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New Ways of Meeting, Teaching and Training at Event Camp Twin Cities

Event Camp Twin CitiesWhat Was My Favorite Part of Event Camp Twin Cities?

Earlier this month I was ecstatic to attend the Event Camp Twin Cities conference, the second gathering of the #eventprofs Twitter clan.

The first gathering was last February in New York, where the #eventprofs group that had bonded via Twitter could meet face-to-face.  When I saw the tweets, blog posts, and videos from the New York event, I was bummed to have missed it.  When Event Camp Twin Cities was announced, right in my home town, I knew I had to go.

There were so many great parts of Event Camp Twin Cities, so it’s tough to pick a favorite.  Let’s unpack the bags and see:

The EventProfs Community

The eventprofs group is a very special bunch.  They’re funny, generous, tech-savvy, adventurous, and talented.  About 80 people attended ECTC in person and a few hundred virtually.  I was so happy to finally meet face-to-face many people that I had followed or conversed with via Twitter.  This was my first and main reason for attending, but as the event drew closer, it was apparent there was much more value in being there:

New Ways Of Meeting, Teaching and Training

It finally hit me that this event would be a great experience for our Skyline team to further amp up how we approach our own seminars, webinars, training and meetings.  So three of us from Skyline attended live, and two more participated virtually.  As Adrian Segar said in his presentation, “Shoveling content does not guarantee learning.”  ECTC was a great way to find other tools in the shed.

The event was a feast of experimental conference formats that kept us engaged and involved.  The presenters gave us many inspiring ideas:

  • David Adler of BizBash: The 2015 Experience: David was the first speaker, and he set the tone by advocating we take more risks at events, as he did by using an iPad to run his presentation.  David gave us view of events from his crystal ball.  I chuckled when he said speakers are trying to speak in more Twitter-friendly sound bites…which of course I promptly tweeted!  I was thrilled to meet Dave at the opening-night ice breaker event, a digital scavenger hunt, where we discovered that while he lives in New York and I live in Minneapolis, we both went to the same junior high school and high school in Maryland!  Follow David on Twitter at @DavidAdler.
  • Erica St. Angel of Sonic Foundry: 37 Dynamite Ideas For Keeping the Conversation Going After Your Event: After a very visual and very short intro PowerPoint, Erica turned the reins over to the group, using Google Moderator as a wiki.  She divided the conference – including the virtual attendees, and the pods (small groups of people gathered together to tie in virtually to the main conference) in Dallas and Basel, Switzerland, into smaller groups, that brainstormed and then voted on ideas around various facets of how to keep momentum going after an event.  Then she brought everyone together to share their best insights.  It was a successful experiment in giving up control to your audience, and getting more engagement, participation, and learning in return.  @EricaStAngel on Twitter.


  • Midori Connolly of Pulse Staging and Events :  AVGirl’s Gadget Lab: Midori took the experimental initiative to heart, with a hands-on presentation where attendees could do side-by-side comparisons of cutting-edge event technology.  She gave us several gadgets to play with, all the while reminding us that “if the event technology doesn’t serve a need, it’s just a toy.” The coolest new toy we held was IML’s new text and voice based Audience Response System.  It looked like a Blackberry, but was made for a higher-level of interaction during meeting sessions.  @GreenA_V on Twitter.


  • Mike Westscott of InXPO:  Can Hybrid and Virtual Events Be Interactive and Social?: Mike shared some good sound bites, such as “It’s time to transform the web from pages & files to events & destinations” and “The conversation changed from virtual events replacing live events, to virtual events complementing live events.”  Anyone experiencing Event Camp Twin Cities’ tight live/virtual integration would know the answer to his session title was a resounding “yes.”  @InXpo on Twitter.
  • Fleming Fog of Wizerize:  Take the Wheel at Eagle Racing: The conference attendees participated in a simulation where we were making decisions about tough situations for an Italian racing team.  As we progressed through the exercise Fleming gave us more information and new decisions to make.  We experienced how and why individuals and especially groups make decisions – often quite poorly – and then rationalize their answers.  It was much more meaningful to experience this than just see it as mere words on a slide.  Real learning that will last.  @Wizerize on Twitter.
  • 7 Pecha Kucha presentations: Seven presenters had to present only 20 slides in 20 seconds each slide.  That brevity and precise timing (less than 7 minutes each) squeezed out any fat and gristle and left nothing but delicious lean meat on these presentations’ bones.  While introducing the format, Adrian Segar very memorably used a Sesame Street song to teach us how to pronounce Pecha Kucha – see the video here:  (Warning: ECTC attendees can still hear this song in their heads – it will stick with you.)  The 7 presenters:

