Tag Archives: voip

My Tips For Planning Successful NTEN Tech Sessions

NTEN needs good tech sessions at the 2014 conference. Submissions are open.  Here’s a pitch for any tech-savvy NTENdees to dive in and present, followed by my lessons learned (from 20+ sessions at eight NTCs) for successfully presenting technical topics to the diverse audience that shows up at NTC.  Simply put, there are ways to do great sessions that meet the needs of staff from large and small, advanced and tech-challenged nonprofits in attendance. I’ll outline the ones that have worked for me below.

The IT Staff track is the place to submit the infrastructure-related sessions. The other tracks receive a lot more submissions than the IT Staff track (as much as five times the number!), even though 53% of the 13NTC attendees surveyed say they want more technical content.  My take on that the problem is that techies aren’t generally all that interested in standing up in front of crowds and presenting. That’s less of a problem for the Communications and Leadership tracks. All I can say to those of you who have the subject expertise but lack the desire and or confidence to present is that we all stand to gain if you will step outside of that comfort zone. NTEN will have the range of sessions that NPOs struggling with cloud, wireless, business intelligence and unified communications projects need to move forward.  You’ll add public speaking to your resume, which is a great thing to have there.  And I’ll help.

Over the last few years, I’ve presented on topics like server virtualization, VOIP, and project management.  These sessions have averaged 50-60 attendees, and every audience has ranged from complete novices to old hands at the subject matter. To my mind, the biggest (and most common) mistake that presenters make is to choose a target audience (e.g. they’re all newbies, or they’re all intermediate) and stick with that assumption. Simply put, the attendees will be forgiving if you spend some time addressing the needs of the others in the room, as long as you also address theirs.  They’ll be pissed if they spend the whole session either out of their depth or bored out of their minds.

There are two key ways that you can address a range of audiences: structure the session in beginner, intermediate and advanced topics, or break the attendees into groups by org size.  The latter will require co-presenters; the former keeps that as an option.

In 2010, Matt Eshleman and I did a session on Server Virtualization, an incredibly geeky topic, and it was the third highest rated session that year. We didn’t break up the audience into groups.  Instead, I gave about a 15 minute powerpoint that introduced the concepts, doing my best to bring anyone who didn’t know what it was up to speed.  Matt then outlined three virtualization scenarios: one for a small org; one for medium; and one for a large. We left about 30 minutes for questions, and some of those hit on the really advanced questions that the experts had.  By that point, the novices were grounded enough to not be thrown by the advanced conversation.

In 2012, I designed a session on VOIP and Videoconferencing.  Knowing that small orgs and large orgs have dramatically different needs in this area, I drafted Matt again, as well as Judi Sohn.  This time, we split the room into two groups, and had two very different conversations, both of which were quite valuable for the attendees.  I never heard how this session was rated, but I think it’s the best of the 20 or so I’ve done. My measure is: did the attendees walk out of the session with substantial, practical knowledge that they didn’t have when they walked in, that they can use to support their NPO(s)?

Two big tips:

  1. Don’t get to wonky with the slides.  IDC and Microsoft have a ton of diagrams outlining server setups that you can download, but they are not what an NTEN crowd wants to see.  Nobody wants to stare at a Visio diagram with 16 objects and 10 arrows and tiny tiny labels saying what they all mean.
  2. Mine the wisdom of the crowd.  Most people attend sessions to learn, but some attend because they love the topic and have a lot of expertise in it.  The best Q&A (which should never be less than 30 minutes) is one that the presenter facilitates, encouraging dialogue among the attendees.  As the presenter, you can reply (or weigh in), as you’ll have relevant expertise that the audience might lack, but it’s often the case that someone else in the room knows what you know, and more.

I hope this is helpful, but, even more, I hope that you’ll submit a session and make 14NTC the most rewarding yet for the IT staff that attend. It’s in my neighborhood nest year (DC), so come early and have a beer with me beforehand.

Useful Tools and Tips

This post was first published on the Idealware Blog in June of 2009.

Interesting things pop up on the web all of the time; here are a few things I think are worth sharing:

Twitter Results in Google

Even if you will never tweet, it’s obvious that Twitter is a source of useful information, and, in some cases, a more timely source than traditional search engines and media. If you use Firefox as your main web browser, and have the popular Greasemonkey add-on installed, which serves as a kind of macro language for the web, then the Twitter Google Results script adds some real power. Any Google search you perform will also search Twitter, posting the top five relevant results. Why is this useful? Well, when we heard rumors that a bomb had gone off somewhere near our Bozeman, Montana office, the Twitter results had current info and links that weren’t indexed by Google yet.

One Stop Web 2.0 Sign-up

Namechk checks for your preferred username on a slew of Web 2.0 sites, from Bebo to Youtube. I found this useful to reserve peterscampbell at a few sites that I want to use but hadn’t signed up for, and to learn that some other guy named peterscampbell had already grabbed it at Youtube, where I had used a different loginname… snap!

Make Friend Lists on Facebook

This is a tip, not a tool – if you’ve been stymied by Facebook’s recent changes to how it handles updates, you can make a lot more sense of it by making lists of related friends, and then filtering the updates by group. Click on Friends and the “Create New List” button is at the top of the screen. I have lists for family, nptech, Boston friends, SF Friends, and a special one called “no tweets”, which filters out everyone who cross-posts all of their Twitter updates to Facebook (my default view). Keeping up with all of this info is always a challenge, so the ability to filter out the echoes is a must.

Exhibit Your Info

Exhibit is a web site that lets you upload spreadsheets, maps and other data to an information rich, filterable, active web page that can then be shared. If your org works with a particular environmental cause, seeks a cure for a disease, or supports a particular community, you can share data about your cause dynamically and expressively with this amazing site.

Google Voice is on the Horizon

Google revolutionized email with GMail, the first email platform in decades to question the basic assumptions about how email should work (by filing important email into folders). They’re about to do the same thing with Voicemail. A year or two ago, they purchased Grandcentral, a service that allowed you to route multiple phone numbers to one shared voicemail box. A few months ago, they opened the revamped Google Voice to existing Grandcentral customers, and, surprise, it looks a bit like GMail.

When I look at GMail, Google Voice, and the recently announced Google Wave, a real-time communication and collaboration platform, and then picture these all integrated into a Google Apps account, it becomes clear that our phone systems are moving into the cloud as fast as our servers are, and, while it is always that controversial proposition of Google giving you stuff in return for the right to market to you based on all of your data, it still looks like they are poised to offer one of the most powerful, integrated communication platforms that the world has ever seen.

Have you run into any awesome things lately worth sharing? Leave a comment!