Backchannels – how to make the most of a conference – even if you can’t attend!!

Learning professionals spend most of their time looking after other people’s learning needs, but this week’s #chat2lrn is for you to look after yourselves!

We are delighted to have a guest post from Dave Kelly aka @LnDDave who is going to share with us how to make the most of conference backchannels

With the end of the summer comes the start of another season of learning events like conferences that are held for learning and performance professionals. These events usually do not take place during the summer months, avoiding conflicts with personal vacations. So as the calendar turns from summer to fall, it also marks a time that more learning opportunities pop up on learning and performance professionals’ calendars.

One of the resources conference attendees use to engage in conference learning is participating in the conference’s backchannel. Each event I attend has more and more people participating in the backchannel than the previous event, as more and more people discover the value of the backchannel and participate for themselves. In the next #Chat2lrn Twitter chat, scheduled for August 30th at 8am PDT/11am EDT & 4pm BST, we’ll be exploring how to participate in a backchannel and how it can enhance your conference experience.

So what exactly is a backchannel? 

You may not have heard the term backchannel before, or you may have heard it but not really understand what it is and how it can help enhance your conference learning experience.  Here’s a snapshot of how I define a backchannel, excerpted from my post “What Exactly IS a backchannel?” 

Through social media (usually Twitter), conference attendees can share their thoughts and ideas about the information being shared with others.  It could be as simple as taking the notes I might normally compile for myself and sharing them with the world at large.  What’s more exciting about this sharing is it extends beyond just notes from the presentation. Conference attendees share their own thoughts and experiences about the content.  They share additional resources that add to those shared by the speakers.  In short, through their sharing, they expand the content and become a part of the presentation.

Even more powerful is that this sharing breaks through the walls of the session, sharing the content with anyone that is interested in reading it – even those that are not attending the session.  It is this sharing and expansion of content during a live event that is referred to as ‘The Backchannel’.

Of course, you really can’t fully appreciate the the value of a conference backchannel until you participate and immerse yourself in one. The challenge with that is that many people don’t think about participating in a conference backchannel until they are actually AT the conference. In most cases, it’s too late at that point. The time to consider preparing to participate in a backchannel is weeks ahead of the event itself. It’s at that point that you should create or fine tune your online profile and familiarize yourself with the tools and techniques utilized to participate. It’s like riding a bicycle: I enjoy a bike ride because I can focus on the riding experience without having to focus on the actual mechanics of balance and riding the bike. You want your ability to use a Twitter tool to be almost unconscious so that you can focus on engagement with the backchannel, not on how to use the tool.  For more tips on getting yourself ready to participate in a conference backchannel, check out this post: How to Participate in the mLearn Conference Backchannel (#mLearnCon). It’s written specifically for this year’s mLearn Conference, but the instructions apply to any conference you may be attending.

During our #Chat2lrn discussion, I’ll be sharing some of the tips I’ve learned over the years from following, participating, and curating conference backchannels, and I invite others to participate in the chat and share their tips as well.

We’d also like to crowdsource the questions we pose during this chat. Is there a specific question you would like to see explored during the chat? If so, please share it with us. You can contact me directly via Twitter, on my facebook page, or by posting a tweet using the #chat2lrn hashtag.


1 thought on “Backchannels – how to make the most of a conference – even if you can’t attend!!

  1. Pingback: Backchannels – how to make the most of a conference – even if you can’t attend!! | Social and Collaborative Learning |

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