Sunday, May 17, 2009

Why Go to A Conference Anyways?

@lidja @lyndakelly61 @futureofmuseums @creativemerc @museum_flavor pLz look &here assoc./conf. grpthink @RichardMcCoy @DanielCull very import.


James G. Leventhal said...

RichardMcCoy@jamesgleventhal So membership becomes access behind the red velvet rope line?

Memberhisp is the priviledge of belonging and supporting not only an important cause but one that is reaching a wider audience because of the noew, more open paradigm.

museums are facing the EXACT same issue right now. ALL my ideas are stolen from Max Anderson.

James G. Leventhal said...

I am not sure about fee-based model. 1st fans is doing it, but Bklyn's in trouble otherwise a bit...I think free's the answer. it actually increases "value" in a way...

Richard McCoy said...

I'm not convinced museums are facing the exact same issue.

A Professional conference experience usually = a power point presentation.

A museum experience usually = a direct interaction with cultural property.

I think the reasons to be involved in these 2 things are very different.

But, in terms of a museum's engagement with an online community, then there's a kind of similarity.

Perhaps you mean more broadly "membership" in a museum. Then there are also some similarities ... Belonging to a group that is sponsoring a cause and getting some financial kick-backs for doing it.

Your mention of the BK's 1stFans project is interesting because this is a way to provide a unique experience, for a fee. Which is what many museums do anyway. I think that's totally fine and I am a 1stFan.

Also a member of my local zoo, and other Indiana-based cultural institutions.

I think I've lost my sense of direction here, though ... getting late for this old man. But I can't leave without asking who your picture is on twitter?

Lidja said...

I respectfully disagree about going 100% virtual for regional associations. (Maybe OK for affinity groups, though?) I don't think having an annual meeting meets needs very well at all, though. The whole thing needs a lot of shaking up. IMHO, I think regional assocs. should re-think their relationship to state associations & shift their mindset to ways they can support and strengthen state assocs. That's the way into the heart of the museum community.

James G. Leventhal said...

I am not suggesting going 100% virtual. I espouse the annual meeting! Maybe even smaller ones thru -- CAM as part of WMA?

And I think we need to celebrate now the innate value - the gathering, the in-person exchange. I suggest happenings.

the twitter photo is Billy Jack, crusader for justice from 70s.

James G. Leventhal said...

I am posting @WillCary's brave response to possible end of NYTimes. His twitter feed says:

Here's 4 ideas for a New York Times Membership program, if they go that route as detailed in this Observer article:

1. Sulzberger, Bill Keller, Jill Abramson twitter feeds that only Members can access. Hey, it works with the @1stfans Twitter Art Feed!

2. Members-only access to Flickr pool with all NYT-published photographs for that month. Photogs don't care b/c they're up for 4 weeks only.

3. Times Talks podcasts with two writers covering the same area. Just straight conversation (dance, art, dining, fashion, technology, etc.)

4. Access to website chats once a day, every day for a half hour with a writer whose byline appears on page 1 that day.

Of course they could be doing half of these things already, but those seem to me to be benefits that people would pay for, esp at a low $/yr

(source: 5/15/2009)

James G. Leventhal said...

If on-line and newsletter successful why not add revenue? why not google ads on-site?

I'd love to see at I mean we are already advertising wordpress, right?

would like to pose to board after blog up for a while. ads in newsletter is exact same thing.

individual and institutional ads might be perk of membership?

Anonymous said...

I'm not entirely sure that the "conference" as we know it will have a role to play in the near future.

Conferences serve several very important functions such as: Networking and Sharing Information (papers)... increasingly these kinds of things can be undertaken cheaper and more efficiently online... so to my mind this is great not because it means the end of conferences, but, because it means conferences can get rid of "the boring bits" and can become something else, something new... something as yet unknown.

Perhaps... massive 'think tanks', informal data sharing sessions, brainstorming gatherings, mass advocacy days, public outreach days (each one, teach one), and so much more.

We could start to think of conferences not as something that happens in dark conference room of some hotel, but, that is just the gathering point for us to "do" something.

Cheers, Dan

Lynda Kelly said...

I have made several comments about whether we need to have conferences over on Museum 3.0.

However, sharing mutual experiences, laughs with copious quantities of good wine cannot be replicated online (hence my suffering today!).

