5 steps for hosting a successful online event

Last week my colleague Colleen and I supported  a groundbreaking, education summit in New Mexico: “Unleashing Knowledge and Innovation for the Next Generation of Learning”, convened by the Stupski Foundation, West Wind Education Policy, and the Knowledge Alliance.  Besides making a recent BlueHost review in our off-time, I had a bit of time to reflect about what makes an online component to a conference successful.  I came up with the following 5 steps, which I elaborated on over at Forum One’s “Influence” blog. I’d love to know what you think makes online events successful. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.

1. Know your audience
This seems like a no-brainer, but oftentimes people omit this step and move straight to the technology.  Knowing your audience: what they want to get out of the online portion of the event, what you hope they do online during the event, and what their relative technical expertise is are critical pieces to this puzzle and all should ultimately inform your event web strategy.

2. Use media to your advantage
There are lots of great social media tools that can enhance an in-person event, but you don’t have to do everything! (And you shouldn’t try to!) Pick a few tools and use them well.

3. Be creative AND flexible
Don’t be afraid to try something different – there is no set recipe for success. Plan ahead and try out new techniques for online engagement, but don’t be afraid to switch direction mid-stream. You never know what you’ll find on-the-ground at a conference site and you may need to change your strategy depending on people’s access to the Internet, their comfort with the tools, etc.

4. Empower people, let them own the technology and the messages
You can’t do it all yourself, and you shouldn’t! Part of the fun of using online tools during an event is the way in which technology decentralizes communication and conversation across participants and presenters.

5. Have fun!
Just because an event is a professional activity doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Using online tools to explore the conference culture, the side conversations, the jokes, and the social experience is a great way to break up more dense content.

Fundraising and outreach in a changing economy

This past week I had the chance to attend the Convio ’08 Summit with my colleague Andrew at Forum One. The conference was held in Austin, Texas and provided a few days to meet-up with other NP Techers (so great to see all of you!), catch up on some of the latest trends in the industry, and of course, eat GREAT food :o ).

Since I spent most of the time during the conference chatting with non profits and standing at our organization’s booth in the exhibit hall, I didn’t have a lot of time to attend panels. When I did have the opportunity, most of the discussions were fairly similar to those I participated in at NTC ’08. The one discussion that did feel new was the keynote by Tony Elischer, Managing Director of UK-based consulting firm THINK.

Elischer broke the stigma barriers and actually talked about non profit technology through the lens of the recession. While I think a lot of us were hoping that this economy stuff is really just a bad dream that we’ll wake up from in a few weeks, I think it was good to acknowledge the situation and actually talk about realistic expectations and tactics.

I wrote up my impressions from his Tony’s presentation on the Forum One Influence blog, and hope it can be of some inspiration (and comfort) to organizations who are nervous and vigilant during these changing times.

The New Voices of Democracy

Over the past few weeks I’ve come across several great examples of how the web is enabling new and exciting voices to contribute to the political debate. Thanks to affordable video cameras and new distribution channels, inspiring messages are being created (by both celebrities and unknown artists) that would not have been possible back in the days where we were limited to the mass media outlets of TV and newspapers.

The Great Schlep – This site features a hilarious video by Sarah Silverman asking young Jewish voters to encourage their grandparents who live in Florida to vote for Obama in order to swing the vote in his favor. The video is both good for a laugh but also quite brilliant in both it’s message and approach.

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.

Vote for Hope – This is a stunning music video by MC Yogi that is a wonderful example of the power and the possibilities of the remix. The graphics are phenomenal and the inclusion of Obama’s speech is quite powerful. The style of the video rings true to Obama and the visuals really complement MC Yogi’s lyrics. Thanks to Amy Lenzo for the link.

Obama ’08 – Vote For Hope from MC Yogi on Vimeo.

5 friends – This is a powerful video with a passionate message from celebrities to encourage young people to vote that speaks to them in a language and medium that they understand. I was surprised to learn from this video that you must pre-register a month beforehand to vote in the U.S – in Canada you can register at the polls, the day of.

Vote for Environment – This web site was developed in order to encourage Canadian voters to strategically vote for parties that support the environment. Currently there are three “green” parties that support the environment (Green, NDP, and Liberal) and one party (the Conservatives) whose policies do not, and this party happens to be in power.  Each riding has it’s own page with a map and poll results, as well as recommendations from the authors of the web site on how to vote to ensure that a party that support the environment gets elected.  The site is well designed with great visuals (including color-coded graphs and integrated Google Maps) and is a wonderful example of connecting like-minded people with information to support a larger goal.

