The goal for distributed events
The MCG’s mission is to connect, support and inspire people working with technology in museums. Our goal in changing event formats is to achieve our mission by reaching more people so they can access the resources of the wider digital heritage community and create stronger local networks.
Working with locals means events can be adapted to suit the regional context. It also might give volunteers an opportunity to meet others, develop event management and marketing skills. More informal, shorter events should also allow the sector to discuss topical issues. Lots of topics are easier to discuss in person over a cup of tea (or something stronger) than on email, discussion lists or social media. We could work with other organisations or interest groups to discuss wider topics such as digital heritage, GLAMs or digital scholarship.
Measures of success for an individual event might include one or more of:
- Five people attending
- Someone who doesn’t formally have ‘digital’ in their job description or title attending
- People making one or more new connections that will help them deal with a current issue
- People using the event to learn about a new topic
I’d like to propose that we experiment with distributed events instead, where we work with locals to run a smaller-scale, informal event under the MCG banner.
Specifically, this means that we’d support people in organising an event, but it’s up to them to run it.
We can help publicise events, host information on our website, find speakers, suggest topics, put some money into catering or room hire, pay the volunteer some recompense for their time and any expenses – but we expect that they would organise a venue, publicise it locally, and report on the event outcomes for our list/website.
The meetup format I’d like to try is based on Teacamp http://teacamp.info/about/; for more background, read Matt Jukes’ post about tthe format https://productforthepeople.xyz/a-minimal-viable-meet-up-be3e30b98f9. Teacamps start at 4pm and finish at 6pm, ‘allowing people who need to to get home at a sensible time and not really massively interrupting a work day’.
We might want to find a way to include guest speakers or special topics to make it more of a destination event, but I like how informal it sounds, the ease of venue management and the way it’s designed to fit into busy work/life schedules.
People in smaller museums may not think of their role as ‘digital’, so topics relevant to specific problems might work well for reaching people outside our existing circles.
Other possible formats
- Tours of new/improved galleries
- Demos of new/improved websites, apps
- Lunchtime meetings
- Breakfast meetings
- Meetups at or after other conferences, training days
- Panels at other conferences
- Partner with other events to host digital topics
- Excursions to visit other museums, retail spaces, etc
- ‘Fail camp’ / Failure Swapshop
To make logistics easier, we could buy a meetup.com membership and let people use it to manage meetups in different locations, to help make RSVPs or whatever easier, and maybe reach new people. We could also use eventbrite, or try each in different locations and see which works better.
Create an information page – who we are, why run an event with us, what each party agrees to do, how organising an event helps the organiser, etc, based on this document.
Pilot and evaluate it – ask for volunteers to run a regional event.
If you’re interested in organising an event, what further information would you need?
What you can do
If you’re interested in organising an event or would like to suggest a topic for one, get in touch.
The Museums Computer Group has been running two events a year for several years now. The annual Museums+Tech (formerly UKMW) conference in London usually has about 200-250 delegates, depending on the venue capacity. The Spring ‘regional’ event is always held outside of London, and is usually much smaller, with 40 to 80 delegates. Finding and liaising with a venue, putting together a programme, selling tickets and running the event currently have similar overheads. Both events usually have a call for papers, with a subsequent review by a programme committee leading to a full-day programme of sessions. The marketing and communications activity aimed at selling tickets to each event can be more difficult for regional events as it can be hard to find and reach local groups.
Both events can consume a lot of volunteer time and it can be difficult to manage other committee activities while these events are being organised. In general, committee member time can be extremely scarce, as people deal with deadlines at work, personal issues, parental leave, etc. If we can reduce the overhead for events, we would have more time for partnerships, advocacy and discussion with funders and governmental bodies, responses to white papers and other changes etc, to tackle systemic issues affecting the sector.
The regional events are appreciated by delegates, but as the number of delegates isn’t proportionate to the work required to organise and run the event, we’re looking to change the format of MCG’s regional events.