Stick ’em with the pointy end

I’m off to the Teaching and Learning with Vision Conference at the end of the week, which I’m pretty happy about. Not least because for the most part, the people speaking and those going are visible in my time-line and have been for a while. This means before I go, I know that I’ll be learning from people who are not simply talking about it or promoting their book, but people who are actively doing things that I can see in my time-line. From an organisation view, all conferences benefit from a known-headline, and with Stephen Heppell (who’ve I seen many times) it certainly helps to attract an audience, as with Alec Couros and George Couros. But for the main part, the people leading sessions are very much drawn from the ranks of social-media, most of them have a public profile that we can all engage with, and I hope that includes me, who will be talking about Interactive Wipeboards, Free Web Tools and Personal Learning Networks, so do make sure you stick around. I’m also thinking of using pyrotechnics, but airlines frown on that sort of luggage.

I wonder how much you see your time-line related to what conferences you’d go to, or how much you’d pay to be there? With that in mind, I thought I’d do some digging (not in Minecraft for once). Here’s how I see the connection/value proposition.

I was using some Twitter tool yesterday that analysed (somehow) what it thought about people in my time-line. It’s purpose was to ditch the spam-bots on the whole, but interestingly it also highlighted people who never reply, yet have a few thousand followers. It also decided that for the most part, these people post links that have already appeared to that audience. In terms of ‘worth’, it suggested that I ditch them and spend time focusing on people who engage in conversations. The statistics we’re shocking, as were some of the names – people who occupy (out of digital-realms) the title of leader, of the 20 or so it found in this category, it said that they spend 80% or more of their time posting links that have already been posted, but without an RT or Hat Tip to anyone else. Basically they strip the source and claim the find as they bounce it to their followers. In addition, they reply to their followers less than 7% of the time, and less than 1% of the time to people they don’t follow.

While for many, Twitter has become a fantastic source of links and Twitter has become the number one place that people bookmark them. I find however, as I look back at some of these ‘tweetable-moments’ from this group – that what they are doing is feeding yet more content to an audience with little regard for reader. It basically say’s in a random way – this is important to me, so it should be to you without bothering to explain why or how it can be implemented. When I look at some of the content, it is often about reform and how we actually need to stop feeding kids content and think of new ways to engage them in their own development. So while they are ‘on’ Twitter, they are behaving in exactly the way they themselves see needs to change and without really thinking, reinforce the very transmission-culture that locks people into frustrating positions as they whip up more moral panic. I don’t even know if they are aware of this.

So, when I look at the TLV Conference (or any gathering), I look for connections. A quick head count – who are these people in my time line and what do they want?. I’m less interested in what they do, or tell others to do, but to try and figure of how much I have in common with them – and then to look at them and see how they generally behave in the time-line towards others. I use Twitter for one thing – to build stronger process-networks. If I want to harvest links, I’ll use a tool that does it more efficiently that sitting on Twitter watching the pixels fly-past. I think that’s what people want at conferences too. They are not going for Professional Development – they are going to bolster their connections and seek new ideas – to find collaborators who in some way can help them get what they want. If the speaker is a FIFI (fly-in-fly-out), never really engages with the audience beyond their presentation – and doesn’t feel like helping without being paid, then I can add them to a feed – but I won’t waste much time attempting to connect (or court) them – as that is not what they want. At the same time, I don’t want to pay to hear something I can hear online anyway. It amazes me how many times some speakers deliver the same message. It’s like, “oh, I haven’t presented here, I use this one”, as if everyone their are about to speak to, are not connected to thousands more. I’m more than happy to @ping that, something Shelly did a few years ago at ISTE, when they keynote gave the same speech to educators as they delivered a few weeks before to a corporate biscuit manufacturer. There should be a rule – 80% of what you use, you should not have used before. Further more, I don’t want to hear war stories of a glorious past, nor a review of the bleeding obvious.

I am happy to hear about what you are doing however, and delighted if you invite me to join in. However, like so many people at conferences, who are spending time and money – we don’t need motivating, we need to know how you did it, and how we can do it too – not one day, but now. I hope what I’ll present with do that – and perhaps provoke some thought. What I want from speaking at a conference is simple – to connect to those in the audience that want to discover, experience and explore with those I’m already connected to. Any conference or event that does that – has an impact for the audience. We all know eventing is an industry, the problem is – the audience want to participate, not just consume.