The Ultimate Mixtape: Putting Together the #MCN2016 Program

Post it notes with MCN 2016 session proposals written on them.

This week, we sent out acceptances for the MCN 2016 conference program. Whew!

The overall quality of proposals was exceptionally high this year and we are so excited about all the sessions we have lined up. That being said, due to the high number of proposals we received (nearly 300), we have unfortunately had to reject a high number of proposals, so we wanted to provide some insight into the evaluation and selection process.

How it all starts…

The Program Committee is made up of 28 people, each bringing a different perspective from across the sector. Every proposal was assigned for review by three Program Committee members with relevant professional expertise on the topic. Evaluators were asked to provide feedback in three ways:

  1. A recommendation about whether the session was a “must have,” “nice to have,” “ok,” or “not suitable.”
  2. Number-based ratings on a series of criteria, such as relevance to the conference theme and the session’s potential to contribute to the museum sector.
  3. Additional descriptive comments to contextualize ratings, including recommendations to the Program Co-Chairs about things that could improve the proposal.

Putting the program together

Once all of the proposals were reviewed by the Committee, the Program Co-Chairs spent an entire weekend locked in a hotel room putting the first draft of the program together. (This involved a lot of Post-It notes!) Each session’s name was written on a Post-It showing its overall rating, and the three descriptive tags its owner included with the submission.

Our first job was to look for the top-ranking proposals from all of the session types (workshops, case studies, presentations, and professional forums). Then, each session was reviewed to ensure that the comments and recommendations supported the high rankings. From there, the process became a little more complex. We looked at topic representation. Were key topics areas covered? Were there any redundancies? We also considered the diversity of presenters. We wanted a good mix of speakers, including first timers and more experienced presenters, small museums, non-art museums, and sessions that included a gender mix. Next, we looked to include topics relevant to each Special Interest Group (SIG), prompting us to reach out to some SIGs with follow-up questions. In response to the Committee’s comments, we reached out to some of the proposers to ask whether they would be willing to edit a few things. Finally, we assigned sessions to time slots and to conference rooms in the hotel, looking for ways to get the most out of every minute possible.

Getting excited for an inspiring conference in November

This process took around three weeks, leading up to sending acceptance emails on Tuesday morning. Ultimately, the Chairs trusted the qualified opinions of the Program Committee. When tough decisions had to be made, we returned to the language of the original proposals in question and evaluated their merit for ourselves. Each Program Co-Chair brought her own partialities and priorities, but all decisions sprung from open and generative discussions about what kind of experience we wanted to create for attendees. Our goal was to build a challenging and surprising compilation of sessions with real world applications that would, together, create an inspiring conference. We think MCN 2016 is going to be exactly that, and we cannot wait to share the full program with you soon.

If you did receive an offer to the Program, please confirm your acceptance by June 20. If your session was not selected, and you’d like feedback, please contact us at program@mcn.edu. We’ll also be running a short session at the Conference on how the Program Committee works, including some trends we noticed amongst the strongest proposals. Please come if you’d like to learn more or want to register your interest in being part of the MCN 2017 Program Committee.

Thank you to all the members of the MCN 2016 Program Committee for the hard work they’ve done to guide us in shaping the MCN 2016 Program.

Suse Cairns, Jennifer Foley, & Trish Oxford

Program Co-Chairs

MCN 2016 Conference

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