After sometime to reflect on the ongoings of NTEN's 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference, we wanted to share our thoughts on what we learned, gained and enjoyed about the conference.
Brian Pagels: Conferences can be equally exhilarating and exhausting, and NTC 2012 was no exception. From breakfast plenaries to panels and science fairs to happy hours, there were enough activities to keep us running for 12-plus hours per day. If you are lucky enough to be chosen to speak at NTC, it is important to keep your audience’s alertness and attention span in mind. The best presenters and panel discussions at NTC – whether on Drupal, content strategy, or fundraising – delivered their messages with enthusiasm. And rather than lecturing to their audiences with sweeping generalities, they provided practical tips, tools, and recommendations that folks could take back to their jobs. It is simple advice, but advice that should be heeded nonetheless. To avoid session-snoozing, give your audience something to stay awake for!
Angela Milton: NTC 2012 embraced the San Francisco spirit and kicked off with the local Extra Action Marching Band. They were wild. If the conference coffee didn't wake people up – the trumpet player scooting down the aisle on his back certainly did!
As a member of the Project Management team, I draft a lot of emails and reports, but Dan Roam’s keynote made me think twice about whether text is always the best way to communicate. He made a compelling case for visually communicating a problem and / or solution rather than drafting lengthy reports. Even though I’m not part of the creative department at Forum One, Dan’s point was that the drawing doesn't need to be pretty or complex in order to get the point across. His latest book, Blah Blah Blah, What to Do When Words Don't Work, was in our NTC totes, and is a good read for any profession.
Courtney Clark: This was my first NTC! I met people from tons of different organizations, with different specialties and different levels of expertise. The conference had a little bit of everything for everyone! This makes Q&As and conversations following the sessions interesting and helpful. You’re bound to learn something or at least meet someone with a similar question. My primary takeaway from NTC is actually a question. Nearly every session stressed the importance of continually improving. I agree, your website is never “done.” There’s always more work to do, but how do we prioritize and tackle all of these improvements? Maybe next year’s NTC will tackle that big, hairy issue!
Heather Virga: Lists, reports, and detailed documentation are common deliverables for many of my projects. And for a “red pen” person like myself (someone who prefers lists to drawing pictures), writing copious notes and lists is second nature. At first, I thought Dan Roam’s keynote, “Back of the Napkin,” was nice and helpful for the creative “black pens” and the mid-line “highlighters.” But as Dan illustrated his talk, the practice of taking any concept, idea, or complex documentation and communicating it with simple pictures made complete sense.
This concept resonated with me both professionally and personally. Since hearing Dan’s talk, I now actively look for new ways to create a more visual delivery of my message – both in my work and at home. Recently, my 5-year-old daughter gave me an excellent opportunity to teach her – visually – about consequences for drawing on the walls in her bedroom. I drew a series of pictures showing our house, our family, house rules, my daughter drawing on the wall with a big red line through it, daughter next to her art caddy, daughter drawing on the wall again, unhappy Mommy and Daddy, and her art caddy with a big red line through it. The message: You break the house rules and draw on the walls, you no longer get the priviledge of having your own special art caddy. While my picture may look like scribbling to many, my daughter, an apparent “highlighter,” took the opportunity to add to my drawing with her orange pen, including our cat, an orange hat on her head, more writing on the wall, and a big X on her art caddy, followed by the word NO. This showed me how valuable visual communication is. Any time I can make use of it, I will.
Jenn Johnson: Nonprofits and Drupal – a match made in, er, San Francisco. This year’s NTEN conference was heavy on the Drupal (and light on CMS competitors like WordPress and Joomla). I went to every Drupal session, which ended up being nearly 10 hours – covering everything from selecting vendors to hosting to frank discussions about the real costs of building and maintaining a healthy Drupal site.
- Drupal is arguably the number one open-source platform for mid-size and large nonprofits right now. The future of Drupal is healthy, while other platforms are plateauing.
- When building your Drupal website, be sure everyone on the team – from developers to interactive designers – is experienced with Drupal.
- Getting familiar with the basics of Drupal (through websites like Drupalize.me and Learnable.com) is a great way to kickoff your Drupal project – even if you aren't a developer.
- Plan your budget to include ongoing maintenance of your site – including Drupal core and module upgrades, security upgrades, and extending functionality. Staying on this track allows you to move towards innovation and away from legacy.
Nam-ho Park: It’s always fun to see what nonprofits are interested in by looking at the sessions and attendees at this conference. I didn’t sense an overarching theme this year, as in previous years, but more of a balanced focus on social media, mobile, data, and technologies gaining in popularity such as Drupal and responsive design.
At the Rally-sponsored speakers’ dinner, speakers provided keywords on what they thought was on the nonprofit tech horizon – this was captured in a big wall-sized diagram that also gives a good indication of what’s on people’s minds these days.
In the Innogive pre-conference on mobile fundraising, it was my impression that text2give is a less than optimal giving experience, and there are big opportunities for easy-to-use smartphone giving technologies.