Earlier this month I was ecstatic to attend the Event Camp Twin Cities conference, the second gathering of the #eventprofs Twitter clan.
The first gathering was last February in New York, where the #eventprofs group that had bonded via Twitter could meet face-to-face. When I saw the tweets, blog posts, and videos from the New York event, I was bummed to have missed it. When Event Camp Twin Cities was announced, right in my home town, I knew I had to go.
There were so many great parts of Event Camp Twin Cities, so it’s tough to pick a favorite. Let’s unpack the bags and see:
The EventProfs Community
The eventprofs group is a very special bunch. They’re funny, generous, tech-savvy, adventurous, and talented. About 80 people attended ECTC in person and a few hundred virtually. I was so happy to finally meet face-to-face many people that I had followed or conversed with via Twitter. This was my first and main reason for attending, but as the event drew closer, it was apparent there was much more value in being there:
New Ways Of Meeting, Teaching and Training
It finally hit me that this event would be a great experience for our Skyline team to further amp up how we approach our own seminars, webinars, training and meetings. So three of us from Skyline attended live, and two more participated virtually. As Adrian Segar said in his presentation, “Shoveling content does not guarantee learning.” ECTC was a great way to find other tools in the shed.
The event was a feast of experimental conference formats that kept us engaged and involved. The presenters gave us many inspiring ideas:
- David Adler of BizBash: The 2015 Experience: David was the first speaker, and he set the tone by advocating we take more risks at events, as he did by using an iPad to run his presentation. David gave us view of events from his crystal ball. I chuckled when he said speakers are trying to speak in more Twitter-friendly sound bites…which of course I promptly tweeted! I was thrilled to meet Dave at the opening-night ice breaker event, a digital scavenger hunt, where we discovered that while he lives in New York and I live in Minneapolis, we both went to the same junior high school and high school in Maryland! Follow David on Twitter at @DavidAdler.
- Erica St. Angel of Sonic Foundry: 37 Dynamite Ideas For Keeping the Conversation Going After Your Event: After a very visual and very short intro PowerPoint, Erica turned the reins over to the group, using Google Moderator as a wiki. She divided the conference – including the virtual attendees, and the pods (small groups of people gathered together to tie in virtually to the main conference) in Dallas and Basel, Switzerland, into smaller groups, that brainstormed and then voted on ideas around various facets of how to keep momentum going after an event. Then she brought everyone together to share their best insights. It was a successful experiment in giving up control to your audience, and getting more engagement, participation, and learning in return. @EricaStAngel on Twitter.
- Midori Connolly of Pulse Staging and Events : AVGirl’s Gadget Lab: Midori took the experimental initiative to heart, with a hands-on presentation where attendees could do side-by-side comparisons of cutting-edge event technology. She gave us several gadgets to play with, all the while reminding us that “if the event technology doesn’t serve a need, it’s just a toy.” The coolest new toy we held was IML’s new text and voice based Audience Response System. It looked like a Blackberry, but was made for a higher-level of interaction during meeting sessions. @GreenA_V on Twitter.
- Mike Westscott of InXPO: Can Hybrid and Virtual Events Be Interactive and Social?: Mike shared some good sound bites, such as “It’s time to transform the web from pages & files to events & destinations” and “The conversation changed from virtual events replacing live events, to virtual events complementing live events.” Anyone experiencing Event Camp Twin Cities’ tight live/virtual integration would know the answer to his session title was a resounding “yes.” @InXpo on Twitter.
- Fleming Fog of Wizerize: Take the Wheel at Eagle Racing: The conference attendees participated in a simulation where we were making decisions about tough situations for an Italian racing team. As we progressed through the exercise Fleming gave us more information and new decisions to make. We experienced how and why individuals and especially groups make decisions – often quite poorly – and then rationalize their answers. It was much more meaningful to experience this than just see it as mere words on a slide. Real learning that will last. @Wizerize on Twitter.
