Well finally I’ve had some time to put some thoughts on my reflections of the Change in the Age of Disruption Conference that I attended in Sydney at the Jones Bay Wharf Conference Centre last week. Since then, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my participation as a presenter at this conference but also how I could have done things differently.
— Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) November 11, 2015
I blogged actively prior to the conference and shown my process for how I developed the presentations. The Change Management Institute had invited their keynote speakers to provide the following three things on their specific topic (mine was on Social Learning)
- A Pecha Kucha (but rather than the usual 20 seconds per slide; 1 minute per slide)
- A white paper for their publication
- A 90 minute masterclass
I worked out loud through my process of the creation of the Pecha Kucha and you can read how I undertook this in my blog posts: Is Learning a New Thrill Seeker Sport and Do the Pecha Kucha. I even created a short video on the story that inspired me to create the Pecha Kucha on Sometimes You Can’t Knit Alone. So as you can see I had invested A LOT of time on that presentation just to make sure that it set the right context for explaining the benefits of peer to peer collaborative learning through my personal story of my knitting community. You can see the final Pecha Kucha as I recorded the whole lot prior to the conference and called it “What Organisations Can Learn from Knitters” (which coincidentally was the same title of the white paper).
The White Paper
The white paper took me AGES to write. For the record I HATE writing white papers. Simply. hate. them. To me they represent a formal and traditional approach to writing where you can’t express your reflections, anecdotes and observations. I know they have their place but there’s something about them that smacks of formality, policy, procedures, structure – old world. It comes from an authoritative position and really doesn’t align to this new way of working. In some way, the white paper was the bane of my whole experience of my participation with the CMI and in hindsight, I should have been more vocal in expressing this to them. Instead, I wrote the paper begrudgingly – and even paid an editor on Fiverr to go through it and fix it up because by the end of it, I was really tired of looking at it. I should have had the audacity to ask CMI to consider an alternative approach to the white paper and instead, provide them with any of these more interesting – and fun for me – alternatives:
- Guest post on their CMI Conference website
- Short video interview that explained what I was going to talk about
- Creation of some learning artefact that could be used or shared at the conference
- Google Hangout or Blab with participants
- Anything. But. A. White Paper.
Enough of the white paper. You now know my feelings about it. Let’s move on. Let’s not give it any more air time.
Lesson: Don’t just go with their suggestions. If you want to shake things up, offer alternatives because they may agree! I never asked but I now know that if I did, they would have jumped at the chance because their whole aim was to do something completely different with their conference proceedings. I missed that chance.
The Night Before the Conference
(Pity I didn’t take photos – it was a GREAT event but as is usually the case – I feel like an idiot taking out my phone to take photos when conversation is THAT good).
The intention of the meetup was to host Donald Taylor (@DonaldHTaylor) who was out in Australia so he could meet some of the Sydneysiders. As I was going to be in Sydney at the same time for the CMI Conference, I asked Ryan Tracey (@RyanTracey) if he would be open to me inviting a few more people along to the event and he wholeheartedly agreed. So I took a chance and contacted the other international speakers (who didn’t know me) and I politely invited them to come along to the event. (I had hoped they didn’t think I was some random).
The meet up was a pleasant affair on a lovely warm evening in a packed rooftop bar. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet the everyone in an informal social setting and mentally prepare ourselves for the next two days of the conference.
It also put me at ease immensely because truth be told, I was a tad awestruck with Euan, Jon, Simon and Donald.
— Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) November 12, 2015
In the tiny hotel room later that night, I created a short video setting out my expectations for the next day. My aim was to “Socialise the Conference Experience” and I had prepared some activities and ideas to do this through QR codes and online collaborative documents during my Masterclass but on the day, my approach had changed drastically – and this is where I am now questioning whether I should have done so.
Feedback from the Pecha Kucha
Admittedly, I felt that my personal story of the knitters was a winner. (Frankly, any story about knitting is a winner in my books).
The feedback received on my presentation both from the delegates and also the other speakers was quite positive. I deliberately wanted to create a different presentation and say how crafting communities are already using collaborative learning approaches through communities that are local and global – all around the desire to learn and interact with each other to better their craft. I used their examples of how they use social media, networks and tools and what organisations can learn with using approaches like these.
