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Re: community building at conferences

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  • Tracy Cain
    To add to John Smith s question yesterday Anybody have any particularly positive or negative experience with small conferences as community-building events? ,
    Message 1 of 4 , May 11, 2001
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      To add to John Smith's question yesterday "Anybody have any particularly
      positive or negative experience with small conferences as community-building
      events?", we are always looking for ways to add value, networking, and a
      sense of community at our conference programs. I welcome any suggestions
      for how we can do so. It's hard to know sometimes what the proper balance
      should be regarding connecting people v. providing information.

      Tracy Cain
      Conference Director, IIR
      tcain@...
      703-741-0332

      (Miriam I'm glad you enjoyed it!)
    • Denham Grey
      Tracy, Some ideas: Connect conference alumni via a web-conferencing system. - gives folks a chance to cement contacts made during the conference - allows for
      Message 2 of 4 , May 11, 2001
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        Tracy,

        Some ideas:

        Connect conference alumni via a web-conferencing system.
        - gives folks a chance to cement contacts made during the conference
        - allows for longer contact between participants and conference
        sponsors (vendors)
        - gives an opportunity for asking questions and interaction with
        presenters
        - provides a medium for feedback, critique, brainsorming,
        suggestions and for the next conference.
        - a space for building loyaly and relationships between participants
        and the conference organizers
        - delivers a 'capitive' audience for post conference seminars and
        online learning workshops (revenue generation)

        A mix on f2f and on-line web conference with ability to annotate and
        process comments from other particiants extends the retention and the
        learning, adding value far beyond personal notes scribbled in the
        margins of a hard copy.

        The greatest value comes from the opportunity to reflect in the
        comany of cohorts that were there, that shared the same experience
        and heard the same words. PowerPoint presentations in 30 minutes does
        not do a whole lot of good for learning, it increases awareness,
        presents information but does not allow for construction of new
        knowledge, that comes from practice and discourse.

        After all is said and done at a conference, the real value that
        remains lies almost entirely in the relationships formed, not in the
        short half-life of the hard copy content.
      • Heath Row
        Our experience -- at events such as RealTime, Community@Work (the CoF leadership summit), and Women.future -- has been that adding online community tools to an
        Message 3 of 4 , May 14, 2001
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          Our experience -- at events such as RealTime, Community@Work (the CoF
          leadership summit), and Women.future -- has been that adding online
          community tools to an event (per Denham's suggestion) has mixed results. In
          most cases, online community aspects to conferences works in terms of onsite
          participant profiling, onsite email, and self-scheduling and message boards.
          After-event community tools such as mailing lists and discussion areas often
          don't attract a critical mass of participants -- or an inspiring call to
          action for ongoing connection and collaboration.

          In the case of Community@Work, which gathered a group of people who were
          already pretty well connected online, the mailing list was quite active
          initially but became inactive pretty quickly once the energy of the event
          waned. In the case of RealTime's online community platform, the pre-event
          stuff didn't attract too many people (most folks don't really think about a
          conference until just before they go), but the onsite stuff worked really
          well and helped foster all sorts of post-event back-channel connections. And
          the Women.future discussions, which we helped design and facilitate,
          attracted next to no one.

          My take is that the more you can do in terms of connecting people one-to-one
          -- via participant profiles, attendee directories and email lists, etc. --
          the more people will connect on an ongoing basis after an event... but on
          the back-channel. Our experience with post-event online communities that are
          centralized shows that they might not be worth hosting unless the event
          catalyzes ongoing work... or is frequent enough and attracts a similar
          enough group of people (perhaps repeat attendees)... to serve as productive
          punctuation for online community-based interaction.

          Heath

          Heath Row | Social Capitalist | Fast Company
          77 N. Washington St. | Boston, MA 02114 | USA
          617.973.0358 | http://www.fastcompany.com/cof

          Please don't print this email. Save a tree.
        • Heath Row
          Fair comments, Chris. Some additional context below... ... I would agree. What s your connection with someone who s gone to Comdex or another large trade show
          Message 4 of 4 , May 15, 2001
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            Fair comments, Chris. Some additional context below...

            > I feel that there's a difference in context
            > between a commercial conference provider, how and who they
            > get turning up to a conference , what the costs/ motives to contributing
            > to the store of practice knowledge are etc
            >
            I would agree. What's your connection with someone who's gone to Comdex or
            another large trade show or conference? Not much. And this might be the root
            of our difference of perspective. I'm thinking conferences. Less so
            grassroots-organized retreats of pre-existing communities of practice that
            already use CoP language, etc. Com-prac was sparked by a CoP conference.
            (Although it's interesting that IIR doesn't provide participant directories
            for its events.) The CoF Summit mailing list was quite active right after
            the event and did good work to keep people connected -- although I'd argue
            that the participant directory and profiles did more. And we've seen small
            pockets of people who've connected through our RealTime events organize
            their own ongoing communities. F^3, which was born of the first RealTime in
            Monterey, Calif., back in 1997 continues to this day and meets regularly for
            face-to-face retreats around the world.

            > In this second context, being able to maximise both the value
            > of your pilgrimage-practice at the Retreat and post-Retreat is
            > huge to all who participate. ( Shame if we haven't found
            > ways of keeping that alive online)
            >
            I think this fits into my idea of events as punctuation for otherwise
            ongoing community organizing work. And I agree that this hybrid has hella
            potential. Your use of the word "pilgrimage" is interesting. These events
            could also be celebrations, agenda-setting summits, ways to share best
            practices amongst the CoPs, bridges between disparate groups, etc.

            > Another issue is that Fast Company seems is pretty indelibly
            > organised around local cells not focused practice cells - now that
            > may be all the difference in the world unless you've got proof
            > that it isn't
            >
            I'm not going to shoulder the burden of proof on this, but I'd offer that
            the CoF is a global community of interest and action centering on a set of
            ideas and ideals -- that has a hefty local focus. The CoF isn't the
            strongest online community yet, so the local cells are the most visible
            representation of its activities. People can connect based on industry and
            interest -- and soon, skill -- as well as locality. And the cell gatherings
            could be viewed as localized punctuation events that cascade up to our
            occasional CoF summits and Roadshows... which cascade up to RealTime, etc.
            As the online community matures, the CoF's local focus will change, I am
            sure, even though people will continue to hunger for F2F connections in
            their home towns.

            My challenge on this is as follows: If you're organizing a CoP within an
            organization, are you only focusing on one practice? Or are you organizing
            multiple CoP's within that organization? (This seems to me to be the wisest
            course of action. Why shut out the other practices?) And if you are doing
            this, why not connect those CoP's to foster idea-sharing, collaboration, and
            other interaction? The best ideas can often come from outside your domain.
            If you're only focusing on practice-specific lessons within your CoP, you
            might be limiting the potential of that group's development.

            Heath
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