Lessons Learned from the 1st IPVM SeminarAuthor: John Honovich, Published on Sep 22, 2011
On Wednesday, September 21st, we successfully held our 1st ever IPVM Seminar with over 80 Pro Members attending throughout the day, exceeding our target/limit of 75 attendees. I was quite happy with the turnout and even more pleased with the high quality ongoing discussion among the attendees.
Here are key lessons I learned from the event on better sharing information and educating.
Participants vs Panelists
The standard event format is to have a small number of panelists on stage that talk 95% of the time. These panelists are generally sponsors of the event or partners of the sponsors (e.g., a sponsoring manufacturer will pick an end user who they know will tout their products/approach). This is an incredibly boring and corrupt way to run an event (though certainly financially profitable for the ethically oblivious).
By contrast, we did not have any panelists. I acted as moderator/presenter leading a structured discussion with the attendees themselves. I would speak for a few minutes on a specific topic then we would open up the discussion to the group and speak for an equal or greater amount of time talking through the issues involved.
Throughout the day, at least 40 people spoke making more than a hundred comments. It was far more lively hearing many voices rather than me going on and on.
Not only did the ongoing discussion make the event more interesting, the range of comments helped us all learn more:
- Sharing Experiences: Many attendees shared their experiences of products and configurations that worked and did not work.
- Asking About their own Problems: Attendees brought up specific issues they were having in the field. One good example was an exchange we had about blurry license plates during our exposure setting discussion.
- Asking About Other Options: Quite a number of people asked other approaches and products. For instance, in our 'best of' IP camera session, we ran through the pros and cons of a number of manufacturers. This provided a broader perspective.
- Disagreeing: From time to time, attendees disagreed with me or each other. This helped flush out issues and highlight complexities involved.
Lastly, and equally importantly, attendees get more value when their personal questions or concerns are addressed. Otherwise, they could simply read content in a book or on a website, etc.
We ran about a dozen live polls throughout the day. These polls allowed attendees to text responses (using polleverywhere, a useful service). We had two types of polls - open ended and multiple choice. The multiple choice worked great but the open ended ones had very few responses.
One of the best benefits of multiple choice polls was the ability to learn what the attendee's beliefs were on certain topics. For instance, one poll asked 'A 5MP camera is equivalent to how many analog cameras?' Now, according to manufacturer marketing departments, the answer is ~15. However, over 60% of our attendees voted that a 5MP camera can replace only 3 or less analog cameras. Now, are marketing departments full of bull or is our group ignorant? :)
To encourage discussion, the audience size cannot be too big. One, it can be hard for people to hear each other if there are too many people. Second, too much competition would exist for speaking and many people would not get a change to talk.
Around 75 turned out to be pretty good. I think 60 might be even better. I definitely would not want to exceed 100 as it would clearly get too big and likely diminish the overall interaction.
Attendees seemed to prefer talking about things in greater depth rather than skimming topics. I think part of this is a function of the attendees themselves. This group was very sophisticated with many members leading surveillance experts themselves.
Additionally, good discussions with back and forth take more time. However, the upside is that people generally learn more, retain more and find it more engaging.
We are definitely going to do more seminars. The next one will be in Las Vegas March 28th and 29th (during ISC West 2012 week but, of course, not affiliated with them). We will have 4 in depth sessions and members can pick and choose which ones they want to attend. More information and discussion on this in the next few months. Save the date!
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