Many people had later told me that they had connected with my own story because they too, were in similar communities.
One lady even befriended me later on Ravelry (an online knitting group) and we shared a taxi ride back to the airport animately chatting about our knitting and crochet projects. Our excitement and shared interest will also see us meeting again in the new year to attend the National Sheep and Wool Show with my other knitting community. So I made a new friend in the process who will be introduced to my crazy friends in my knitting group…
— Euan Semple (@euan) November 11, 2015
The QR Codes Were a Fizzer
I had great confidence in my planning and preparation of the various activities that were designed to “socialise the conference experience”. I had created specific QR codes (8 activities all up) that when scanned, it took them to a page on my website with a specific task to be completed at the event. Tasks included things like:
- Share 3 key points that you learned from the last speaker.
- Take a photo of a slide that resonates with your work and tell us why it does etc.
The whole aim was to start people sharing their learning and reflections openly and publicly across the world. However, I didn’t know that many people were not on Twitter and although the conference had created its own app too, I didn’t check if people were asking questions or used the app actively in their work.
So at the conference, I noticed many people were not using Twitter so I decided to change my masterclass presentation slightly and include a demonstration on using Twitter so that they could share their learning across the two days. We did have some technical glitches on the day but they were quickly sorted out and didn’t mar the presentation in any way but it did pose a question in my head which was:
Do I teach people to be social first through Twitter OR do I just show them examples of social learning activities that they can use in their companies?
I thought that if people were exposed to how to use this social tool FIRST to share their work and learning at the conference, they could then continue the conversations and connections they made after the conference and experience social learning in action. Then, they could be in a better position to try this out back into their own companies.
I now think that I should have stuck to my original plan to show them examples and case studies of social learning in organisations as I think the Twitter message was lost somehow. Some people downloaded the app and I explained the symbols and how to have dialogue and explained twitter lists. Some people tweeted and others understood how to use it but looking at the numbers using it actively the next day showed that my session did not make an impact. Compared to the London conference, it looked like they had a similar experience.
A few people had also expressed to me that they simply don’t like using social media because they prefer “face to face”.
Lesson: Find out as much as you can about your audience on their comfort, use and skill of social media tools before the conference and customise to suit. My enthusiasm and eagerness to create interactive activities through the QR codes, Padlets and a new tool Zeetings all were discarded simply because they would have been too overwhelming. Keep it simple.
What Could I Have Done?
The CMI Marketing team was exceptional. They had provided different content such as show Questions and Answers with each of the presenters as well as short videos that were used as promotion material for the conference. They had a Twitter channel, a Facebook Community and a blog. They had even created a conference app.
They had all the tools that could have been used to create the social learning experience.
My lesson here is that in the future, there may be opportunities to incorporate these social tools INTO the conference experience. That is, when people are working in teams or doing activities, that they share these results, photos, links and references within the Facebook community so that they have an active and collective record of their notes, photos and sketches and team plans. As I looked around the room with people using flip chart paper and marker pens, I wondered how I could have supported them to input their thoughts into the social tools themselves. Rather than having the marketing team or presenters live blogging at the event, instead, allow the participants to live blog instead?
I believe this way all the hard, physical content that was on paper could have been online so that it would be easily accessible for people to later reflect on, make sense and reuse if need be.
Lesson: Look at the marketing channels that the conference marketing team has set up and see how you can use them for capturing learning too – not just for marketing purposes – and who knows, maybe even keep the conversations and dialogue happening post event.
I created a vlog about the Change Management Institute Conference that encapsulated the two days and this will be aired on LearningNow TV at the end of this month and of which I will share more broadly after it screens.
I also had the opportunity to interview Jon Husband, Founder and Director of Wirearchy and asked him about how organisations can work more effectively in this manner.
I then interviewed Caroline Perkins who is the President of the Change Management Institute in Australia and asked her about the role of change managers and the opportunities and challenges they are facing in their organisations.
As is the case for many of my travels, I brought my knitting along and used the opportunity to knit and enjoy the wonderful scenery.
A big thank you to Change Management Institute for inviting me to be part of your conference and to learn more about the role of change managers and your association. It was a wonderful learning experience for me and I had a lot of fun also helping out on the day to blog and vlog my own learning and reflections.
— Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) November 11, 2015
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