Join me at Blend Abu Dhabi on October 17!


I’m honored and excited to be presenting at Blend Abu Dhabi, a free one day conference for event professionals on global event industry trends, meeting innovation, and event technology at the new Yas Conference Centre, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi.

Also presenting are industry luminaries Julius Solaris, the editor of Event Manager Blog the number one blog worldwide for event professionals, and Shawna Suckow, The Buyer Insider, a leading expert on buyer behavior.

Here are descriptions of my workshop and presentation.

Workshop — Participation Rich Meetings
How can you make your conferences highly relevant, important, and useful to your attendees? 

Every conference attendee arrives with unique wants and needs. They may be facing specific professional challenges or want to learn more about certain topics or issues. Many will want to connect with others who share their interests or who could benefit from their expertise and experience. Unfortunately, conventional fixed-content conference programs rarely provide the level of truly effective learning and connection that is possible.

We’ve known for twenty-five years how to design conferences that provide superior learning, connections, and outcomes. Unfortunately, centuries of exposure to old-school conference culture focused on pre-determined lectures by experts makes it difficult for event planners and stakeholders to adopt proven participant-driven and participation-rich approaches for improving their meetings.

In this short workshop, you’ll experience some of the simple yet potent core techniques you can use at the start of your conferences to uncover and facilitate the connection, learning, and outcomes your attendees actually want and need. You’ll learn, share, and connect with other session participants in ways that are relevant to your wants and needs without the use of artificial “ice-breakers” or high-tech. You’ll leave with key understandings and the motivation to incorporate participant-driven and participation-rich design elements into your meetings.

Presentation — Creating Participatory Meetings That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action
As meeting professionals, it’s easy for us to zero in on the extensive logistical requirements of any modern conference — that’s what we do! Unfortunately we invariably take for granted the traditional conference format we’ve experienced our entire lives. You know what I’m talking about: conferences where a few experts share content to an audience of passive listeners, and connections between participants are expected to occur outside the sessions during breaks, meals, and socials.

Well, today there’s a significantly better approach to conference design. An approach that creates and supports more effective active learning, more useful connections, greater engagement, and better action outcomes.

We now possess the tools to make fundamental meeting improvement happen!

This presentation (which includes some experiential learning) will introduce you to the global business and meeting industry trends that are making participant-driven and participation-rich formats increasingly crucial requirements if you want to keep your face-to-face events healthy, growing, and relevant in today’s world.

We’ll also cover the basic components of participant-driven and participation-rich conference designs that will deliver improved learning, connection, engagement, and action outcomes to your attendees and stakeholders.

 

I’m looking forward to experiencing the Yas Conference Centre (Abu Dhabi’s newest venue), meeting regional event professionals, and exploring the United Arab Emirates. I hope to see you there!

Using Google Hangouts On Air to stream a keynote

On May 7, 2012 Google opened up Google Hangouts On Air—a free service for broadcasting and recording live video with up to 10 participants—to all Google+ users. Six weeks later, the night before edACCESS 2012 started at the Peddie School in New Jersey, I decided to try using Google Hangouts On Air to stream and then archive the conference keynote. A couple of edACCESS old-timers who couldn’t attend in person this year had asked me if there was any way we could stream any of the “public” conference sessions, and I had nothing to lose by trying out this new technology.

Here’s what I did, what I learned, and how things turned out.

Google Hangouts On Air preparation
First I created an empty Google+ Circle and went through the process of creating a test Hangout On Air. This allowed me to get familiar with the process and check in advance for any potential problems. I was able to successfully view myself streaming, and see how the stream turned into a YouTube video once I ended the Hangout. This gave me the confidence to announce through social media channels that the stream would be available (though I neglected to figure out how to provide a link to the stream in advance).

Peddie’s charming and efficient Director of Academic Technology provided a laptop with a decent external webcam and we circled each other on Google+ so I could add her computer to the hangout on the morning of the keynote. (Important note: you cannot invite people to a hangout unless they’ve added you to one of their circles first.) I decided to use her computer to stream video and audio of the keynote speaker, and my trusty 17″ MacBook Pro with built in webcam to setup the hangout and publicize and monitor the feed.

To broadcast Hangouts on Air you must have a linked and verified YouTube account associated with your Google login. This linked account will be where the broadcast stream, and later the video recording will appear. You only need to set up this linkage once, but I strongly suggest you do so (and test it) before your first Hangout On Air. Verification is apparently necessary if you want to save a hangout that lasts longer than fifteen minutes!

Showtime!
Ten minutes before the keynote was due to begin I started a hangout in the usual way by clicking on the START A HANGOUT button on the Google+ hangouts tab. Then I added Emily to the invitee list, named the hangout, checked the option “Enable Hangouts On Air” (and agreed to the warning dialog), and clicked the Hang out button. This led to a normal-looking hangout window, with the addition of an Embed link and a Start Broadcast button at the top right.

