Feedback on Sharing Information Digitally event

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We hosted an event on Sharing Information Digitally on 7th October 2009 at Millennium Point in Birmingham.

We tried a new structure for this event—part traditional presentations, part practical sessions—and thought we’d share some feedback on the event (from attendees and ourselves).

There were four presentations in the morning:

The afternoon session consisted of ‘social media surgeries’ (small workshops), on topics such as how to use RSS feeds, blogging and getting started with Twitter.

We made a list of topics on this Google Spreadsheet a month in advance of the event, which delegates could use to indicate interest in the topics – or topics they’d be willing to lead a discussion on.

Delegates could also sign up to the workshops at the begining of the day on topics of interest to them.

There were introductions to the topics in the workshops and, in some cases, delegates started using some of the tools to help share information, such as RSS feeds and Twitter. Delegates could attend as many workshops as they wanted, each workshop lasting approximately 30 mins.

We sent an online questionnaire to everyone who came to the event, to learn what attendees thought.

The feedback so far shows that satisfaction with the speakers was positive:

The majority of attendees said that the event met their expectations. 21.7% said that it exceeded their expectations in relation to the breadth of coverage and level of detail.

Some comments on the social media surgeries in the afternoon include:

‘Thought the work in the surgeries worked well – short surgeries meant people could find out as much as they wanted’

‘Very good – showed initiative and opportunity for personal attention’

‘It seemed to work. For me it was the most valuable part of the day.’

‘I think the afternoon surgery session was the most useful bit of all – the small groups enabled it to be tailored to suit specific questions etc.  Good to be able to just wander into mini workshops.’

However, some attendees felt that we didn’t go into as much technical detail as they hoped. The afternoon session could have been better prepared, in terms of information about the different types of workshops provided before the event.

Comments include:

‘I was there to discuss the strategical issues and challenges.’

‘Poorly structured – no clear instructions as to how many sessions we needed to sign up to. Might have been better to do fewer dedicated sessions.’

‘A bit chaotic – I was supposed to be in 2 places at the same time!’

‘It didn’t go to level of technical detail I was hoping for.’

In organising the event we were unsure about the level of technical detail to provide to attendees. We were aware that some attendees were new to sharing information using web-based tools and, because of this, we didn’t want to swamp them by diving straight into the technical stuff. We were also aware that some attendees  already use social media, at work within the local authorities or PCTs and personally.

This is why we sent out information before the event so that delegates knew what types of topics were going to be covered – and to try and gauge levels of interest.

However, we’ve learnt that we need to communicate information better to attendees when planning future events. The unconference structure in the afternoon was a new concept to some (and also to us as organisers). While some attendees found the randomness and chaos acceptable, others preferred a more structured approach.

It would be useful to know what attendees would like to see more of in relation to potential future events. Suggestion so far from those who attended the event include:

‘More hands-on workshops rather than just demonstrations.’

‘More case studies about good and bad practice in sharing information digitally.’

‘Fewer surgery topics or more people covering them. Maybe send the topics out in advance to give people time to think about which ones to attend.’

‘Perhaps more examples from organisations other than WMRO of how they had implemented innovative social media techniques.’

If you have any comments or suggestions on how events can be improved, please let us know in the comments below.

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One Response

  1. Michael Cross (one of the speakers at the event) has published an article about Stuart Harrison (one of the other speakers) on the Guardian website, showcasing Lichfield DC’s approach to information. Read it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/oct/21/free-data-local-government-lichfield

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