- 7 Pecha Kucha presentations: Seven presenters had to present only 20 slides in 20 seconds each slide. That brevity and precise timing (less than 7 minutes each) squeezed out any fat and gristle and left nothing but delicious lean meat on these presentations’ bones. While introducing the format, Adrian Segar very memorably used a Sesame Street song to teach us how to pronounce Pecha Kucha – see the video here: http://ht.ly/2BVg8. (Warning: ECTC attendees can still hear this song in their heads – it will stick with you.) The 7 presenters:
- 1. Elling Hamso on “Event ROI for non-believers” (which Elling presented from the pod in Switzerland!) told us that meetings create ROI which can be measured: Attendees do something. @Ehamso on Twitter.
- 2. Brandt Krueger on “PowerPoint SchmowerPoint: Formatting Presentations for the 21st Century.” Brandt humorously revealed his two pet peeves: not making your slides as wide as the cool big event screens, and abrupt slide transitions. @BrandtKrueger on Twitter.
- 3. Lara McCulloch of Ready2Spark on “Stories, Sagas & Fables.” The originator of #eventprofs preached the value of stories: they stick when facts don’t, because we feel like we’ve lived through the stories we hear. @Ready2Spark on Twitter.
- 4. Lisa Qualls of Fresh ID on “Events That Last.” Lisa gave us a framework to remember how to extend the longevity of your events: Build, grow, engage, community. @lqualls4444 on Twitter.
- 5. Lindsey Rosenthal of Events for Good on “Give Your Event a Charitable Makeover!” Lindsey challenged the audience to add a charitable component to their events, then gave many ideas how to easily and successfully achieve it. @eventsforgood on Twitter.
- 6. Greg Ruby on “Foursquare for Events, Exhibitions and Destinations.” Greg showed why 3 million people have become addicted to this location-based social media website, and how to use it. Even though it was meant to be a short presentation, Greg started with “Welcome to the longest 7 minutes of my life.” @GregRuby on Twitter.
- 7. Adrian Segar, Author of Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love on “Face the Fear—Then Change Your Conference Design!” Adrian asked us to change our conference designs by thinking of our audiences as resources, engaging them more by giving up control, and helping people learn more by doing. @ASegar on Twitter.
After the short Pecha Kucha presentations followed the last two sessions:
- Glenn Thayer, Host of Live Events & Content Delivery Strategist: The TV Show Session: 42.3 minutes to more engagement: Glenn walked us through how TV, especially The Today Show, is designed around viewers’ very limited attention spans, with only 5 minute per content segments, plus the format changing between segments (such as live interview, then a video, then a shot of the crowd in the street, etc.) Then we broke into groups to brainstorm how we could use a similarly fast-paced session design for a more engaging hour at our next meeting. @glennthayer on Twitter.
- Adrian Segar, Author of Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love: The Big Finish – An Opportunity to Make Changes in Your Life and Work: To solidify our knowledge, we huddled with our table mates to discuss what was the one thing we want to do differently because of Event Camp Twin Cities. It was the quietest the room was all day. As Adrian said, “We need to honor the learning that has happened here.”
Eventprofs Blog Awards The final event was an awards ceremony celebrating the best Eventprofs blogs, with over 70 nominees (including this blog) in several categories. With this social-media savvy eventprofs group, there are some amazing blogs. Lara McCulloch-Carter (@Ready2spark), the inventor of #eventprofs on Twitter, announced the awards:
- Liz King Events won the award for “Best Thought Provoking Blog”
- Design Dawgs won the award for “Best Eye Candy Blog”
- Factor168 won the award for “Best Corporate Blog”
- A Big To Do Event won the award for “Best Wedding Blog”
- Engage won the award for “New Kid on the Blog”
- Velvet Chainsaw’s Midcourse Corrections won the award for “Best Industry Advancement Blog”
- Liz King Events also won the “People’s Choice Award” with the most votes of any nominee
The Hybrid Event Experience
Most of all, this event was a big experiment on how to create an engaging, collaborative learning environment that fully integrated the virtual attendees with the people in the room. There were two “pods,” in attendance, where a room of people were linked with video cameras and sound to what we were doing and seeing at the live event. One pod was in Basel, Switzerland, and the other in Dallas. People in the pods participated virtually in the discussions, the group exercises, and even gave one of the presentations!