However as Ross Dawson's blog piece points out: "... the role of blogging and Twittering at events [is] something that event organizers must understand and work with effectively to add value to conferences. Beth also spoke about the role of online community building before, during and after events. This is about combining the rich value of face-to-face interaction with the potential of online discussions."

Caroline said...

I go to a conference for more than the PowerPoint presentations and information sessions and the ice cream at afternoon breaks. I personally go to conferences in order to connect with other real, live people who love the same work I do, speak the same lingo as me and to generally hang out with kindered spirits (sometimes with spirits!) of the museum world. This face-to-face interaction cannot be replaced with online workshops/chats/facebook/twittering. But what IS cool about the online stuff is it now - as a unit - allows me to keep the conversation going, to not forget a face and name. It even *gasp* allows me to meet and connect with new people in the field, because now we are finding museum professionals' home - a conference that never ends, let's say - online. This new way of meeting makes actual conference attendance that much more valuable because now I have the name, have the face, I know some of that person's ideas and a bit of their point of view . . . and await conference to get the chance to find out about that spirit the other person holds. There is simply no other way to do that but to do so in person, and I need that from my colleagues, new and old. After all, isn't some sort of real connection with others what it is all about?

Allyson Lazar said...

Personally, I LOVE all this new social media, and I see it as an incredibly useful tool for a) sharing information gleaned from a conference with those not at the conference and b) interacting with/"meeting" people at the conference whom I might not otherwise even know about (for example, exchanging "tweets" with an educator--I am not an educator and so never attend education-oriented sessions) BUT, when all is said and done, I need the actual real-life conference. Not sure what this says about me, but few things in life get me as energized and excited as being in the physical presence of a large group of museum people and sharing museum experiences with them (via evening events, off-site sessions or even just through the discussions in the regular sessions). Having an all-electronic conference would save me money, sure, but I also wouldn't be as excited about it and I'd probably be more likely to just skip it. After all, another benefit of a real-life conference is that it forces us to make time to sit and think and talk about new ideas to further or profession, our museums and our careers.

Apologies for the ridiculously run-on sentences.

CreativeMerc said...

Well, let's look at a recent tweet from Eric Johnson (

"Museum 2.0 isn't abt tech; it's abt dropping barriers. A curator lunching w/ visitors is doing better 2.0 than is a static FB page"

I think he's got something here. And, if that's true, then we might conclude that conferences are very 2.0 communications tools. As others have said, conferences provide museum professionals with what Mr. Anderson might call a "visceral" connection to their peers and industry, whether its via commiseration, vindication and/or co-education. So I don't see them vanishing in the near future. (Also, it has to do with levels of technological comfort: Lydia, you mentioned regional associations going all digital. I can name at least one regional association whose members vehemently opposed an electronic newsletter because they couldn't bear to part with paper...)

But, yes, we need to re-evaluate the process and the product(s). I can think of several conferences for museum professionals that will be conducted this year in almost the exact same fashion as they were 10 (and probably 20) years ago. We love to talk about "added value" -- it's time to add more value to our get-togethers, surpass PowerPoint, and make something new. I heard good things (generally) about this year's Museums and the Web "unconference" sessions. At least a new idea was introduced and given its day in court.

Finally, I must add a note on something Allyson Lazar has developed at several conferences: the Reigstrar's Brigade. At each annual meeting, collections management folks converge on a local organization in need of trained personnel and volunteer their services to organize/store/pack/unpack/condition report/tag/etc. a group of objects. Talk about adding value to the conference and getting past PowerPoint. (Allyson can tell you more about this great program.) My point: what if we could find ways to tackle other concrete problems while in conference gangs?

Allyson Lazar said...

Thanks for the credit, Jeremy, but actually the volunteer event you mention (sometimes called Helping Hands, sometimes called the White Gloves Gang, sometimes called the Reinforcement Crew, the list goes on) has actually been around for awhile and pre-dates my active involvement with the RCs.

All I did was introduce the concept (already in place in other regions) to the Western Region annual meetings.

And now I must make a plug: all you registration and collections folks in the Western Region, please join us on October 24 in San Diego when we will be helping out a museum (most likely the San Diego Air and Space Museum) with assorted collections projects. It will be a great opportunity to hang out with colleagues, help out a museum and eat free food!