The Social Media Workshop That Never Was


It's been an exciting bloggy week. Meeting up with friends at the Healthcare Blogging Summit in Chicago where I had the pleasure to see, although too briefly Nick Jacobs  (first hospital president/ceo to launch a medical center/hospital blog) and Enoch Cho (one of the first docs to transparently blog - under his own name), pioneers in healthcare social media. If you're interested in what is happening in the medical social media space Nick's and Enoch's blogs are great places to start.

Elisa Camahort, of BlogHer and more (!) fame, Carol Krishner, who is making a name in both healthcare and non profit social media circles and your truly were asked by Dmitriy Kruglyak, Trusted.MD to present a Chairs 2-hour workshop type session on how to develop a blog strategy. We did indeed. However, we discovered that the participants at the Healthcare Blogging Summit were not beginners when it came to blogs. In fact, many were writing their own blogs, a few had begun sophisticated communities and everyone knew what RSS was all about. Girlfriend, I tell you we were in big trouble .. with a Capital T.

What do you do when you know that the material you prepared is not appropriate for the audience? That was the challenge that Carol, Elisa and I faced. Over lunch we quickly revised our approach. Our goal was always to be of service to the people who were attending our session. We agreed to take our cue from social media itself: we would be transparent, honest, authentic and let our passion for the topic come through.

We introduced our session with what we thought we had learned out the participants .. that they were not novices when it came to blogs. They agreed. Then we took a deep breath and told them what we had originally planned .. that our presentation was created to help develop a blog strategy but we felt our materials were, for the most part, too elementary for them. We told them we would make the PowerPoint presentation available on our blogs, however, we felt we needed to change direction. Then we did something very bloggy .. we asked what they wanted to talk about, what they needed to help with their work with blogs and social media.

It was a leap of fate and a leap of trust that could all feel comfortable working for 2-hours in what would amount to a very unstructured environment. Something magical happened. Together we set a new agreed upon course based on the questions and interests that the people in the session presented to us. During our conversation, when it was appropriate we did refer to some of our slides. Topics ranged from a debate about ghost blogging to an extended discussion on how to use Myface to Enoch and Elisa demonstrating Twitter.

Something else happened. We had fun and we learned together. My heartfelt thanks to all who participated in our session without your involvement this type of workshop could not have succeeded. A special toss of a pink boa to Carol and Elisa (and me!) who worked seamlessly together.

Lessons Learned

  • Don't be afraid to change direction if what you planned doesn't work or is not appropriate.
  • The more you know about your audience the better your can prepare (that information was not available to us).
  • Involve participants in the learning process. Stop and ask their opinions let discussion naturally occur.
  • It helps if you are working with people who are passionate and knowledgeable about the topic.

Healthcare Blogging Summit
Download heallthcare_blogging_summit_sept_2007_chicago_pdf.pdf
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Yeah, despite our trepidation, that 2 hours ended up being really fun...and if I believe the folks in the room with whom I spoke later, not just fun for us :)

Thanks, Toby, for being a graceful and confident moderator. You set the tone that made it all work!

Posted by: Elisa Camahort on Sep 20, 2007 11:10:58 AM

Maggie Fox did this on purpose in April, calling it a user-generated presentation, and it seemed to work then, too.

I think we're going to see more of this. As people get used to interacting online, why wouldn't they like to interact more when they're actually in the same room? And, of course, the unconference crowd encourages exactly this sort of discussion.

Posted by: Nathan Gilliatt on Sep 20, 2007 11:55:06 AM

Nathan - thanks for the link to Maggie's post; it's a great resource to strategically develop this type of a session. This type of session - from a facilitation view - is not for the faint of heart.

Elisa - I appreciate your kind words; I believe our session worked as well as it did because you, Carol and I were aligned in our goal to provide the best we could for the group (egos were not an issue) *and* the people were willing to engage with us. Yes, it was fun!

Posted by: Toby on Sep 20, 2007 2:03:19 PM

Great post Toby. We should never be afraid to meet or exceed our audience's wants and needs, and nothing works better than to ask them what those wants and needs are.

Posted by: Lewis Green on Sep 21, 2007 1:25:42 PM

Toby - great seeing you again in Chicago. You did a splendid job with your session and I think it was very well received... Thank you so much!

Posted by: Dmitriy Kruglyak on Sep 23, 2007 7:55:48 PM

What a great experience. Happy it went so well for everyone!

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Posted by: Shreny on Dec 12, 2007 7:22:15 AM

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