November 1, 2010

2010 Program Conference

I just wanted to share, in case anyone is interested, some basic evaluation results of our 2010 Program Conference. I personally had a great time and loved the location and space. I hope you all did too and maybe even left having learned a few new tricks to use in your job.

Here are some of the more interesting tidbits from the eval.

  • Educational sessions (break-outs) were the most valuable part of the conference to 36% of respondents, the highest ranked part of the conference. This marks an interesting change from last year, when Center-organized time was the highest ranked event (39% marked it as most valuable in 2009, compared to 20% this year). 
  • The Hilton and the Bloomington location were rated as excellent. (For this reason we are considering having it there again next year!)
  • The Poster Session was considered good networking time by 61% of respondents, and a very useful and informative session by 40% of respondents. Fifty-eight percent of respondents learned about Extension projects they did not previously have knowledge of. The Poster Session used to be more universally-loved on the eval, so I wonder if this means it is time to shake things up a bit.
  • Fifty-eight percent of respondents indicated they participated in some aspect of Technopalooza (Technology Fair, held all day Tuesday). Of these respondents, 80% thought it was an effective way to teach technology topics at Program Conference. Forty-eight percent of all survey respondents thought a Technopalooza type of event should be included in the conference next year.
  • General feedback indicated that participants liked the variety offered at the conference this year and the fact that networking was explicitly encouraged.
Thank you to all of you who took the time to fill out the online evaluation. The planning committee pours over the results every year, so your feedback is taken very seriously!

I hope you had a worthwhile experience at Program Conference this year! I sure enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces!

October 14, 2009

Program Conference Wrap-Up

Well yay for Program Conference! Yay for 330 of you who attended!

Yay for it being OVER!

You are all Program Delivery people, you know what I mean. It was great and all, but, WHEW. I needed about a 3 day nap.

Relive the magic (and try finding yourself--always entertaining) in our conference pictures on flickr!

Also, some of you may find interesting the following evaluation results...

  • The most important reason for attending Program Conference for most of you is to network and meet with colleagues. 74% of respondents thought the conference was successful in achieving this.
  • The most valuable time at the conference was in Center-organized time (38%), followed by break-outs (26%).
  • The conference location (St. Paul) was popular, with 70% rating it as above average or excellent.
  • Respondents found Chris Farrell's talk interesting and relevant, while Michael Swanson's talk was perhaps a bit too ag-y.
  • The poster session is useful, a good networking time, and good for learning about projects that are new to you.
  • The awards lunch was also a popular part of the agenda, and interestingly, was strongly preferred over an awards dinner.
  • All tours were consistently ranked very interesting, with many comments to continue including this. Obviously with the rain and budget constraints, we didn't have ideal circumstances, so it is great so many people still found these tours valuable!
  • The technology tools break-out (Matthes, Jacobsen) was the session that stood above the rest on the eval.
If you planned or gave a session and would like that break-out or Center's specific eval data, just let me know and I will filter it out for you.

Thanks again for your attendance and enthusiasm about Program Conference! It was great to see so many familiar faces.

September 2, 2009

New Grants Manager Position

Just an update--we are busy in the PR Unit working on filling our new position: Grants Manager. We have several good candidates and are interviewing them now. This new position is better described by people other than me, but a dumbed-down description is that he or she will be working with the overall process and strategy of pulling grants into the organization. It should be very helpful, since that process is a bit muddled right now.

I'll be glad when these interviews are over. I am having to be on my best behavior since I don't want to scare anyone off from working here. Really, we're normal and fun! Just ignore the insane redhead talking into the zucchini!

I could get a lot more work done if this zucchini would stop ringing

August 10, 2009

In which I become a program person

So I'm sure it is painfully obvious at times--I am not a program manager/leader like all of you. I can set up a Proxima with the best of them, but when it comes to logistical planning and getting butts in the seats and all that, I am a newbie. But Program Conference changes all that! Luckily, many hands are helping with Conference, so I can learn a lot. Here are a few things I've learned already.

  • We are using Basecamp for planning all our tasks. It is very appealing to my (admittedly small) organizer side, since it allows for collaborative to-do lists and timelines and such. The PR Unit didn't pay for it, but I'm assuming we got the Basic plan, which is $24 a month. 
  • Registration is online and is going to be done by the Extension Store. So far we are very pleased with the system. It allows break-out registration and automatically removes options as they fill up, it allows us to batch send a reminder email(s), and also allows online access to data at all times. The price tag is a bit hefty, at $4.75/registrant or $150 setup plus $3.50/registrant (we are using the latter). More info on the Extension Store's Registration Options.
  • And one more thing I have learned: No Listserv is Perfect! My humblest apologies to anyone who is left off. Please let me know if someone you think should be getting Program Conference emails isn't getting them. Thanks!

July 31, 2009

Fall Conference--let the huge amounts of planning begin!

So we have sealed the deal with the Crowne Plaza in St. Paul! It seems like a nice hotel and the saleswoman offered me anything we wanted from the snack bar (I chose lemonade--didn't want to seem greedy with a extra grande mocha frappucino), so I'm pretty much a fan for life. Also, it was Al Franken's venue of choice. If it's good enough for Al.... right?

We are hammering out the mini-tours and concurrent sessions. The survey we just did asking your opinions on these items was helpful. Except I did have to laugh when I first prepared the results and the average for EVERYTHING was "May or May not attend." You guys don't like to commit, I take it. Or maybe it was the options given. As one commenter said:

"Anything more interesting than fees, grantwriting, reporting and evaluation would be great. These are the four worst/most boring aspects of our jobs. Could there be any sessions that deal with some of the positive aspects of our work?"

That is such an excellent point. I wonder how many educators/faculty share this point of view? Probably lots! We need to do our very best to make this conference positive and energizing, and not drudgery. Any ideas how best this can be accomplished? Specifically?


July 9, 2009

Fall Conference

The PRU is busy helping out with Fall Program Conference planning. We've been to a few hotels and I think we are going to sign the contract with the Crowne Plaza in St. Paul. It is a very nice looking hotel and the staff is great to work with. The only bad part so far is that my rockin' minivan won't fit in the parking ramp! I wonder if that means I can valet? I hope so!

The planning committee is listed below. If you have any suggestions for the conference this year, please pass them along to someone on the committee!

  • Mike Schmitt (chair)
  • Holli Arp
  • Amy Baker
  • Sarah Bjorkman
  • Greg Cuomo
  • Kia Harries
  • Krishona Martinson
  • Karen Matthes
  • Cynthia Messer
  • Karen Shirer
  • Karen Terry
  • Shelly Tschida
  • Aimee Viniard-Weideman

What would be the best use of your time at Fall Conference?