Emilie Barta (@emiliebarta on Twitter) acted as the Virtual Emcee, telling the virtual audience what was going on in the live event, and also sharing the feedback from the virtual audience with the people in the conference center. She was (and is!) simply awesome. She could power a small city with her energy and quick thinking. You could see the gleam in her eye when she was scanning the vast Twitter stream from virtual attendees to share their questions with the live group.
Heidi Thorne (@heidithorne) ceaselessly converted the conference into 140-character sound bites for virtual attendees to follow via Twitter. Her tweets were especially helpful when there were issues with the video feed.
As a live participant, I swear there were times that some of the virtual attendee’s tweets (especially Traci Browne @tracibrowne, Mike Granek @mikegranek, Mike McCallen @mmcallen) were so dead-on in their comments about the live presentations that it felt like they were in the room. With over 3,400 tweets sent with the #ectc10 hashtag on the day of the event, tweeters produced over 50,000 words of content that cover 162 pages of text.
Two members of our team were back at Skyline Exhibits watching the event virtually. They loved how they could freely brainstorm about the great ideas they were hearing, without worrying about interrupting the speakers.
And while there were some technology hiccups, all was forgiven in this experimental, hyper-kinetic, ultra engaging event.
Fun Group Activities
Event Camp Twin Cities was not just about education sessions. There was some fun to be had, too. And even in this fun there were lessons to be learned:
- Story Slam: This was the only event the night before the main conference. Not only an ice breaker and get to know you function, but also a lesson in how to tell a story, with a beginning, middle, and an end. And a lot of funny stories!
- Improv The comedians of the Huge Improve group (@hugetheater) did two hilarious skits during lunch and the evening reception, using either an #ectc10 tweet or an overheard sound bite as a launching point. It was amazing to see how these talented comedians could take a scrap of an idea and instantly expand it into a hysterical skit. When they sang the Greg Ruby Anthem, I just about fell over. Kudos for Jenise Fryatt (@jenisefryatt) joining with them for the evening skit!
- Digital Scavenger Hunt I loved roaming all over the beautiful University of Minnesota campus, and this was a great excuse. Beyond being an excellent icebreaker, the race to win the contest was a good exercise in how to work together as a team when you’ve just been thrown together.
- Karaoke This was not an official part of the program, but it should have been! About 15 of us piled into taxis after dinner and went to the Vegas Lounge in Northeast Minneapolis for Karaoke. Wow, can Deb Grinnell (@MyRedStilettos) sing! And so can Jenise Fryatt, Adrian Segar, Glenn Thayer, Lindsey Rosenthal, Brandt Krueger, and the never-ending stream of amazing locals at the Vegas Lounge in Northeast Minneapolis. I kept turning around expecting to see Simon Cowell. Me? Well, I can listen.
I hope that if you attended Event Camp Twin Cities, either live or virtually, that this helped you remember the good times, and some great ideas you want to use. And if you did not attend, yet are still reading all the way down this very lengthy post, you will realize just how much more you would learn by attending either Event Camp East Coast in Philadelphia or Event Camp Chicago!
Huge thanks to Samuel Smith (@samueljsmith) and Ray Hansen (@rayhansen) for their initiative, creativity, and effort in putting on Event Camp Twin Cities. They went above and beyond to make it such a successful experimental event.
And my favorite part? It’s a tie between the improve troupe singing The Greg Ruby Anthem, and Karaoke at the Vegas Lounge. So I guess I left Event Camp Twin Cities with a song in my heart!