Once Emily accepted my invitation, we were nearly good to go. Because the big picture feed in a hangout is switched to the webcam with the loudest audio, I wanted to avoid having the stream switch away from Emily’s webcam so I muted the microphone on my computer by hovering over my small video window at the bottom and clicking on the microphone icon.

But I still needed to share a link to the stream so that anyone could watch. Clicking the Embed link on the Hangout page I obtained the embed code for the stream and quickly created a blog post with the embedded keynote stream. This embedded a YouTube player onto the page, and visitors could watch the live Hangout On Air directly from the page, as well as on Google+ and my YouTube channel. (Note: once the broadcast is over, this link points automatically to the resulting YouTube video post.) I checked the blog page to ensure the video looked OK before we went live and then tweeted the page link to the blog page.

[Later I discovered that when the hangout is starting, if you right-click on the timestamp of the Google+ post that announces the hangout you will also get a link to the stream.]

We were ready!

By this time the speaker was being introduced. I clicked the Start Broadcast button and we went live.

I found that while hosting the hangout on my computer I could watch the broadcast stream, delayed by 5-10 seconds, in another browser window. Pretty cool! I also noticed that an updating count of stream viewers was displayed on the hangout page. Also cool!

After a few minutes I realized that seeing my face in a small window at the bottom of the hangout was probably distracting, so I turned off my camera.

Then I received a tweet from my friend Ruud Janssen in Switzerland(!) who was watching. He asked if I could use my camera to show the slides as the main video, moving the video of the speaker to a small window at the bottom of the screen. This made sense, so I turned my laptop round, pointed it at the slide screen, and clicked on its window to make the slides the main video for the stream. This worked well. (I should have thought of this earlier. Next time I will explore using a tool like CamTwist to pipe presenter slides directly into a hangout feed.)

Unlike a regular hangout, where any participant can override the camera switching that Google normally does, the main window for a Hangout On Air is either determined automatically from the webcam with the loudest audio or by the person streaming the hangout. So I became the camera operator. When the speaker asked for and answered questions, I chose Emily’s webcam. When he began speaking again, I returned to the slides as the main video.

We had no audience microphone, so I asked the speaker to repeat audience questions so that those following the stream could hear them and they would be available on the final YouTube video. I see no reason why next time we couldn’t add a small netbook webcam to the hangout and have a volunteer run it round as a mike (and video) for audience questions.

When the keynote was over I simply clicked End broadcast. After about ten minutes, a recorded video of the 105 minute hangout automatically posted to my YouTube channel as well as the post on my Google+ Page, and the embed post on my blog. At this point I was able to edit the video information on YouTube, where it appeared as a video in my YouTube Channel with the same title I had given the hangout. Apparently you can use YouTube’s tools to edit the video itself, provided it’s under two hours in length, but I didn’t do this.

Conclusion
Considering the small amount of preparation needed to broadcast this impromptu stream, which upon completion automatically turns into a standard permanent YouTube video, I am very pleased with the ease and quality of the result. Sure, it’s a far cry from a professional broadcast and recording, but for the cost (free!) and minimal effort required, Google Hangouts On Air provides an attractive solution for streaming and archiving events that will fill many needs. I recommend you try out this approach for a low-profile event.

Tips and resources for Google Hangouts On Air
Here are a couple of useful tips from a longer list of Hangouts On Air tips by Fraser Cain:

– You can join a Hangout twice from two different devices. This will let you put up screenshots, videos, etc in another pane.
– Create an intro screen graphic beforehand that introduces the Hangout. You’ll run this in your hangout for the first 5 minutes before you actually get started.

And here are two useful resource guides for learning more about Hangouts On Air:
Hangouts On Air Technical Guide <pdf>
Google+ support page for Hangouts On Air

Got any questions? I’ll try to answer them if I can. Have you run a Google Hangout On Air for an event? Share your experience here!

Designing Participation Into Your Meetings

No, that’s not me up on the stage, and that’s not the kind of session I’ll be leading next Tuesday, May 22, at the MPI New England 2012 Northeast Education Conference, Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence.

My session Designing Participation Into Your Meetings will, unsurprisingly, include a fair number of interactive exercises: human spectrograms, pair share, The Three Questions, a mild experience of chaos, and others. My goal is to motivate participants to incorporate participant-driven and participation-rich design elements into their meetings.

I’d love to see you there!

Why PK (Pecha Kucha) is OK

PK photo # 2 -eSeL.at- 3585402625_3872426fe1_o
“Being architects and having been to countless lectures, we knew that once people start to talk about their work and have a mic in their hands they just go on about details forever…”
—Mark and Astrid Klein, the inventors of Pecha Kucha

I recently wrote about my enthusiasm for Pecha Kucha sessions at events. But there’s one aspect of Pecha Kucha, which, at first sight, seems to fly in the face of some of my exhortations in this blog.

