meetings is applicable to college classes too. So I had high hopes […]

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Though I don’t teach college anymore, I’m interested in educational class design because a class is a meeting. And much of what we can do to design great meetings is applicable to college classes too.

So I had high hopes for a September 7 2022, City University of New York webinar introducing Cathy Davidson‘s and Christina Katopodis’ book The New College Classroom, which is “about inspiring, effective, and inclusive teaching at the college level.”

Sadly, I was disappointed. Not so much by the information presented but more by the way it was done. Talking about incorporating active learning, interaction, and participation into college classes is great. But talking does little to change the behavior of those listening. The speakers didn’t model what they were preaching during their talk!Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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Engagement beats technical difficulties https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2022/09/technical-difficulties/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2022/09/technical-difficulties/#respond Mon, 05 Sep 2022 10:27:21 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=24328 Earlier this year, I designed and facilitated an online workshop that was marred by technical difficulties. The workshop was several hours long, and some (but not all) of the participants reported that my video feed froze at times. Luckily, my […]

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technical difficultiesEarlier this year, I designed and facilitated an online workshop that was marred by technical difficulties. The workshop was several hours long, and some (but not all) of the participants reported that my video feed froze at times. Luckily, my audio feed was fine.

Shortly afterward, I talked to a client who had participated in the workshop. I asked them about their workshop experience.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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Three great tools for blog post illustrations https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/technology/2022/08/blog-post-illustrations/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/technology/2022/08/blog-post-illustrations/#respond Mon, 29 Aug 2022 10:32:23 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=25132 For the last  years I’ve posted one or more blog posts each week. Every post includes at least one image — over 1,400 blog post illustrations to date. Some of them are my own photographs, screenshots, or public domain images. […]

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midjourney blog post illustrationsFor the last 13 years I’ve posted one or more blog posts each week. Every post includes at least one image — over 1,400 blog post illustrations to date. Some of them are my own photographs, screenshots, or public domain images. But the majority I create myself. I’ll never be a great graphic artist, but I enjoy visualizing and creating these visual reinforcements to my posts and am always looking for new tools that a novice like me can use successfully.

In 2019, I wrote about two free and easy ways to create graphicsCanva and Keynote. Well, I’ve added three more tools to my artist’s palette. They’re not free, but they’re inexpensive and I think they’re well worth the cost. You can, of course, use them for presentation illustrations too. So without further ado, here are three great tools for blog post illustrations.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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My Top Digital Tools for Learning 2022 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/learning/2022/08/top-tools-for-learning/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/learning/2022/08/top-tools-for-learning/#respond Mon, 22 Aug 2022 10:32:45 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=25344 Since 2007, Jane Hart has compiled an annual Top Digital Tools for Learning List from the results of public surveys. Looking at the trends over time provides a useful overview of the tools that people are using to learn. In addition, her […]

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top tools for learningSince 2007, Jane Hart has compiled an annual Top Digital Tools for Learning List from the results of public surveys. Looking at the trends over time provides a useful overview of the tools that people are using to learn. In addition, her lists and annual analyses allow readers to discover new useful tools. Here’s my contribution: my ten top digital tools for learning in 2022, with brief descriptions of why and how I use them, plus some additional tools I’d sorely miss and a promising newcomer.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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Making event choices https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2022/08/making-event-choices/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2022/08/making-event-choices/#respond Mon, 15 Aug 2022 10:45:10 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=25218 All too often, clients planning an event don’t spend enough time making hard but important event choices. What is engagement? A few months ago I designed and facilitated BizBash’s inaugural two-day leadership summit in Puerto Rico. 24 C-Suite executives discussed some […]

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event choices
All too often, clients planning an event don’t spend enough time making hard but important event choices.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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My Seth Andrew story — a thief who got caught https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/soapbox/2022/08/seth-andrew/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/soapbox/2022/08/seth-andrew/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2022 10:38:25 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=25264 This is the story of how I met a silver-tongued thief named Seth Andrew, and how he wreaked havoc on a host of lives in my community until the FBI caught him stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from charter schools […]

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Seth Andrew
Seth Andrew stealing funds in November 2019 (photo obtained from bank surveillance footage by Melody Shen, Special Agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation)

This is the story of how I met a silver-tongued thief named Seth Andrew, and how he wreaked havoc on a host of lives in my community until the FBI caught him stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from charter schools he founded and a federal court sentenced him to jail.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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How to attract great consulting clients https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/consulting-2/2022/08/attract-great-consulting-clients/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/consulting-2/2022/08/attract-great-consulting-clients/#respond Mon, 01 Aug 2022 10:28:21 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=25169 These days I am blessed with clients who are a joy to work with. But that wasn’t always true. Here’s how I learned to attract great consulting clients. It shouldn’t need to be said, but I’m going to say it […]

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attract great consulting clients
These days I am blessed with clients who are a joy to work with. But that wasn’t always true. Here’s how I learned to attract great consulting clients.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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COVID, duty of care, and the meeting industry https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/meeting-industry/2022/07/covid-duty-of-care/ https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/meeting-industry/2022/07/covid-duty-of-care/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2022 10:28:39 +0000 https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/?p=25134 Event professionals: it’s time to talk about COVID, duty of care, and the meeting industry. Actually, we should all have been talking about this for the last couple of years, but better late than never. We’ve known since mid-2019 that […]

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COVID duty of care

Event professionals: it’s time to talk about COVID, duty of care, and the meeting industry. Actually, we should all have been talking about this for the last couple of years, but better late than never.

We’ve known since mid-2019 that COVID-19 spreads by airborne aerosol transmission. (Which makes me wonder why the GBAC STAR™ Facility Accreditation, with its emphasis on disinfection and cleaning surfaces and neglect of adequate ventilation, is still a thing.)

As I write this, the BA.5 Omicron variant is fueling the latest surge in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) just announced that COVID cases have tripled across Europe and hospitalizations have doubled. And “as Omicron rages on, scientists have no idea what comes next“.

The reality is we are still suffering a pandemic, currently dominated by the most contagious variant of COVID-19 yet: BA.5. The worst variant to date, BA.5 is four times more resistant to messenger RNA vaccines than earlier strains of omicron and is leading to significant increases in hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

As a result, WHO’s Emergency Committee has announced that Covid-19 remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern — its highest level of alert.

Meanwhile, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention reports that “Nearly one in five American adults who have had COVID-19 still have Long COVID“. And a U.S. Veterans Affairs study suggests that a second infection doubles the risk for death, blood clots, and lung damage, and increases the risk of hospitalization by three times, with every COVID reinfection increasing the risk for bad outcomes.

Yet the meeting industry seems to be abrogating its traditional responsibilities to keep attendees and staff safe.Read the full article at Conferences That Work

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