A Conversation with Colleen and Larry: The Value of TechCon
For one blog only, we're incredibly pleased to bring you some thoughts and insights from KQED's Colleen Wilson and SDPB's Larry Rohrer. They have both served many years on the Digital Media Advisory Council, and have helped to make the system a better place in a variety of ways. Below, they answer a few of our questions all about the annual (and upcoming 40th) PBS TechCon.
Executive Director, Product and KQED Lab
KQED - San Francisco, CA
Loves: Scootin' around the Bay, Spotify's Discover Weekly Playlist
Director of Content
SDPB - Vermillion, SD
Loves: Cruising through the open roads of the Dakotas, the smell of new guitar amps
What was your first TechCon like?
Larry: I was a fan of the old IMA conferences... “Integrated Media Association”. My first tech-con reminded of those meetings a decade ago. A group of non-territorial public media people, not afraid to look across platforms and share the excitement of our digital potential.
Colleen: I’ll never forget my first TechCon. I was asked to be on a panel of station staff speaking about digital strategies. I was so accustomed to the typical interactive sessions of iMA and SXSW where the audience is engaged, raising their hands with questions, cracking clever jokes, and tweeting gifs. But the first TechCon was nothing like that because the broadcast engineering culture was so different. Fast forward to today where TechCon is alive with cross pollination, there’s collaborative note taking on google docs, sessions have live polling, and more!
Who should go to TechCon?
Larry: If your organization is like ours, you carefully choose meetings and professional development. Tech is on our annual radar. Anyone in digital strategy, production, or cross platform content should consider Tech-Con.
Colleen: TechCon is really your best one-stop-shop for everything digital: technology, content strategy, social media, audience analytics, platforms, and distribution. If I could attend only one conference, TechCon would be it. And if you can’t afford it, the Digital Immersion Project is an awesome way to get a free ticket. Not only do you get to learn from the best but they design an entire curriculum for those attending. You can’t beat it.
I’m an introvert! How do I meet people in an organic way?
Colleen: I’m an introvert too and (when Im not hiding out in my hotel room) one of my favorite low key ways to meet folks is hanging out at the PBS booth where folks are so friendly. Plus they know absolutely everyone because it’s their job! PBS Digital folks are always introducing me to someone that can help me out or inspire me. And you don’t want to miss the DMAC Meet Up forum where you can connect with your DMAC station representative and get the inside scoop on how they can help your advance your station’s digital strategies.
Larry: Don’t worry about it, just go to sessions that sound interesting! The conference is full of others like you, you will meet them there. If there was anyone with all the answers, they would be hosting a session called “I Have All The Answers”. Be curious, it’s OK.
It's a big conference. Do you have any 'Surviving and Thriving TechCon secrets?'
Larry: Sessions may seem overwhelming, with data, ideas, or new big concepts. I would describe SDPB as digitally progressive, but we are a small operation. We’re not big enough to consider major market activities. So do what I do. Consider what motivation is driving this session or information and not so much the how. The scalability is important. Is there something I can take away from a Tech-Con session and scale it to work for my station?
Colleen: TechCon is packed with great sessions and invariably there are two sessions at the same time. Now that DMAC is coordinating collaborative note taking, I don’t have to miss a thing. That means I can be selective about the sessions I attend and can really be present and take good notes in the doc for the others who can’t make it. If the session I chose isn’t what I expected, I can check the digital notes and twitter for the other session and decide if I want to duck out. It doesn’t get any better. And those notes make it super easy for me to share out the session highlights with my colleagues when I get back home.
You've both been to TechCon multiple times. How would you make this one even better?
Larry: It’s the scalability. Tech-Con is an effort to have all boats rise on the tide. There are a lot of small boats. Sessions and concepts need to be scalable. Small stations may pick up 10 good ideas but only have the capacity to take on one or two. Which one or two out of the ten are the best to start with. Tech-Con can improve by keeping station capacity and potential in mind as much as possible.
Colleen: Before I arrive I pick 1-2 things I’m struggling with at my station or need guidance on. Then when I introduce myself to someone new, I mention those things. Either it’s a great conversation starter or they have advice or they can introduce me to someone who can help. We’re all trying to do the same things at our stations and I’ve found this is a great way to find connection and help in a really easy way.
Any other thoughts?
Larry: Vegas is a great place to explore with new digital friends!
Colleen: Right across the street from the hotel is a White Castle that serves beer. #onlyinvegasbaby