    All the Pecha Kucha presenters, except for Elling Hasmo, who presented from the Basel, Switzerland pod. Photo by By Jenise Fryatt


  • 1.  Elling Hamso on “Event ROI for non-believers” (which Elling presented from the pod in Switzerland!) told us that meetings create ROI which can be measured: Attendees do something. @Ehamso on Twitter.
  • 2.  Brandt Krueger on “PowerPoint SchmowerPoint: Formatting Presentations for the 21st Century.” Brandt humorously revealed his two pet peeves: not making your slides as wide as the cool big event screens, and abrupt slide transitions. @BrandtKrueger on Twitter.
  • 3.  Lara McCulloch of Ready2Spark on “Stories, Sagas & Fables.” The originator of #eventprofs preached the value of stories: they stick when facts don’t, because we feel like we’ve lived through the stories we hear. @Ready2Spark on Twitter.
  • 4.  Lisa Qualls of Fresh ID on “Events That Last.” Lisa gave us a framework to remember how to extend the longevity of your events: Build, grow, engage, community.  @lqualls4444 on Twitter.
  • 5.  Lindsey Rosenthal of Events for Good on “Give Your Event a Charitable Makeover!” Lindsey challenged the audience to add a charitable component to their events, then gave many ideas how to easily and successfully achieve it.  @eventsforgood on Twitter.
  • 6.  Greg Ruby on “Foursquare for Events, Exhibitions and Destinations.” Greg showed why 3 million people have become addicted to this location-based social media website, and how to use it.  Even though it was meant to be a short presentation, Greg started with “Welcome to the longest 7 minutes of my life.”  @GregRuby on Twitter.
  • 7.  Adrian Segar, Author of Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love on “Face the Fear—Then Change Your Conference Design!” Adrian asked us to change our conference designs by thinking of our audiences as resources, engaging them more by giving up control, and helping people learn more by doing. @ASegar on Twitter.

After the short Pecha Kucha presentations followed the last two sessions:

  • Glenn Thayer, Host of Live Events & Content Delivery Strategist: The TV Show Session: 42.3 minutes to more engagement: Glenn walked us through how TV, especially The Today Show, is designed around viewers’ very limited attention spans, with only 5 minute per content segments, plus the format changing between segments (such as live interview, then a video, then a shot of the crowd in the street, etc.)   Then we broke into groups to brainstorm how we could use a similarly fast-paced session design for a more engaging hour at our next meeting.  @glennthayer on Twitter.


  • Adrian Segar, Author of Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love: The Big Finish – An Opportunity to Make Changes in Your Life and Work: To solidify our knowledge, we huddled with our table mates to discuss what was the one thing we want to do differently because of Event Camp Twin Cities.  It was the quietest the room was all day.  As Adrian said, “We need to honor the learning that has happened here.”

Eventprofs Blog Awards The final event was an awards ceremony celebrating the best Eventprofs blogs, with over 70 nominees (including this blog) in several categories.  With this social-media savvy eventprofs group, there are some amazing blogs.  Lara McCulloch-Carter (@Ready2spark), the inventor of #eventprofs on Twitter, announced the awards:

  • Liz King Events won the award for “Best Thought Provoking Blog”
  • Design Dawgs won the award for “Best Eye Candy Blog”
  • Factor168 won the award for “Best Corporate Blog”
  • A Big To Do Event won the award for “Best Wedding Blog”
  • Engage won the award for “New Kid on the Blog”
  • Velvet Chainsaw’s Midcourse Corrections won the award for “Best Industry Advancement Blog”
  • Liz King Events also won the “People’s Choice Award” with the most votes of any nominee


The Hybrid Event Experience

Most of all, this event was a big experiment on how to create an engaging, collaborative learning environment that fully integrated the virtual attendees with the people in the room.  There were two “pods,” in attendance, where a room of people were linked with video cameras and sound to what we were doing and seeing at the live event.  One pod was in Basel, Switzerland, and the other in Dallas.  People in the pods participated virtually in the discussions, the group exercises, and even gave one of the presentations!

