As a candid and welcoming community, MCN has always championed innovative sessions that are willing to take risks. Last year through the “Other” Category in the Call for Proposals, the program co-chairs created the option for attendees to “propose something else” to present in New Orleans. We actively sought out, encouraged and cultivated potential session ideas that did not fit the traditional 15-minute case study, 30-minute talk, or 60-minute multi-speaker panel formats. The resulting sessions were some of the highlights from #MCN2016 in New Orleans.
We hosted a number of “Unconferences” such as Rob Weisberg’s “‘Views My Own’ Museblog Unconference” and Greg Albers and Annelisa Stephan’s “Making the Workplace You Want.” The Unconference format is a loose and informal discussion usually focusing on a particular topic, sometimes over lunch.
Another kind of alternative session is the Teach-In. Last year in New Orleans, Nikhil Trivedi organized a “Github” offshoot meeting for people interested in the basics workings of Github. Teach-Ins, much like unconferences, are informal discussions focused on knowledge or skill-sharing.
We also hosted sessions with game formats like Trish Oxford’s Power of Vulnerability in Museums session, in which a panel of 5 individuals answered probing questions about museum work culture that were chosen at random for 60 minutes.
We have hosted live podcast session’s like Chad Weinard and Jason Alderman’s The Future of Museum Technology that “took a breakneck look at the problems in dealing with legacy systems, the failings of collection management systems, the infrastructure of process, and the importance of collaboration.”
Many sessions were held under Chatham House Rule, which specifies that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed on social media channels or other broadcasts. These sessions became a safe place, in which participants were not recorded and could speak freely.
These few examples have in common informality, interactivity, and group exploration of topics that warrant discussion and dialogue. Other ideas might include:
- A series of grouped short ignite talks, similar to the popular opening-night event
- Round tables with more interaction than a typical multi-speaker panel
- Group affinity discussions
- Hackathons and prototyping
However, this doesn’t preclude you from adding audience participation and interactivity to more typical presentation formats. Many kinds of longer presentations—such as hackathons and prototyping—with interactivity and learning opportunities can be proposed as a pre-conference workshop. And the 60-minute panel timeframe affords much potential for audience interaction and elements of workshopping. No matter which type of format you propose, think of ways to keep the audience involved!
This year, we are also interested in sessions/activities that will enrich the program and conference experience including but not limited to open yoga sessions, running groups, museum pillow talk, drum circles, and silent discos. Please consider space limitations/requirements, extra equipment and costs when proposing these sessions.
In the end all great “Other” sessions begin with an idea or concept a group wants to explore, no matter how mundane or taboo it may seem. The MCN co-chairs are more than willing to talk through your proposal ideas and help devise the best session format to explore.
#MCN2017’s Call for Proposals opens April 1st!
Don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, comments, and ideas.