Donation made to “Friends”

Thank you to everyone who helped me reach my fundrasing goal *and more!* for Mith Samlanh “Friends.” This morning I made my final donation of funds: $1257.20 USD to help the organization purchase their facilities building. This money will go a long way in helping Friends continue providing quality education and vocational opportunities for streetchildren in Cambodia!

I did it!

Michaela and Kathy stand in front of the Minnesota State Capitol after completing the 2008 Twin Cities Marathon!

I successfully ran the 2008 Twin Cities Marathon yesterday, and what a marathon it was. What started out as a cloudy, cool Sunday morning (perfect marathon weather in my opinion), quickly shifted into a crazy, weather-wild intense run from Minneapolis to St. Paul. The rain started within the first 2 miles and continued (very heavy at times) until mile 14. By that point everyone was completely soaked and there was no chance of drying off in the 51 degree temps. Looks like my 18-miler during Hurricane Hannah was excellent practice for race day!

Surprisingly, those first 14 miles flew by quickly. Actually, for the most part the entire race went fast. Kathy and I managed to keep our initial times way under 10 minutes a mile, and for the most part, my injured body was handling it well. Around mile 14, however, the cold weather stiffened up my joints and it became harder and harder to keep up with Kathy and her magic shoes :o ). Remembering some advice from a great coach “run your own race,” I gave into my body and focused on maintaining a pace that felt right for me.

I finished at 4 hours and 33 minutes – not bad for a first marathon! When it was over and I ran across the finish line, I actually felt like I had more energy to keep going. My muscles, on the other hand, were completely spent. I held back on my speed for the second half of the race because there was a promised huge incline from mile 21-23. It actually turned out to be a very gradual hill, and I barely noticed. If I had known in advance, I probably would have tried to exert myself more. Maybe another marathon is in my future :o ).

The entire city (on both sides) was out to watch the event in what was likely horrific weather to stand in (not just run in). Regardless of the pouring rain and cold temperatures, people flocked along the course in huge packs, playing drums under bridges, blasting the Rocky theme song (that was my favorite), and holding out funny signs. My favorite sign near the end was someone who held the words “Remember your reasons for running.”

I also loved the people watching throughout the race – people who were running their 75th or 300th marathon self-identified with homemade t-shirts. One guy wore no shirt at all, and displayed about 15 smiley face tattoos for the crowd. He tried to get everyone to yell as he ran by. The Minneapolis side was definitely more receptive to this than the St. Paul side :o ). Families threw huge marathon-watching parties on their lawns, complete with moon-bounces, barbecues and fire pits, mimosas, and huge crowds of people. Others manned tables that handed out bananas and oranges or Jolly Ranchers. A few tables even offered beer to runners. Needless to say, I avoided anything but water, Gu, and bananas during my run :o ).

Here are a few photos I managed to take before and after the race:

Wearing a pink shirt and sweats to stay warm during the early morning, as well as my new Twin Cities Marathon hat. I’m holding hot tea to keep my hands warm, and a baggy of advil (which also held my camera

when I was running!).

Me and Kathy stand a block away from the race start, in front of port-o-potties just ready to be used! Incidentally, despite the promises of disqualification for public urination, I saw hundreds and hundreds of people pee in the bushes (men and women alike!)

Waiting in Corral 2 for the race to begin. It only took us about 5 minutes to cross the start line once the gun went off.

Finishers cover themselves in Mylar blankets to stay warm after the race. These were a welcome treat for all of us – coveted as highly as the marathon t-shirt and the medal!

Unfortunately, although I wore my Friends t-shirt the entire time, the only pictures I have of myself (yes, I carried a camera the whole way) were before the race when I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt on top to keep warm, and at the end, when I put on the marathon long-sleeved t-shirt because my clothes were drenched through and I was having trouble staying warm. Regardless of pictures (and I’m hoping the official photographers will grab some real shots of me running), that shirt was great to have as people cheered on “Friends” and one runner even ran past me to ask about it.

