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The Confab Rebellion
July 30, 2012 - 6:28pm

2012 has been a confabulous year. Sure, that's a made up word, but you can get past that, right? Here's the deal, our "traditional" conference structures are bending. In between the usual annual conferences and regional events, some atypical meet-ups are taking place. Sometimes we call them "confabs" and/or "unconferences," but they are different…and I think that's a good thing.

When Kenn Elmore, Dean of Students at Boston University, decided to host a confab in February, he lit a spark. The BU Confab was well-attended and was less sage on the stage and more about a massive conversation between attendees. Several topics were treated to mini-talks and then the audience went into overdrive. Contributions abounded. As someone who attends a lot of conferences, I was impressed with the dialogue that took place. Instead of passive audience members sitting through a deluge of Powerpoint slides, people actively shared ideas, concepts, challenges, and big picture thoughts. It was refreshing.

And then, Boise State University, taking a note or two from BU decided to host a confab of their own. The Boise Confab was definitely different than the event at BU, but it had a terrific vibe. In a similar fashion, the Boise Confab was all about bite-sized talks with entree-sized discussions. I wish it had been recorded…some of the thoughts on hiring decisions/tactics were phenomenal. Kudos to the folks at Boise State University for not only having a blue carpet for speakers, but for also being a tad bit radical.

Ed Cabellon is a thinker and a doer within student affairs. He makes things happen. Last year's #satechBOS Unconference was a major success for the student affairs technology set. Thankfully, it's a new year and this week, #satechBOS is taking place once more. And, if the buzz is accurate, it looks like this year's #satech extravaganza is going to be similar to a hackathon. I can't wait!

As usual, I have caveats that need mentioning: I was a featured speaker at both of the aforementioned confab events. However, in my opinion, the most enjoyable aspects to both events were all of the many conversations that took place. Additionally, #satechBOS is just a rad event. It's a new format with a new conversation. Call it radical, call it a rebellion…at least we're experimenting. Lastly, check out the #CONF30 discussion. It's all about changing how we do conferences within student affairs. Crowdsourced, and thriving on Twitter, #CONF30 represents some serious dialogue regarding the future of "Conference 3.0." Keep innovating.


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