Did the last conference you attend give you it’s material on a DVD or CD? After browsing the disc one, did you find yourself stacking the disc with that pile of AOL discs? Hoping someday, some new drive will be able to wipe them clean and make them useful again?
Yeah, been there done that. Sucks, I know.
Remember the last conference you attended? Was there a worker bee standing outside to hand you a piece of paper with questions on it? Was (s)he there to collect your paper survey? Did you rush to fill it out as the session ended? Did you opt to not fill it out because you had no time or no pen?
Yeah, been there done that, too.
Those are the two reasons we went with USB drives. CDs and even DVDs are useless for the most part. Once you’ve copied the materials off onto your computer, you chuck the disc. What a waste (Literally). It occured to us that USB thumb drives aren’t that expensive, so we looked into it. After finding a sponsor to split the costs with us, it was just about the same price as having a CD mastered. Oh and we could update the content, any time. Burned discs are a bit hard to update. Speakers like to update their presentations once or twice between handing the “final” over to us. With drives, attendees come and get the latest and greatest right there at the registration desk.
Feedback is the cornerstone of how Tom and I do things, so getting feedback from attendees on sessions was paramount. We had to know who should be invited back and who shouldn’t. We also wanted to make that data available to speakers so they could evaluate themselves. Who wants to wait months to find out what people thought?
We wrote an AIR survey app so that attendees wouldn’t have to fill out paper. They could even fill out survey’s in their hotel room, going back to the other sessions they had sat in on. Killing trees to make paper surveys just doesn’t make sense. Add to that the amount of work that went into manually (remember, it’s just Tom and I) recording the data from the paper surveys into a meaningful digital repository so speakers could get feedback. It was months before speakers had their feedback. Weak Sauce!
Some interesting numbers:
San Jose ’07 – 300 surveys
Seattle ’07 – 880 surveys
AIR Survey Submissions :
Atlanta ’08 – 750 surveys*
San Jose ’08 – 930 surveys
*I think we’d have had more but the app had some initial issues on the first couple of days.
We’re trying to make sure it’s worthwhile for attendees to answer the survey (paper or electronic). All raffles are based on submissions. You give no speaker feedback, you don’t win any prizes. We think that’s fair, everyone benefits.
The USB drives were one of those kill many birds with a single stone things; 1. we’re saving trees, 2. we’re delivering a survey app to attendees that allows more and faster feedback to speakers, and 3. allows us to add content for attendees right up until 5:30 on Wednesday.
Win, Win, Win Dont’cha think?