The Value of CONNECTing

Last week I had the opportunity to attend (and present at) EDUCAUSE Connect: Denver.  This is the third year of the Connect events, and I think they’re starting to come in to their own.  This year both facilitators and participants seemed to get the format and mostly came ready to have some fun together.

The Connect events are envisioned as something more than a mini version of the EDUCAUSE annual conference.  They are meant to be gatherings where facilitators and participants work together in sessions based on certain themes (in Denver those included Enterprise Service Delivery, Leveraging Technology and Data, Partnerships and Collaborations, and Staffing/Talent Development).  In an ideal world, about half the session would be presentation, and the other half would be activities.  My session actually slanted even further with about 15 minutes of presentation (sans slides, which my colleague Kyle Bowden has labeled Talkapella – a presentation without slide accompaniment) and 45 minutes of activities and discussion.
I was really impressed with the creativity of the facilitators.  One group, for instance, has candy on every table that they used to separate the room into smaller working groups.  The only challenge here was not eating your candy before we broke into groups.  Another group had a game that helped show off their mobile app’s capabilities.  There were prizes for the top scorers as well as participation prizes (which you can see below didn’t quite fit but were still fun).  Our friends at Internet2 used an interesting set of cards to create a college profile and roles for us to use during an exercise, and the folks at Notre Dame brought a really great cheat sheet to help us understand some about their cloud migration plans.

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Many of the sessions had a Catchbox to help engage participants as well.  If you’ve ever just wanted to throw a microphone to someone across the room, the Catchbox solves that problem for you, and with it even the act of passing the mic becomes an activity all its own.

The Connect events aren’t just about the sessions.  Like most conferences, some of the best value comes in the connections you make with peers at the conference, and Connect intentionally structures time for this.  With fewer sessions further apart (and a smaller, more intimate setting), there are more opportunities for hallway conversations, and it felt like everyone really took advantage of that.  For me, I spent some time getting to know people I’ve met in passing, and even meeting some new folks (including this post conference lunch bunch).

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(note, I cannot take a decent selfie to save my life)

If you missed the Denver event and think this kind of event sounds interesting, then definitely check out the Miami event coming up at the beginning of April.  I think most folks would enjoy the experience, and if you come you might even find yourself inspired to attempt something impossible.

 

 

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