This past week I was in Vancouver for PSEWEB, Canada’s conference for web and marketing higher education professionals. This tight knit community at is full of amazingly talented people and I love having the opportunity to share their world. This is the second time I’ve presented at this conference, and the welcome I get as I’m adopted into new circles is truly magical. This annual gathering is made possible by the heart and soul of Melissa Cheater (@mmbc) and Jessie Johnston (@jjloa), two of the hardest workers I’ve ever known. Melissa is the one who envisioned a Canadian extension of the American HighEdWeb Conference; much like a regional. Jessie is, quite simply, She Who Gets It Done. Five years strong, this conference continually brings new attendees into the mix, sharing the latest knowledge and efforts within the Canadian highered community (a large area to cover with a single offering).
This year I was a last minute addition to the program, as they asked me to fill in for someone who couldn’t attend. I was delighted to do so, and offered them a handful of talks from which to choose. They decided on my open tech tool talk, How to be Awesome with Emerging Technology, which is not unlike an amusement park ride — strap yourselves in and keep your arms inside the car at all times. I love this talk because I’m constantly adding to it, updating it, and I’m usually able to introduce everyone in the room to a couple of technologies they’ve never seen before. It seems like we’re all having to do more with less, and this is an attempt to showcase applications that can easily be added to the office workflow. It’s a little bit of everything — ways to curate content, present information, aggregate social media, edit graphics, wireframe and design, collaborate with coworkers, and generally make things interesting using mad skills and the latest disruptive technologies.
So I ran through the deck (over fifty applications) and, as usual, didn’t get a lot of questions — people are usually shellshocked — and then glanced at my phone. No tweets? Hmmm, that’s odd, but okay. Guess I wasn’t as awesome as I’d hoped to be. So I wrapped up my stuff and went to lunch. I should’ve known something was off. Once I hit a reliable signal, 37 mentions slammed my twitterstream. Ahhh, that’s better, I thought, and turned my focus to attending the rest of the conference. Lots of new faces for me, but also some familiar people who I don’t usually get to watch present (looking at you, Andrew Smyk, with your Digital Kids talk). Stewart Foss’s keynote on Raising the Bar in Higher Ed Web Design. Todd Sanders (@tsand) and his keynote on making a brand more human. Great data, engaging conversations, and two tracks that allowed for a good bit of diversity, but didn’t overwhelm me with decisions. A really nice conference, and a ton of community engagement (which is really saying something, when you consider this entire conference is orchestrated by an Army of Two. Holy Hannah!).
That is one of the things I really appreciate with this group — the attention to community building. PSEWEB does an excellent job of posting updates in blog posts, retweeting information, and connecting people in social networks. They held a midweek pancake tweetup so that a new batch of people could participate in the existing virtual #pancaketweetup held every month in the highered community. They aggregated posts with Tagboard and Eventifier, and Storified both Day 1 and Day 2 as well as some of the sessions (listed so far, here).
Since I was staying later, I helped Melissa and Jessie tear down once the conference was over. And this is where it really hit home just how awesome these people are. The conference had two participatory walls: Social Media Awesome (SMAwesome) and Warm Fuzzies. Anyone could give props to coworkers or peers just by posting a message. Nice way to engage the community, I thought. Now imagine my shock as I looked through them at conference end and found not one, but three comments that mentioned me.
I was stunned. I’m not Canadian. To most of the attendees, I was just a new face in their highered environment. And yet three people felt like taking the time to say encouraging things about me. How freaking amazing is that??!! And because they’re anonymous, I can’t even thank two of them by name. But if you’re reading this,
Thank you for taking time to encourage me, to let me know that you appreciated my contribution to your conference. You have no idea what it felt like to read your comments. It was amazing and invigorating and perhaps most of all, humbling. You make me want to bring my A Game — just because you took a moment to be kind. In front of everybody. Who does that??!!? And Jax? This cat? Holy smokes! Clearly you’ve got more creativity in your little finger than I have in my entire body. Mad props to you!
And with that, my Canadian conferencing comes to a close for another year. But you guys have really added to my highered experience (and my twitterstream — so many new people!) and I love it. The pub crawl that introduced me to my favorite new drink, the Dark ‘n Stormy. The amazing sushi meal at Maku and the resulting misadventures of an escaped prawn. The silliness that created a #rhubarb hashtag. The laughter that created new friends. What an amazing community. I think you guys kick serious butt, and I’m so incredibly grateful that you welcomed me so warmly. Stay in touch. Say hi. Keep sharing. Ask me questions. Let’s keep the conversation flowing — and let’s meet up next year in Ontario. Because I’ve already got it pencilled in on my calendar.
And seriously: thank you for being so damned awesome, Canada. You folks are the cat’s meow.