Friday, September 14, 2012

#RSQ12: Final thoughts

The Risk and Reward Conference (R-Squared or R2) has thrown down the gauntlet for other conferences.  It has said, in essence, "yes" people do want an interactive and immersive experience.  Yes, people are willing to stay in the same track in order to have that experience.  Yes, keynotes can be interactive.  Yes, you can dress down and still be professional...and learn.  Yes, we are ready to move away from the current conference mold.

Wizard. Genius. Explorer.What worked well:
  • The registration process.  Each person was able to provide information about themselves, which was then used to create a nice online list of who was attending.  Now we can use this list to keep in touch with each other, especially if more people add contact details.
  • The emails that were sent in advance.  The R2 team didn't inundate us, but they used email to help set the stage for the conference.
  • The use of Twitter and Facebook before and during the conference.  The conference had its own Twitter account and their is a Facebook page too.  Two of the evening informal events were coordinated through Facebook.
  • The location worked extremely well because it is a small, safe community that allowed us to take risks.  The amenities in the area and the gondola were real pluses.  Also the people were genuinely friendly and helpful.  (As a side note, commuting by gondola is definitely the way to go!)
  • Josh Linkner was an excellent opening keynoter, who set the bar high for the the remainder of the speakers.
  • Having four interactive tracks was a nice way of organizing the days.  I liked that we had to register for our experience (track) in advance. 
  • The interactivity in all of the sessions worked well, at least from my vantage point.  "Doing" can be a very good way to learn new concepts (or brush up on old ones).
  • The interactive zone was a nice ice-breaker on Sunday evening. 
  • The audio interviews and blog posts that the conference team did (and continues to do) are awesome.  What a nice way of sharing the conference with others!
  • Some info from the tracks will be going online and that is a nice touch, since we'll be able to see what other tables, etc., did.
  • The conference swag was nice and a bit different! And the sessions gave away different swag, which means that we all didn't come home will all the exact same stuff. [Pins, coasters, metal water bottles, adventure sling (type of backpack), bumper stickers...]  
    • The card (above) was given to everyone at the closing keynote.  I've received some feedback about the words that were used on the card from those who were not at the event.  I wonder if others have found that wording doesn't resonate with everyone?
  • The way the conference program was done was cool!  I know that it is an idea that was done at DrupalCon.  Each person received a lanyard with a small booklet on the end, which had the person's name on the outside.  Inside -and printed so it was easy for the wearer to read - was the conference program!  (added 9/14, 8:17 p.m.)
What might be tweaked:
  • If this event is done again, the organizers should define who should attend it and the specific experiences.  That could allow people to select experiences that are more appropriate for them.
  • The time spent in the experiences could be tweaked.  Could some of that time be used, for example, to have people share across tracks?
  • When we registered, people who have dietary needs could state them.  While that worked well, those who didn't have dietary concerns seemed to like the vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, which caused some problems.
  • It would have been helpful to have a map of the area in advance, in order to know where events would occur (and in relation to the three hotels). For example, while it was easy to get around the area, knowing that the convention center was in Mountain Village, while some of the events were not, would have been helpful.
  • Telluride is an awesome location, but difficult to get to.  Knowing travel options (which airports one could use, for example), would have been very helpful.
  • I know that among the questions for the future is whether they would use Telluride again.  That is something for the team to consider as a way of lowering the cost of the conference.
  • The word "conference" didn't really convey what this was.  The team might use the word "experience" for the entire event or "immersion."
  • The final keynote was "okay".  It could be that our minds were too full.  Dunno.  
  • The nighttime events were fun (and optional), but they were on top of really full days.  The team might consider what really makes sense to do or for others to propose. 
Tweaking, by the way, means that there will be another R2.  At this point, we don't know if that will occur.  I know that a lot of effort went into this one, and they will have to think hard about whether they can do that effort again. And if they do another, do they want people to come back and do a different track?  Do they want people to come back for a different level of engagement? Do they want a whole new group of people?
That all said...WOW!  This conference brought together 350 librarians ( public, academic and school), trustees, folks from library consortia and associations, and staff from state libraries.  People came from across the United States, including Alaska.  One person came from Sweden, who was in the States on an exchange program. There were also a few people who work with libraries (e.g., architects and software vendors).  And I believe that no one was disappointed.  We each learned something.  We each left R2 changed.  Now we need to change those who could not travel to Telluride.

I have placed photos from Telluride and the conference in Flickr at  Below are a few as a teaser.

Mountain Village gondola station View of Telluride from the gondola

Artist working in the middle of Colorado St. Horses at the R2 opening reception

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