The blog.

The Four Models of Digital Teams

The folks over at Communicopia put together the best report on digital teams at non-profits. But in addition, they’ve put together a really awesome video called the Four Models of a Digital Team.

Here’s a post about it in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

You should check it out.

Blocking out the noise

Being on twitter during the day is sometimes like having a megaphone in your office, sending messages to you at random times. Sometimes, it’s useful because the megaphone broadcasts stuff you want to hear or the timing is right. Other times, it’s just white noise. It’s still better noise than what I hear milling around the office, but the disconnect makes me wish my friends were closer and yearn for connections that aren’t here.

I’m going to attempt this week to confine my daytime tweeting — minus any posts I schedule ahead of time — to 31 minutes of a lunch period and to after 4pm. I realize things happen all of the time, but being so plugged in sometimes has thrown me off in ways I’m not sure it’s cool to admit.

For me, social media provides a link to the world in ways it always has. I’ve always lived far from friends and family, so the social web has brought them closer.

I’ve just found myself with a lot to say, lots of things on the stove and an ability to make all the things at once. All of the apps you can install in your browser to stop you from checking those things just annoy me, but since I use different machines at work than at home, it might not be a bad idea to go back to using them.

We’ll see how the week goes.

On paying to speak at conferences & processing audience evaluations

Ron Bronson speaking at the University of Michigan

The past two years, I’ve done more conferences than I ever before. I’ve already topped my previous year’s output in half a year — 5 — and there’s still half a year to go. Did I also mention I’m doing my own conference this year?!

The catalyst for this post came from a talk a few weeks ago, but this idea has been swirling in my head for a while. I began sharing my insights and speaking at higher ed web conferences because I like talking and think I have unique insights that can help others. I’ve been speaking a long time, I’m pretty good at it but there are a lot of constraints to my speaking style that can get me into trouble if I’m not care.

For starters, I adlib heavily. I stopped writing prepared speeches in high school, because short of being like a Congressman I once worked for and printing my remarks in HUGE font on lots of pieces of paper like cue cards, I just speak too fast to keep up with the thoughts. Plus, I can usually read a crowd when it’s small and if I’m losing the audience during a talk, I want to figure out why before waiting for the evaluations. I once had a talk where I adapted the talk in mid-presentation because after asking a few cursory questions it was clear the audience wasn’t going to be prepared for what I had to deliver.

Now that I’m curating my own conference, I’m learning how the other half lives. You bring people who you know, folks you’ve seen speak before and like to come to events when you’re on a shoestring and trying to make sure you can pull an event off. When you’re an emergent speaker in your industry working up the ranks to “respected leader in your field,” it feels really nice for people to recognize you. Accepted topics to conferences are a good feeling, but too much of a good thing means people start asking for you to come to more events than you can handle and you have to choose.

If there are constraints that prevent you from doing all the things, this might turn out to be easier. For people (like me) without those inherent barriers besides the obvious time & money things, it’s tempting to want to go everywhere. I resolved I’d stop doing that this year, but I came up with another reason to stop after receiving feedback from an event I spoke at recently.

I went into it being a bit skittish and not being entirely sure that what I had to say would work for the audience. But I assumed it would be a multiple track event, so people would just show up if they were interested. Instead, it was a single track situation and that meant there would be people in the room to listen to a talk that simply wasn’t written for them.

Like an actor who doesn’t want to read the reviews, I tend to enjoy the negative feedback because it helps me prepare better, even if there are no surprises. In the aforementioned situation, I knew precisely what was wrong with the talk and I was just hoping to get out of it alive. The fact that the overwhelming majority of folks liked it, just made me happy, but I didn’t walk away believing my own hype.

I think when writing evaluations, remember that you want to give the most helpful advice you can if you’re going to give advice at all. I think I tend to be harder on speakers being paid than those are volunteering their time, but planning my own event has helped me get a better sense of how difficult — even when you have a lot of speakers — to get the right balance to match your event content with what people are hoping to get from it.

From my own experience, I will be a lot more discerning in the future about where I speak and why. I have a preference in terms of the types of crowds I speak to, what topics I like to talk about and where I think I offer the most value to people who’ll benefit from what I’m sharing.