Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What Associations Can Learn from the Reinvention Summit 2010

We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
'Cause your friends don't dance and if they don't dance
Well they're no friends of mine
I say, we can go where we want to
A place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
And we can dance…….Men Without Hats, Rhythm of Youth

The Short of It
  • I recently had a blast with an online conference experience
  • Now, how often do you hear that?
  • (Especially from me….the critic)
  • The lyrics above are from Men Without Hats
  • I am currently a Woman Without a Hat
  • Because I’ve tipped it to Michael Margolis and his tribe
The Long of It

Like many association professionals who specialize in conferences and professional development, I come to any educational experience with some pretty high expectations. On any given day I am either the bombard-ED or the bombard-EE in terms of planning, executing, attending, presenting at, marketing, developing, celebrating and/or lamenting this thing we call “conference.” So, not only is it hard to get my attention in the first place, you can lose me at any number of points along the way.

Imagine my surprise and delight at running across the Reinvention Summit 2010, Twitter hashtag #story10. Of course, props must go to my brilliant friend Gina Sutherland, CMP for bringing it to my attention in the first place. (She has an all access backstage pass at the Subculture and the words, “Check this out,” are sufficient to make me stop and take a second look.)

Seriously though - I was immediately drawn into this online only conference experience despite my best efforts to find reasons not to load my calendar up. I simply COULD NOT ignore it. The website was crisp and clean with no caffeine.  The sheer audacity of setting up a conference and yelling, “Here we are, where are you?!” to the world was inspiring. I wanted to yell back, “I’m over here!” I found it downright charming and infectious and every idealistic bone in my body  was completely sucked in.

Although I was sicker than a dog during the entire two weeks and spent most of my listening hours in a Nyquil induced coma, I came away with this feeling that I had tapped into something bigger than myself. I am not quite clear what my role in this community is, but I hope they are serious about wanting to play. I keep going back to the well assuming clarity will come in time.

I will be blogging about specific sessions that I felt were particularly outstanding, (like the one by Nancy Duarte of slide:ology and Resonate fame), but for the moment I want to focus on Michael Margolis and the storytelling tribe and what I found gratifying about the experience. Things that I feel should be replicated in other online conferences.

1. Accessibility – They set price points that were affordable, sensible and leveled up according to the type of engagement/participation you wanted. Those of us who knew some of the speakers but weren’t sure what the Reinvention Summit was all about had a low-cost, low-risk option to take. Here’s the best part - the lowest level Explorer’s Pass was not a cheap-smoke-and-mirrors-bait-and-switch imitation of the real thing. It was a complete experience if that was all you could afford. Kudos.

2. Technology – I didn’t pay attention to who their technology providers were but I intend to find out. The experience was not without its hiccups, but login was simple, content and audio streamed very well, the online chat was fun and any hiccups they had were efficiently handled with good humor. They were able to switch between pre-recorded sessions and live sessions almost seamlessly. If I needed to bow out and work on something in the meantime, I could leave the screen running in the background and still listen along without choppy audio.

3. Informality – I appreciated the informality. From the first introductory video on the website in which Michael just talks about the ideas behind the Reinvention Summit from what appears to be his living room, all the way through to the tone set by both presenters and organizers, we experienced a refreshing conversational tone. I loved hearing people admit they made mistakes, blurt out the occasional "frickin' awesome!", or just talk over someone when they didn’t mean to. It was fascinating and made me feel like I was among “friends.”

4. Scheduling – I LOVED the easy way the schedule fit into life in general. All sessions were recorded for access later so I still have 60 days to get to the ones I missed. Instead of trying to get my undistracted online attention for 48 hours, they hosted four, one hour sessions per day over the course of two weeks. The sessions were scheduled beginning at 11:00 AM PST (2:00 PM EST) and made sense in the context of all US time zones (although they did have global participation and not all time zones could be “daylight.”) We got overnight reminder emails of which sessions to watch out for the next day and invitations to chat along in the LinkedIn group. Nifty.

5. Enthusiasm – I am convinced this group genuinely believes their mantra, “Storytelling can change the world.” That enthusiasm made me a believer too. What better tool to use to examine our mission and vision for our member-citizens? I already use elements of story in the Appreciative Inquiry work I do with vision and governance projects. It made me do some soul searching as to what story the Association Subculture tells. To consider being more personal in my blogging style and bolder with my initiatives. I honestly don’t think any of my regular readers (and yes, I just checked my subscriptions recently and wow, you are really out there! Thanks!) don’t have a sense of where the Subculture stands on certain topics. But I can do a better job of more clearly articulating who I personally am and what I am passionate about in terms of how associations can do their jobs better.

So, yeah. I’m an Explorer for now but they can count me in for the longer haul. I know the hard work is just beginning because in the aftermath of “we did it” comes the more important – “how do we keep it going?” Questions must be asked and answered but if they let me, I’d love to stay on board for a while.

I mean, we can dance if we want to….right?

Here's the link to the video if you can't see it - Safety Dance


  1. I liked it. Thought the pricing model was a bit cheesy on the cheap end ($11.11) and it lowered my initial perception of the brand, but as you noted it was a very well-executed experience.

  2. Thanks for the comment Mr. Cufaude. Execution, as we well know, is everything!


  3. I stumbled upon the conference when I was doing some research on Nancy Duarte. I figured for $11.11 I had nothing to loose, so I signed up. My experience was very similar to yours. I loved it! I did miss a lot of sessions because of ASHA's annual conference though, so I'd love to hear your favorites so I can go back and listen while they are still available.

  4. Janet -

    I'm sorry I didn't get back to your comment sooner. I did not forget about you! Here were my favorite talks from Reinvention:

    Andy Goodman and Lily McCombs - Social Movements as Participatory Storytelling; Mandy Leith and Torben Bernhard - Filmmaking Alchemy; Jim Gaines - Media's Creative Destruction; Michael Margolis - Find Your Voice in the Stream; Robert Perez and Mike Smith - The New Normal and of course, Ms. Duarte....

    Which ones did you like best?



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