To recap, a typical Pecha Kucha session at an event consists of around an hour of back-to-back presentations, each 400 seconds long. There’s no time allocated for questions during the session, and (unless people start throwing stuff) no participation during each presenter’s time on stage.

So, if I’m such a fan of participation during event sessions, why am I promoting a session format, Pecha Kucha, that doesn’t include any?

My defense is brevity. Because all presentations are purposefully short, I like to describe Pecha Kucha as speed dating for ideas. The Pecha Kucha design purposely and explicitly excludes formal Q&A during the session, with the clear expectation that presentations will spark dialogue outside the session.

In other words, unlike the claims of many a traditional presentation with an obligatory Q&A session tacked on the end, a Pecha Kucha event doesn’t pretend to provide an interactive experience. Rather, a single Pecha Kucha provides a rapid introduction to a topic, an idea, or an experience that acts as a jumping off place for stimulated viewers to start learning more via engagement after the presentation. A single fifty minute session can expose attendees to multiple powerful, interesting, and entertaining ideas and viewpoints, and leave plenty of time during the rest of the event for captivated individuals to seek out presenters for further discussions.

Short, sweet, and to the point. That’s why I like Pecha Kucha!

Want to experience Pecha Kucha as applied to the world of event professionals? Then you owe it yourself to attend EventCamp Twin Cities next month (September 8-9, Minneapolis, MN) for our Pecha Kucha session, moderated by yours truly. Here are the scheduled presentations from a variety of event professionals!

Elling Hamso on “Event ROI for non-believers.”
Brandt Krueger on “PowerPoint SchmowerPoint: The Next Generation of Presentations and Presentation Technology.”
Lara McCulloch
on “Stories, Sagas & Fables.”
Lisa Qualls on “#EventsThatLast.”
Lindsey Rosenthal on “Give Your Event a Charitable Makeover!”
Greg Ruby on “Foursquare for Events, Exhibitions and Destinations.”
Adrian Segar
on “Face the Fear—Then Change Your Conference Design!”

Pecha Kucha, not Ashton Kutcher

pecha_kucha_02

Instead of going after celebrities to present at your next conference, highlight some stars amongst your attendees with a Pecha Kucha session!

Pecha Kucha is a dynamic presentation format that has spread globally since its invention in Japan in 2003. Think of it as a haiku for presentations – twenty slides automatically advanced, each shown for twenty seconds, while the presenter shares his or her passion about a topic. Because each presentation lasts just 6 minutes and 40 seconds, presenters are challenged to be concise, targeted, and creative—and you can pack eight attendee presentations into an hour-long conference session.

Oh, you have a question? You want to know how to pronounce Pecha Kucha? Don’t be embarrassed, everybody asks. Just watch this short YouTube video:

O.K., glad to have cleared that up. You can also incorporate Pecha Kucha into a social event at your conference by scheduling your presentations during an evening social, with food and drink available while the presentations go on. This is the format used at Pecha Kucha Nights, held in hundreds of cities all over the world four or more times a year.

It’s pretty easy to set up a Pecha Kucha session. Before the conference, you’ll need to explain the format to your attendees, promote the session, solicit presenters, and send them a presentation template. Have them send their presentations to you before the session. On the day, you’ll need an appropriately sized location with presentation-friendly lighting, a wireless mike and sound system, a schedule, and a screen, projector and laptop running PowerPoint or Keynote. Add an MC and a staffer for the laptop and you’re ready to go!

I’m a big fan of Pecha Kucha as a way for people to connect and learn in a fun, fast-paced environment. I’ve just signed a contract to run Brattleboro Pecha Kucha Night, and we’re working on holding a Pecha Kucha session at Event Camp Twin Cities this fall.

Want to learn more? Check out the hundreds of presentations available on the official Pecha Kucha website. (I especially like this one by Daniel Pink on Emotionally Intelligent Signage.) I also recommend you attend a nearby Pecha Kucha Night to experience the format firsthand. I think you’ll see how Pecha Kucha can liven up any conference.

Have you used or experienced a Pecha Kucha session? How did it work out for you and/or the attendees?

Participant-driven association meetings presentation slides and resources

Here are the slides and resources from my June 18th 2010 presentation to the NE/SAE (New England Society of Association Executives) annual meeting held at the Colony Hotel, Kennebunkport, Maine:

Some Research about Face-to-Face Communication at Live Events.

Innovative Techniques in Conference Formats (slideshare).

NCDD’s Engagement Streams Framework helps people navigate the range of approaches that are available to them and make design choices that are appropriate for their circumstance and resources.

The Meeting of the Future.

On confidentiality: The Europe/Chatham House Rule.

Do You Allocate Enough Time for Interaction?