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An Accidental Techie in Cali
Submitted by csmith on 2012-05-02T16:05:38
The first night I got to San Francisco, I had a great dinner with some people who have been going to the conference since it started. I couldn’t believe it used to have a little more than 200 people in attendance and now there are more than 1,200! I like that this conference caps the attendance. Even though it sounds like a lot of people, the organizers structure the breakout sessions so I never feel overwhelmed by the group size.
Since I was new to the conference last year, I took the novice track, which had larger sessions and broad overviews of many subject areas. This time around, I decided to take all the experienced classes, which I liked because they had smaller groups, and I learned new content. I specifically wanted to find breakout sessions that talked through tools.
The setup of the conference was great. There were various speakers at the breakfast and lunch sessions. Author of Back of the Napkin Dan Roam, who we love here at i.c.stars, was presenting and talking about his new book Blah, Blah, Blah. It was interesting because we were eating, but were told to not use the napkins placed in front of us because they would be part of the presentation. What a cool visual exercise!
What stands out to me about NTEN is that there was a powerful group dynamic. People who may have presented earlier in the day would stand up in a session and talk about their successes and struggles. I found myself and others would also stand up to share our insights and the tools we currently use. It has more of a conversational feel than just being presented to. I also love how attendees and the public can vote on what sessions and presenters will be featured online prior to the conference. There is also a live online portion to the conference for folks that can’t attend in person, but can log-in from their offices. At one point, Steve Heye of YMCA Chicago, tweeted a question from his Chicago office and got it answered immediately. How cool is that?
That being said, sharing is caring, so here are some things I learned as an accidental techie in California.
I went to a great session about distributed teams. This session interested me, as i.c.stars is looking to expand to other regions in the future. It was great to see how many organizations operate with staff in completely different geographic areas. They have “team core hours,” which are usually 10am-4pm central time. This means that the entire team is online and using various tools to collaborate to get work done during their designated core hours. This really resonated with me, as I believe that we need to get out of the way of thinking that the best person for the job must be located in the same area as our office.
The other session that really stood out to me was all about blogging. In this group, we talked about “comment killers” on your blog. If you’re too neutral or if you come off as being the final authority, you rarely are going to receive comments. But not only that, commenting should not be the end result for you. Their feedback is, “Well do you comment on everything you read, even if you find it interesting?” Someone re-tweeting your article or your blog or forwarding it through your newsletter is just as important as comments, sometimes more, because they’re indicating that your content is interesting. Not everyone wants to comment and put themselves out there to engage in a discussion, but are still actively listening and engaging with your content.
Enjoy these tools that had me geeking out:
GroupMe: I was in love with this awesome tool for group messaging, which I think is key when you have fundraisers and events. This sets up a phone number that I could share with an entire team, including our event planner. Any time something is happening during the event, you just text that number and everybody receives it. This is helpful because half the time I don’t know if there’s a fire or if there’s somewhere I need to be. A lot of times I’m individually texting people, so it’s nice that everyone can know what’s happening.
Timely.is: Who doesn’t want to maximize the impact of your tweets? You add your tweets to Timely.is, and they publish them when they’ll have the highest impact. It’s similar to Tweriod, which I learned about at last year’s NTEN conference. What I’m finding is that you get more re-tweets, mentions and followers because of using this service, and it’s absolutely FREE.
Oovoo: This is a free video chat and conferencing service. You receive six free licenses, but have to pay after that. It’s something that people seem to like more than Skype.
Dabbleboard and Twiddla: How I love a good whiteboard. Then when I heard you could have shared whiteboards I was on Cloud 9! I think this is interesting, especially if you have a distributed team. There’s something called Dabbleboard, as well as Twiddla that I am investigating for my team to use.
Watchitoo: This tool is all about embedding your interactive live event so that other people can see it. It’s kind of interesting when we think about using video more, and it’s also a good collaboration tool.
Google Analytics: This is an oldie but goodie. There are so many features and data points that are in analytics that people do not know about. We use this for our clients and ourselves as well. It can be very helpful to encourage your team to be explorers when it comes to data. There was a suggestion of implementing a “Data and Donuts Day” so you’re making it fun.
So that is my wrap up of some of the great sessions and takeaways from the 2012 NTEN conference. There was so much going on, I am sure I may have missed a few things. Is there anything that you think should be added to this list?