Overall, it was a tremendous experience and one I may definitely have to do again in the future. For now I will focus on getting back to normal. After the race Kathy and I spent some time in the hotel hot tub, played in the pool with her nieces, and even took a spin down the indoor water slide, because we could. Last night’s sleep was pretty painful, but things seem to be loosening up a bit already. Kathy says marathons are like childbirth – soon you forget all the pain and look forward to putting another one under your belt. Chicago 2009? Kathy? :o )

Follow me on the course!

My number is F2458 and my moment by moment (mile by mile) progress should be available here:


If that link doesn’t work, try:

http://www.mtcmarathon.org and click on the tracker in the middle. Then type in my runner number: F2458.

Tomorrow is the big day!

I’ve officially arrived in Minneapolis, having spent the day running last minute errands (cheap layers to throw away as they hit frost here last night) and eating lots and lots of carbs :) . The weather was beautiful today, and the area is really a great location for a marathon. Most of the course is downhill as well, which is definitely a bonus. I however, am not excited about miles 21-23 being a steep incline. Hopefully the crowds will camp out there and cheer us through the rough patches.

I thought there was more I wanted to say, but my mind is full of mush and more preoccupied on figuring out my dressing strategy in the morning. I apologize for the lameness, but I’m sure you understand :o ).

Looking forward to tomorrow; I can’t believe the day is finally here!

Marathon week is heeeeeere!

Thank you again to everyone for all of your support throughout the training process. I’m happy to announce that I have reached my goal and have exceeded $1000 of donations (in both paypal and personal checks) for Mith Samlanh “Friends”! If you haven’t donated already, it’s not too late! I’ll be making my actual donation to friends early next week after I return from Minnesota.

My t-shirt has already arrived and I can’t wait to wear my Cambodian-designed logo this coming Sunday. I completed my last long training run on Saturday – 7 miles in humid, rainy gross-ness – which is making me ever-more-grateful for the cool air of the northern United States!

Other than that, I’m trying to rest myself for the upcoming race, including ignoring the scratchy throat/impending cold I’ve been feeling since Saturday. EmergenC usually does wonders for me, so I’m hoping it will continue its magic this time around!

My friend (psuedo coach) Peter reminded me to actually get excited about the race, and I’m glad he did. All of this work over the past 6 months is finally coming to a head and I’ll have the chance to really see what 26.2 feels like – for better or for worse. I’m impressed with myself for actually following through and making it this far, despite the shin splints, my crazy summer traveling schedule, AND the most recent IT band woes I’ve encountered. I’m excited to know what it feels like to cross that finish line and hear thousands of strangers screaming my name. And I’m also going to try to remember to smile when I see a photographer along the course so that I don’t have any more embarassing running pictures floating around the internets.

I’ll be posting more race-day information here in the coming days, including ways for you to receive race updates from your cell phone.

Final t-shirt design!!!

Just in time to get printed before the big day on October 5th! Thank you SO much John Weeks and Sao Channa and Moeu ‘Vuth’ Diyadaravuth of Our Books. Thanks also to everyone who voted yesterday. I think I took into account nearly everyone’s opinions and I appreciate all your feedback and support.

I can’t wait to wear this beautiful creation during the Twin Cities Marathon!

To learn more about my run and to help support me in my fundraising goal, click here.

Vote for my t-shirt!

I continue to be amazed at all the incredible people in my life who have offered their support, encouragement, and talents to help me accomplish my goal of raising $1000 for Mith Samlanh Friends AND running in my first marathon. I’ve nearly reached $950 with checks and online donations, and despite a little glitch injury that happened over the weekend during my 20-mile run, I’m in great spirits and looking forward to hitting the trail again today.

I also woke up this morning to find some AWESOME shirt designs for race day. John Weeks – a fellow blogger and friend from my time in Cambodia – and his team of graphic artists were kind enough to offer their time to design me a shirt. Not a small offer with their huge workload and the Cambodia BarCamp coming up this weekend. The designs are included below and it’s important that I make a decision TODAY about which one I prefer so I can finalize the design and can get this thing to print tomorrow. I would love to hear your thoughts! I am definitely leaning towards the Khmer writing and the runner in orange.

Please place your vote in the comments, including any additional suggestions you might have. I’ll be wearing a white t-shirt with the image on the front. If you’d like to learn more about the race and why I’m doing (and help me meet my fundraising goal), click here.

I’ll announce the winner here tomorrow. Thank you John and Team!!!
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