Rather than do a blow-by-blow of blogher, I’m going to make some general observations, and share my main take-aways from the day.
And, before you read any further, let me be completely clear – I have no criticisms whatsoever about the blogher conference AT ALL. Lisa, Elisa and Jory, all their volunteers, helpers, and sponsors, panelists and attendees – everyone did a great job. It was one of the best conferences I have ever attended, although I could have done without the "opera" at Nicolino’s.
I do however have some observations that I would like to share that perhaps will help us improve future events.
Conference program. One of the things I liked about blogher was the highly participatory format of the sessions. It really worked for most of the sessions.
The message was clear from the outset; the organizers felt that everyone in attendance could just as equally be on a panel as those sitting in the panel seats. The main difference was that the panelists had a unique experience to share with their peers. And, by and large, I think this was true of the blogher audience. Everyone I spoke to was pretty knowledgeable.
The participatory format really works well when the topic is issue-oriented, and diversity of opinion, of panelists and attendess, creates an energetic session.
Here’s the BUT:
Where I think the participatory format falls down (and in general btw, not just re: blogher) is when the intent of a session is to teach new skills or new materials. Under these circumstances, I think a more traditional presentation “teaching” format works better. That’s not to say that the audience shouldn’t be involved, but in a much more structured format that educates as it engages.
My take: anything that needs to convey new skills, and especially anything for newbies, should use a more traditional presentation model, so the attendees walk away with the new skill. As long as the overall agenda strikes the right balance, and offers a mix of session types – skills, issues, debates, birds of a feather – we can keep the conference from turning into death by powerpoint.
Second comment. Of all the sessions I attended, the only one I was a bit disappointed with was the closing session. I really liked the idea that Lisa, Elisa and Jory put forth at the beginning of the day, that the closing session would build the mother of all to-do lists. In practice, however, I think the group was too large to effectively do this. In my opinion (and YMMV), a number of the comments sounded more like folks waxing philosophical than actual concrete suggestions. Almost like the person really had something they needed/wanted to say, and they hadn’t yet had their moment in the sun. What they said wasn’t necessarily bad or uninteresting. It just wasn’t a concrete action. Hence my disappointment.
Not all the comments were like that – there were some good concrete suggestions. One that springs immediately to mind without even looking at my notes is Mary Hodder’s suggestion for a “speaker’s bureau,” which has already been executed as a speaker’s wiki.
But I didn’t feel like we walked away with a collective to-do list as much as individuals quietly left with theirs.
Now, one should never make a criticism without a suggestion, so here’s mine. Next blogher, the session before the closing session could be small group sessions. Perhaps organized in advance by interest area, but with a specific goal in mind – to walk into the closing session with at least one to-do to present to the assembled group. Each designated spokesperson would get a few minutes to present the group’s to-do and the ensuing discussion could be focused on agreeing a final, blogher to-do list.
With a group that large, I just think you have to focus the discussion and give everyone a chance to have their say beforehand.
Next post … speaking of personal to-do lists, I’ll share a few things that are on mine after blogher.