January 3, 2009
I'm sure the planners of the 2009 Online News Association Conference are breathing a sigh of relief now that they have 32 pages of comments and workshop evaluations from the 2008 event to guide them.
Those evaluations on paper traveled from Washington DC to Michigan to Indiana to Tennessee to Michigan to Tennessee to Michigan and now back to Washington DC. Part of the transcribed evaluations were lucky enough to be on the thumb drive that didn't survive a parking lot mishap so I got to do some twice (and let me assure you that some journalists have lots to say.)
In some ways, it wasn't easy giving these evaluations up. The perfectionist wanted to compare my spelling of all the folks who signed their evaluations with the conference attendee list.
The perfectionist wanted to put the program description with each set of ratings to make it easy to understand comments, especially the question on how well the session met objectives outlined in the description
Instead, I transcribed the comments, counted the check marks and sent the work on its way.
Generally, folks loved what was offered content wise. The room setup gathered the most complaints. Folks seem to want chairs and tables and plugs for their computers. Some want the rooms warmer.
As I wrap up the detail work for one more conference, I suggest that the organizers of the next event do all that - plus make the forms available online so folks can type in their own comments. Or make everybody print letters at least 1/2 inch tall and with a medium that won't smear in early snowfalls in Tennessee.
Another option would be to consider going to the unconference format - just get everyone to the hotel, gather a ton of computers, projectors and tech tools and let folks meet up and teach each other. No evaluations necessary.
(Seriously, I appreciated that folks realized sometimes our priorities change rapidly. I know way too much about cancer, planning funerals, and the need for better ways to pay for, find and evaluate health care for those under 30 and over 70. Oh yeah, don't drop a thumb drive under the tire of a moving car.)
Next up, I'm hoping to learn better how to ask for help faster and how to say no :)