“You can call me back now I know you are not a religious cult” was the text message that brought it home to me that Congregation was really different.
I had left a voice mail message for a very interesting digitally savvy accountant about the social media un-conference that I was organising in small West of Ireland village called Cong.
How do you explain in a 10 second voice mail an event where you cannot buy a ticket but must blog your way in, where everyone is a speaker and equal, where the conference arena is replaced by coffee shops and bars, where you have to travel to a small village with a population of 100, where all the talks are published before the event, where you huddle in small groups, where people self select to speak, where you meet a new group of people every hour in a new venue, where tea/coffee and lunch are provided free, where there is no self promotion, where there is a complete mix of backgrounds and professions, where your use online to discuss and connect with other attendees in advance and finally where the connection between the cauldron of people attending is a curious nature, willingness to share knowledge, a desire to learn more and an openness to new experiences and connections.
#cong14 was the second year of an experiment to explore new ways of sharing knowledge and connecting people while testing the potential for a small village to host a conference that would normally be run in a city location.
On November 29th 2014 over 50 people descended on the village of Cong.
Congregation is an ‘unconference’ and different in many ways. Tickets are earned via a blog post submission that is uploaded, the venues used are deliberately social outlets like a coffee shops/books stores and finally everyone on the day presents. All these combined jar people out of the normal conference mentality and remove the barriers that prevent people connecting with each other. The simple fact that everyone had produced a blog post to get entry meant there was never a shortage of ice breakers and reasons to introduce oneself.
The event deliberately stretches the rules of engagement but had a flexible logistical backbone to ensure things run smoothly. Attendees were given a spreadsheet on arrival and allocated a number which guided them to different huddles (venues) at different times. This ensured that groups rotated to different locations with a refreshed composition of people in each venue. The one golden rule was ‘No Self Promotion’ which was self policed.
All these different elements combined led to lightening fast, intensive day where people were genuinely taking their minds for gallop in a cauldron of positively charged grey matter. The variety and divergence of topics, the energy, the changing social environments and the cadence of constantly meeting new people and contributing ensured that the 4.30 finish time for official proceeding was only the beginning for most people.
As the organiser I had the pleasure of reading through all the posts, watching the social sharing, debating and connecting before the day itself. Unfortunately on the day my role altered to rotating between groups so I also replied on the tweets and post event blog posts to get a full sense of the experience.
Here are some of the tweets rounding up the day.
Best thing about #Cong14? The opportunity to have decent cerebral chats w/ practical-minded ppl on all things social media. See u next year!
— Marie Boran (@marievonboran) December 1, 2014
Some blog posts worth reading Dermot Casey’s post captures lot of the mood and learning “Unhampered participation in a meaningful setting.” Aisling Nelson’s reflection captures the cadence and connections. Maryrose Lyons follow up shows how the connections and inputs and be brought beyond the day. Tom Murphy’s narrative gives a nice snap short of the learning from the huddles. Simon Cocking gives a great photographic report of the day. I am currently compiling the eBook and infographic from the day but there some interesting stats.
- 63: Number of blog submissions
- 40% Female 60% Male: Attendees Ratio
- 30: Number of articles about #cong14
- 1,318: Tweets using #cong14
- 2,990,520: Twitter impressions
- 318: Twitter contributors
- 50%: Number who accessed tweets via mobile
- 643: Number of Retweets
- 530: Original tweets
- 16: Instagram and 50+ flickr photos
- 7,000: Website sessions,
- 5,000: #cong14 website visitors
- 18,000 #cong14 page views
- 71% accessed by desktop
Social Flares from Blog Posts.
- Facebook 459
- Twitter 607
- Google+ 137
- LinkedIn 779
The Important Stuff: Congregation could not take place without the financial backing of sponsors. This year we were delighted to have Blacknight and MKC Communications onboard. The eBook will be available after Christmas and November 28th is the provisional date for #cong15. My closing comments. If you cannot travel to Cong for #cong15 then just reading the posts and following the hastag #cong14 gives you a snap shot. If you are considering coming to #cong15 then reach out to one of the attendees and get the first hand version.