Saturday, May 25, 2013

Risk and Reward, Conference Edition

I didn't make it to Nina Simon and Kathy McLean's Risk and Reward session at AAM this year, but heard lots of talk, in person and across my twitter feed about it, so I've shaped my conference learning from this spring in the same vein.

  • Take some, history museums!  Several history museum colleagues and I talked about how there seemed to be a dearth of sessions framed around history museums at the AAM conference.  Is that because we're, as a part of the field, risk averse, still doing the same old same old?
  • Picking the right session seems increasingly risky--and I think the risk hasn't changed, but perusing my Twitter feed during a session makes me feel like I'm missing (a couple times due to crowding) the great one next door.  The answer, of course, is a simple one for me. Don't look at the feed during the session.
  • Take more risks in developing your sessions.  The real, not-real, who cares, kinesthetic, audience-driven session about objects really relied on the audience's willingness to play along, and of course, everyone welcomed the chance.
  • AAM program committee, I appreciated the risk you took last year in crowd-sourcing sessions, but you only went half way.  You never told us how you used the crowd's wisdom in your still opaque decision-making process.  You can--and should-- do better.
  • Take a risk and if you're submitting a session that talks about just one, or a few similar projects, invite someone entirely out of the box, unfamiliar with the project, to be a panel member critiquing and asking questions.  Take the risk of admitting those mistakes (and thanks to those who did the Mistakes were Made session!)
  • How can a conference retain some spontaneous feel within all the planning that goes into making it a success?  Drawing on an idea shared by a colleague, Rainey Tisdale and I decided to set up a little guerrilla table to encourage creative ways of thinking about name tags and  share some of our thoughts about museums and creative practice.  It was great to see those name tags spurring questions, conversations and a few bemused looks throughout the rest of the week.
  • It's the second year in a row I've been an Ambassador at AAMThis year it was great to spend some time with the staff from the incredible Casa Azul in Mexico City and with three young Ph.D students from Shanghai. 
  • Museums from around the world have a growing presence at AAM but I'd like to see their presentations more integrated into the program and some mentoring done prior to the conference to help in more innovative session development.  I think then the rewards will be much greater for all of us.
  • I did a quick fill-in in an international session--I was preceded by Silvia Alderoqui of Argentina.  Her description of her school museum's challenges and educational efforts had some moving connections with Ukrainian museums, and it's always an amazing reward to share my experiences in Ukraine with colleagues from around the world.
  • It was great to spend time with old friends (you all know who you are)  and get to know others who have been, until now, just a tiny Twitter photo.  Thanks,  Jamie Glavic, for gathering a group of museum bloggers for lunch;  and to newly met Suzanne Fischer for another great conversation over lunch--I hope all our conversations will continue in person and online.
  • Those conversations were great, but I'm wondering whether it's time to seek out a different conference to push me outside my comfort zone.  Suggestions?
  • We had almost 40 people at 7:30 AM for our Strategize Me career planning session.  Participants were at every stage in their careers and it's always thoughtful and inspiring to watch all of you consider what your next steps are. Risks and rewards abound.
  • Most memorable conversation?  The six brain scientists brought together by Reach Advisors to talk science and museums with us.  Passionate, committed, thoughtful--and in fact, one told us that it was pure folly to head down the entertainment road, to be, as he put it, "art crack," and that we should have the power of our convictions, understanding that we are, or can be, in the transcendence business.
And how about you?  Risks and rewards from your conference going?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Linda, I agree with all you've said. Esp agree that AAM took a big risk on crowdsourcing the sessions but the process needs a great deal of tweaking. I haven't seen any specific surveys from them on that process along. Instead of the traditional town meeting intro before the keynote speaker it would have been great to get feedback right there about what folks though, as well as on eval form. But thanks for this thoughtful post. Raises good questions.

Linda said...

Thanks for commenting Gretchen--yes, I was really disappointed that AAM never really shared any results, other than numbers, of the crowd-sourcing process. Which makes it doubly interesting to see what it is this year and how they roll it out. We shall see!