My mini conference was a nightmare for me from the beginning! It wasn’t so much that I was nervous about facilitating a meeting (I felt I could bluff my way through that one) or even using the technology, it was that I was apprehensive about what the subject will be. The reason for my apprehension came from a misunderstanding of the ‘topic’ relating to a conversation I’d had earlier with Sarah (via one of our regular meetings) and later at an online meeting with Leigh. I was sure Sarah had said that any topic could be presented but Leigh then said it had to be ‘online facilitation’ related! Luckily, not everyone was as puzzled as me and a range of topics emerged so I followed suit with a related but semi unrelated(to online facilitation) idea.
So, I had my topic sorted and the timeframe for the mini conference was getting closer. Elluminate was to be the media of choice but that choice soon soured when Elluminate was “uncooperative” at UCOL. Many hours were spent by our IT department, myself, Debra and the Otago IT department trying to figure out why Ellluminate wouldn’t work for more than one user, on one computer, at a time! By the end of what seemed like three or four weeks of curfuffle both Debra and I had had enough and we both decided to go with something else. So Dimdim became my media of choice. At this stage I didn’t have a backup media but was trying out other things to find one.
In the week leading up to the conference the presenter I had arranged became unavailable on the date I had reserved. Now it was panic time!!! It was around this time I was asked to attend our BICT Degree third year industry project presentations. It was here that I met my new presenter Mark Leonard Jones with an interesting presentation on his use of Google docs to create a virtual office for a charitable organisation (which also tied in nicely with online facilitation/meetings etc). The rescheduled presentation was a godsend for Mark who was, at the time, busy writing up his final report for the degree. I updated my conference details on the course wiki which prompted a phone call from Sarah telling me if I wanted the mini conference marked she would have to be present and she wasn’t available at the date and time I’d picked. So I choose another date, two weeks on from the original date!
Call me a defeatist if you want but I decided at that stage that this was the final change: I was using Dimdim and if that didn’t work ( at UCOL, because I knew it worked superbly at home) I’d forfeit the conference (and fail the course) and so “Back Up Plan: googlegroups email for cancellation if Dimdim doesnt work!” was written to the wike
A comment was made that I could have advertised my event more fully beforehand but to be fair I did what most other people did: I advertised it on the wiki, I answered private emails from other course participants about the conference and I advertised it to my (PLN) own friends list via Facebook. Perhaps I could have sent out a Googlegroups email to the FOC09 group, but to be honest by the end of the course I hated the overuse of that email group. It seemed like every day there was at least 15 emails (including multiple replies to emails) that were beginning to clog my inbox. It was like spam gone wild! LOL. So, no that was one thing I didn’t do.
Logging into Dimdim on the day, automatically generated a reminder that the meeting was on. It is not something that I intended to send out and given the chance I would have deleted it, simply because if people wanted to attend they would have logged in by then and at that stage most people would have thought it was too late to attend (even if they had intended attending). In a normal meeting situation it is a good feature but not in this case. It was disappointing that only two people attended my event but not surprising given that it had to be postponed a week and a half later than the latest event. The date corresponded with end of course dates at my institute and I suspect at the others as well. I appreciated the attendance of Sarah and Debra and don't consider the event a failure because of the low attendance or the low attendance attributed to the topic....it was just circumstantial as far as I'm concerned.
Mark was great even when we experienced technical difficulties that I couldnt fix. The audio was intermittent and ghosty throughout the presentation. In practices we hadnt experienced that problem so I'm not sure what went wrong there. It wasn't so bad that we had to abandon the event but it was annoying and offputting to hear the delay in your ear. I can only imagine that at times the participants were left with lag during the event. That's a shame because that sort of failure can detract attention from the event. One good thing that came from this event though, was that it was possible to have a tool with multiple connections work in this workplace.....amazing because that didn't happen with Elluminate this year.
The questions flowed thick and fast from the participants throughtout the event, and I think I kept up well with replying and reiterating Marks answers via the chat facility (in case the intermittent sound issues caused the answers to be he unheard).
In terms of starting on time and finishing within the stated timeframe the event worked well. I was feeling a little flustered at the beginning of the event because when you start you meeting in Dimdim a reminder email is sent to participants and people logged in are kept in a waiting room. As I didnt want participants being held up, I opened the waiting room immediately but at the same time that caused a wee panic for me! I have absolutlely no doubt those 'nerves' would diminish with practice though, so no big deal really.
What would I have changed about the way in which this event was run? In the future I would probably get firm committment from participants that they could attend.This time around it didn't concern me that others couldn't attend (because the event had been put off for an extra week and a bit) but I do realise that it's not about me and it would have been nice for Mark to have a bigger audience. A backup plan for having the event marked could be developed for future courses so that if the marker is not available to attend an event another person can stand in his/her place perhaps. Or participants of that event could give a written evaluation (with guidelines) of how they thought an event went.
A few suggestions have been given to me, one was about providing a photo of myself and the presenter at the event so that participants can see who we are. Another suggestion was to allow the participants to introduce themselves to the presenter so that the presenter knew who they were talking to. This suggestion may be useful if a small number of participants were involved (like at my event) but not possible when lots of people attend (for obvious reasons).
Anyway, overall I enjoyed doing the event, listening and attending others events and participating in the course. I didn't (and don't) enjoy blogging, probably because I am a little lazy and because I'm not a really public person so don't really enjoy writing stuff about myself for all the world to see.