May 19, 2007

Include more people and keep it small

Tony Dye hit the nail on the head when he said that the consistent sentiment of Church IT RoundTable participants is that we should "include more people and keep it small." That paradox still makes me chuckle every time I think about it, but it does set out a vision that I believe (all humor aside) we should pursue. How could we do it?

In my original invitation to come to Church of the Resurrection for the Fall RoundTable, I explained a half-baked idea about how the RoundTable can grow while retaining the best aspects of being small. The essence of the idea is to have roundtables in cities across the country and then link them technologically a couple of times each year for a national roundtable of roundtables. Now I'd like to update you on how that half-baked idea is maturing into something that could be truly workable.

Our plan for the Fall RoundTable is to try this once with everyone located in our building. We think that is a good idea because it will allow us to test our facilitation technique and technology with all of us physically together. (Prototype? Cool!) If something goes horribly wrong, we can scramble and put everyone together in one large room and salvage the event. (Contingency plan? Cool!)

We are going to break up the large group into four separate classrooms, each of which will accommodate 20 participants and a few observers. With this idea we will be able to handle as many as 80 participants and 20 vendors/observers before we have to close registration. (I've been told this is similar to the approach taken by Leadership Network, but I've never been to their events so I have to take the word of others on that.)

Each classroom will have two projectors: one showing content from the conversation in that room, and the other showing content from all of the other rooms. Each participant will use their own laptop to join an Adobe Connect meeting with everyone else in their room. Through Connect, anyone in the room will be able to show content (web sites, pictures, diagrams, PowerPoints, etc.) on the primary projector. United Methodist Communications (UMCOM) has agreed to let us use their Adobe Connect system at no charge, and Sean McAtee from UMCOM Tech Shop will be here to assist us with his deep expertise in Connect.

So that we are not limited to interacting only with the participants in our own room, the secondary projector will show content from the conversations happening in the other rooms. We're still in the process of figuring out exactly how this will work. We will run some tests within the next couple of weeks to evaluate various ideas. I'll post once we have a clear picture of this in order to solicit your feedback.

When I suggested this idea to Tony, he said, "Sounds exciting, crazy, and even a bit prone to potential failure. Perfect! :-)" Tony's right. This is both exciting and risky. But I figure, if a bunch of techno-geeks can't make something like this work, who can?

3 comments:

Jason Powell said...

Think the UMC guys would let us try Connect for an upcoming Church IT podcast?

Mike Mayfield said...

Great idea Jason! Kind of a test before the Fall Roundtable. What do you think, Clif?

Tony said...

Clif, I keep liking this paradox story better and better. I'd forgotten about Jim Collins "Genius of the And" chapter in /Built To Last/, and now I'm reading /The Big Idea/ which gives the same story again. So...all this to say...keep on pressing that paradox. It's remarkably biblical!