Yesterday, I took part in a presentation that had every opportunity to fail. There were 11 educators and all kinds of technology that had to fall into place in order for success. The presentation was the "Great OSLA Faceoff" at the OLA Superconference in Toronto. The session was offered as the OSLA Spotlight first thing in the morning on Friday.
The concept seemed very simple when @AnitaBK and I talked about it initially. The intent was to provide those in attendance an exposure to as many Web 2.0 applications as possible. It took the simple concept of a Smackdown and put a Canadian spin on it as we presented it in hockey format with two periods and a Power Play. With two teams competing with each other, it promised to be simple and straight forward. Do a competition and then use some of those clicking devices to have random people vote for their favourites.
From the original premise, we made some changes. First, we lost the clicking things. It’s a technology that’s really difficult to ensure success and you couldn’t give every participant one so we quickly agreed that it wasn’t a good idea. Those of us who enjoy hockey convinced Anita that it wasn’t really a Power Play but more of a shootout for the third period so that was changed. The hope was that the audience could be tweeting to a backchannel while we were on stage but, alas, there was no affordable wireless internet access in sight.
There was a plan though as the play by play would be tweeted by our own announcer, @rebrouse so a third screen was ordered to let her efforts be displayed live.
Our two teams had been planning/scheming for about a month already. Captain @zbpipe and I had organized our teams online electronically. My other two team members were from Waterloo and hers were from Toronto and Peterborough. There would be a lot of travel to pull this off, face to face, but collaborative documents through Google Docs and SpringNote actually made the planning pretty easy. Zoe and I had also been in communication to make sure that we could get the logistics all worked out. For the audience, we wanted to make a nice visual presentation, a resource that they could turn to after the fact, and most of all to keep it moving – there’s nothing like being in a Web 2.0 session and sit there saying "Been there, done that, got the t-shirt".
Zoe and I agreed that all of the participants did need to meet the night before to make sure that all would be right and so all finally got to meet at 8 the night before. Amazingly, all of the planning that we had done online seemed to fall into place and it was just a nice opportunity to fine tune the details and check out the location.
We agreed that it would be nice to get there a little early for setup. Oh, say 7:30am. An early bird, I figured that I could do a bunch of other things and then head over. That’s a big hall to be in alone! Thankfully, my friend WindsorDI who would be managing the audio showed up a little while later and the details could be attended to.
And, there were a number of things that had to be addressed. The third screen was scheduled to arrive at 1:00pm. One of the data projectors needed re-aligning. There was an annoying flickering light that we thought we would physically break so that nobody would get a headache. There were no comfy chairs for the commentators and not enough chairs for the presenters. The list went on and on and we, along with the excellent technical crew, set about knocking them down, one by one. The setup was certainly non-standard for a conference – usually you just need a microphone and a data projector, right?
With time, everyone was there and we went about the reality of getting our computers setup and ready to go. All of us have been to presentations where we’ve seen the presenter struggle with the internet live and all agreed that we would have everything that we wanted to talk about open and preloaded in tabs. There was so much to cover and we wanted it to stay moving. It sounded like a great concept until we filled the screen with tabs to the point that only the Favicon was left to identify each! In hindsight, there would have been a much better way of doing this than "random" and trying to shuffle tabs after the fact but hey…
Before long, it was 9 and the setup done whether we were ready or not. In retrospect, we could have started at 6:30! And, in a heartbeat, it was 10:30 and we were done. The whistles for line changes and the horn at the end of the periods kept us on track. The intermissions had the experts commenting on the content and our abilities as presenters to tie the resources to an educational rationale for the use of the technologies. During the intermissions, the audience had their 30 seconds of fame at the remote microphones to share their stories. Even without the internet for the audience, there was a great show of technology that did come off incredibly seamlessly. It just worked. The comfy chairs perhaps weren’t as comfy as they might have been but nobody from the hotel came to complain about anything missing from the lobby…
The goal was to get resources out to the floor with an awareness and quick overview of each. The resources will remain in perpetuity at the Google Site that we, as a group, created for the day. Twitter was very active and the comments are all tagged with #oslafaceoff. Apparently, the session was recorded and will be added to their professional library. It will be interesting to view when that happens.
I think we met the goal, judging by the Twitter comments and the conversations that we had afterwards. Zoe and I debriefed over lunch and we both agreed that it was a great experience. A couple of other library associations have approached and want to be able to replicate the format. I can’t think of a better confirmation that the presentation and the hard work was well worth it.
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