Emilie Barta (@emiliebarta on Twitter) acted as the Virtual Emcee, telling the virtual audience what was going on in the live event, and also sharing the feedback from the virtual audience with the people in the conference center.  She was (and is!) simply awesome.  She could power a small city with her energy and quick thinking.  You could see the gleam in her eye when she was scanning the vast Twitter stream from virtual attendees to share their questions with the live group.

Emilie Barta keeps the virtual attendees in the loop. Photo by By Jenise Fryatt

Heidi Thorne (@heidithorne) ceaselessly converted the conference into 140-character sound bites for virtual attendees to follow via Twitter.  Her tweets were especially helpful when there were issues with the video feed.

As a live participant, I swear there were times that some of the virtual attendee’s tweets (especially Traci Browne @tracibrowne, Mike Granek @mikegranek, Mike McCallen @mmcallen) were so dead-on in their comments about the live presentations that it felt like they were in the room.  With over 3,400 tweets sent with the #ectc10 hashtag on the day of the event, tweeters produced over 50,000 words of content that cover 162 pages of text.

Two members of our team were back at Skyline Exhibits watching the event virtually.  They loved how they could freely brainstorm about the great ideas they were hearing, without worrying about interrupting the speakers.

And while there were some technology hiccups, all was forgiven in this experimental, hyper-kinetic, ultra engaging event.

Fun Group Activities

Event Camp Twin Cities was not just about education sessions.  There was some fun to be had, too.  And even in this fun there were lessons to be learned:

  • Story Slam:  This was the only event the night before the main conference.  Not only an ice breaker and get to know you function, but also a lesson in how to tell a story, with a beginning, middle, and an end.  And a lot of funny stories!
  • Improv The comedians of the Huge Improve group (@hugetheater) did two hilarious skits during  lunch and the evening reception, using either an #ectc10 tweet or an overheard sound bite as a launching point.  It was amazing to see how these talented comedians could take a scrap of an idea and instantly expand it into a hysterical skit.  When they sang the Greg Ruby Anthem, I just about fell over.  Kudos for Jenise Fryatt (@jenisefryatt) joining with them for the evening skit!
  • Digital Scavenger Hunt I loved roaming all over the beautiful University of Minnesota campus, and this was a great excuse.  Beyond being an excellent icebreaker, the race to win the contest was a good exercise in how to work together as a team when you’ve just been thrown together.
  • Karaoke This was not an official part of the program, but it should have been!  About 15 of us piled into taxis after dinner and went to the Vegas Lounge in Northeast Minneapolis for Karaoke.  Wow, can Deb Grinnell (@MyRedStilettos) sing!  And so can Jenise Fryatt, Adrian Segar, Glenn Thayer, Lindsey Rosenthal, Brandt Krueger, and the never-ending stream of amazing locals at the Vegas Lounge in Northeast Minneapolis.  I kept turning around expecting to see Simon Cowell.  Me?  Well, I can listen.


Singing “Sweet Caroline” with the Event Camp Twin Cities crew. I am the one on the far left, wisely out of reach of the microphone. Photo by By Jenise Fryatt

I hope that if you attended Event Camp Twin Cities, either live or virtually, that this helped you remember the good times, and some great ideas you want to use.  And if you did not attend, yet are still reading all the way down this very lengthy post, you will realize just how much more you would learn by attending either Event Camp East Coast in Philadelphia or Event Camp Chicago!

Huge thanks to Samuel Smith (@samueljsmith) and Ray Hansen (@rayhansen) for their initiative, creativity, and effort in putting on Event Camp Twin Cities.  They went above and beyond to make it such a successful experimental event.

And my favorite part?  It’s a tie between the improve troupe singing The Greg Ruby Anthem, and Karaoke at the Vegas Lounge.  So I guess I left Event Camp Twin Cities with a song in my heart!

About the Author

Mike Thimmesch is the Principal at Thimmesch Marketing. For over 25 years, he has created and implemented innovative marketing, lead generation, and exhibiting strategies that profitably grow company sales and brand awareness. Mike rose to Director level at Skyline Exhibits, where he helped generate over a half million leads, resulting in over $1 billion in sales. He published 11 industry white papers and eight exhibiting books, presented over 100 trade show webinars, and wrote over 200 exhibit marketing blog posts.

