Last week I had the honor and privilege of attending Authorspeak.This was an event put on by the educational book publisher Solution Tree.Over the course of 3 days, all of the authors presented sessions on their books. But there was something different about this event. I felt a deeper connection to it then in other events that I have attended in the past. And after reflecting upon it for a few days I think I know why.
It all started when I began to look at the schedule. While I had my favorite sessions picked out (mainly so I could meet some heavyweights in the publishing world and old friends too) I noticed there was something different about the list. What they had done was I had not seen anyone else do before. Themes. Many of their books follow themes and the sessions where arranged that way as well. There was Leadership, 21st Century Learning, Professional Learning Communities and several others. My goal was to see a variety of sessions. However, if I had been with a group we could have broken out and tracked through a theme. Powerful stuff. ISTE should take note. They ask in the session proposals who the intended audience is for and what NETs the sessions is related to but I don't recall strands like that in the sessions. And it would be easy for them or any other conference organizer to say here are some common themes among proposals. If you are interested in mobile learning, here are the sessions 1-2 per slot that you can go to. Or maybe you want to know more about Leadership in the Digital Age, here are all the sessions on that topic. It was a handy way for someone to organize their session list with ease.
The sessions themselves were something to be modeled. Each was 45 minutes. Now, as a presenter, I know how little time 45 minutes is. But as a conference goer I know how good 45 minutes is. It all came down to how that time was used. There were only a few sessions that felt like 45 mins. was too much. And I am sure the authors have wonderful books but they just weren't the presenter type. The vast majority of sessions were highly engaging. Several presenters started out with intended outcomes of their presentation.What a great idea! I think all who present at some level go into it with the idea they have some outcomes but rarely do we see those communicated to the audience. What a no-brainer. That is something I am definitely going incorporate into my future presentations. Beyond that one of the best features was even though the sessions were 45 minutes, many built in time to talk to the folks around us. It was great to reflect with those around us to gauge their feedback on the thoughts from the session. Again, something I am going to incorporate into my sessions.There was also 30 minutes between each session. You didn't feel rushed to get to the next one (even if it was on the other side of the building.) There was time that allowed after the session to talk with the presenter or have small group networking before and after.
One of the most refreshing aspects was even though this event was sponsored by publishing house, there was no pressure to buy the books (even though I owned many of them already.) Most of the sessions I attended, while related to the topic the books covered, the material was updated and new. Or it was an opportunity to reflect and remix the content from the books. It really was a unique to think out loud right along with the author. It didn't feel like a pitch to buy the books or the accompanying materials. While ultimately that is the goal, it wasn't the purpose. And many of the materials anyway were and still are available to those that couldn't be there.So it truly felt like a learning experience and not a commercial event.
I really did enjoy attending and hope I get the opportunity to return. And hope that more conference organizers take some of the ideas that Authorspeak instituted and incorporate them in to future events. It truly was one of the best conferences I have attended.