You can read my general thoughts on the conference in Part I, here. Below I share some of the feedback and the areas for improvement.
Hot Coffee and Everybody Learned Something
Overall I’ve been delighted with the feedback. Many, many people have stated that it was the single best conference they have ever attended. In the evaluations thus far, overall satisfaction is a 4.56 on a 5 point scale. 100% of all respondents say they learned one or more things they can apply back on their job and 86% met one or more new people who will be helpful in their career.
The major things I was worrying about - WiFi, hot coffee, speakers showing up, microphones - all turned out fine. The problems noted via Twitter and in the evaluations included the room being too cold, no soda during coffee breaks and no coffee during lunch breaks, crowded 1:1 coaching sessions and a couple of obnoxious people in the audience.
Twitter Table or Trouble Table?
The thing that received the most negative feedback was actually the Twitter tables. Many people approached me or commented in their evaluations that they found the Twitterers to be rude, unprofessional and disruptive. A few people suggested that they won’t come back if the Twitters come back. That sure surprised me, and I’m sure this feedback will surprise them. I’m not sure if there was just a cultural gap manifesting itself (bringing Baptists and Catholics together to hear a common sermon), or if indeed what some might consider to be open and honest feedback (with a little dose of fun) is actually disruptive to the in-person live forum. I personally like honest, immediate feedback and like interaction with a lively crowd - but would hate to turn off a segment of people we’re trying to actually bring into the fold.
Can’t Please Everybody
There was a variety of opinions expressed in the qualitative feedback:
- Many raved about the iPod giveaway and talked about how they’ll explore mobile health apps; a few said it was an unprofessional violation of corporate gift policies
- Some asked for more Q&A time for the speakers; others asked for less Q&A time
- Some asked for more main stage speakers instead of the breakout SIGs; others suggested replacing ½ the speakers with an unconference format
- Most applauded the applied, tactical focus of the case studies; some complained the information was too basic and we need more big ideas
What I Would Do Different
There is plenty I’d do differently:
- The 1:1 coaching sessions were an experiment that I’d do again, but the spontaneous “show up and get coached” approach meant we didn’t have enough coaches for some topics and most sessions evolved into longer, small-group formats. We need to find some way for people to sign-up, stay within 5-10 minutes, and get more coaches for the hot topics.
- We need to ask for more information during registration so we can accommodate things like special dietary needs, t-shirt sizes, topics of interest, etc.
- The “social spark minutes” were designed as table group ice breakers but clearly didn’t work. In fact we cut them from day 2 entirely. Many people chose to sit with people they already know, and others seemed disinterested in the exercise. Just need to find other ways to facilitate new relationships, perhaps with an opt-in online social network.
- Still struggling with the right “format mix.” Conferences these days run from completely self-organizing unconferences to speeches with no Q&A (think TED). We are more TED-like than unconference but perhaps we should have added an unconference format in one of the afternoons.
- We gave away many thousands of dollars worth of scholarships to the event but we should have had some other charitable contribution or charitable impact as well and I should note that Joe Shields from Pfizer had encouraged this from the start
I’m going to take a couple of months to keep thinking about all this and to figure out if we can do it again in 2010, so if you have additional ideas on how to take our strong start to the next level please let me know.
Thanks to all for your participation and input.