15 responses to “New Ways of Meeting, Teaching and Training at Event Camp Twin Cities

  1. WOW! Nice rundown Mike. I can’t say enough how great it was to meet you in person after all this time being friends on Twitter. (Thanks again for the licorce!)

    The only thing I wish was that we’d had a little more time to just sit and talk. You are truly one of my very favorite events industry bloggers. And don’t sell yourself short at karaoke. You sing a mean Doors song!!

    1. I really enjoyed meeting you too, Jenise! Your generosity and positive attitude are energizing. Next time I’ll sit at your table so we can have some more time to chat! By the way, now my whole family is eating black licorice!

  2. Why is it that when you and I get together we:
    a) Happen to be attending game-changing events
    b) Have a BLAST????

    Thanks for the props…I had so much fun daydreaming about meeting technology with the group, it’s my AVGirl heart :)

    This picture of you makes me smile whenever I see it:

    Hopefully you’ll get a kick out of the “8 things “not” to do onstage during a hands-on gadget lab, from the AVGirl at EventCamp Twin Cities” posting that is supposed to be posted to the ECTC blog :)

    Midori Connolly, Chief AVGirl

    1. Hello Midori,

      Thanks for the comment and for sharing the photo. If you’d waited a bit longer you would have seen that big yellow egg hatch!

      I’ll look for your 8 things when it goes live…I always knew you were talented; after your presentation I learned how brave you are, too!

  3. Hi Mike,

    Great Post! You reminded me of two things (A) there was so much to experience and learn at this event. As an organizer, i missed most of it – but have watched the replay all the way through – to catch some of the points that you made. (B) Your karaoke comments reminded me that I went home after dinner that night – skipping the Karaoke – when I got home, I sat down on the couch and fell asleep sitting upright.

    Thanks again to you, Mike, and the Skyline team for coming to #ectc10! We will have to have a tweet up sometime soon to get all of us MSP people together on a regular basis.

  4. Sam,

    I’ve gone back and looked at some of the replay, too. That helped me see some of what Emilie Barta was doing with the remote audience while we in the live conference were on break. You and Ray were a blur through the conference, keeping all the plates spinning. No wonder you were so tired!

    I really look forward to a MSP tweet up amongst the #eventprofs clan. I think your stellar event enlarged the tribe!

  5. Mike,

    It was great to meet you at ECTC10 and thank you for the mention on my Twitter moderation!

    This is quite an extensive review of the event. (I still have to do my not-as-extensive review posts. Yikes!) Appreciate all you add to the #eventprofs community.

    Hope to see you at Event Camp East Coast or Chicago!

  6. Great to meet you too, Heidi! Thanks again for cranking away at the ECTC tweets all day long. I hope you took breaks for the chocolate cake and the improv comedy!

    I will try to get to either Event Camp East Coast or Chicago, but it’s looking tight on overlap with some other trips.

    In case visitors to this site are wondering, here is the link to Event Camp East Coast’s site:

    And the link to the main Event Camp web site (the Chicago event doesn’t have its own site yet):

  7. Great summary Mike. I am so jealous I missed the Karaoke. One of these days we will get to meet in person. I only wish I would have known in advance who the virtual skyline participants were…we could have banded together and virtually heckled you!

  8. Traci,

    I really look forward to meeting you, too. If not before then, for sure at TS2 when it’s in Philly next year. And if I give a presentation there, heckle all you want…virtually, that is!

  9. So great meeting you at #ECTC10. A+ on your summary. In addition to everything you’ve shared here and all the ways we pushed the technology and format envelope, I still came away with the feeling that there’s something special about meeting face to face, particularly when its a group of #eventprofs. Our conversation about the best mobile devices for blogging is a perfect example!

    Thanks for your mention and the positive feedback onsite and online!

  10. Thanks, Erica, for the grade and for adding to the heaping pile of good that was Event Camp Twin Cities.

    I heartily agree with you that the face-to-face conversations are so valuable. I mentioned to a co-worker just this morning about something innovative that’s working for you that you told me about at “camp.”

    Now if I could only text half as good as you….

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