Crowdsourcing Education Sessions

EventRebels are back from our week-long hiatus with some very exciting information and experiences to share with you. This past week, K.C. Hopson, EventRebels CEO, and I traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the 2015 PCMA Education Conference. PCMA does a lot really well, but one thing I’ve noticed over the last three annual conferences I’ve attended is PCMA’s willingness to experiment with format, room set-up, and education so we don’t have to.

One outstanding experiment PCMA tried at this conference was crowdsourcing peer-led education. Adrian Segar, author of “Conferences That Work,” walked us through the process. It began the morning of our second full day. As we walked in their were 4 different colors of giant sticky notes on the tables. On the back wall were columns with different categories such as “technology” or “sponsorship.” We were told that later that afternoon there would be crowdsourced educational content facilitated by attendees at the conference. The topics and speakers would be chosen by us.

If we were willing to facilitate a session we were to write the topic, our name, and contact information on a hot pink sticky note. We then put that sticky note on the wall underneath the category that most applied to our session. Having spoken before on the topic I wrote my information down for the topic of “Designing emotional sensory experiences.” I was the second person to place a pink sticky note on the wall and I was concerned I might have 300 people in my session! But, not long after, the sticky notes started pouring in. The three other colored sticky notes were meant for what was essentially the voting process. If you wanted to learn about a certain topic you wrote down your want on either color, except hot pink. Just like the topic notes, you placed your want under the applicable category. About 15 minutes into the process the wall began to look like this:CHn1usNUMAA9STj

Once the notes started to slow down volunteers began sorting the “want” notes and pairing them with “topic” notes. In addition to the “want” notes we were asked to write a check mark on any topic we’d like to learn more about. A couple hours later once the voting and crowdsourcing had completed those of us whose topics were chosen got notified when and where we should be to present our topic. A handy “facilitator tips” sheet was given to us as well. The goal of these sessions was not to give a presentation, but to facilitate a topical conversation, receiving input from all the experts in the session. My session, “Designing emotional sensory experiences,” was chosen. I showed up to my room with a great set-up:


I had about 25 attendees show up for my session. It was a very collaborative discussion and, having spoken with some of my peers afterward they gained a lot from the conversation. From a facilitator’s perspective it was quite interesting to witness the dynamic, keep the conversation going, and try to answer all the questions. I believe there were some very successful sessions and some that didn’t quite work out. There were 12 concurrent sessions for 650 attendees. In the future I think they would have created a better experience if they had narrowed down the topics to just 6. It’s definitely something I’d like to participate in again.

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