SpeedCon 2012: An Unconference on Communication Wrap Up

Another successful SpeedCon Unconference is in the books!

On Saturday, November 17, 2012, the NC State University Student Chapter of ACM SIGDOC hosted our second SpeedCon: An Unconference on Communication.  We were able to offer 2 talks in each session during our free one-day conference for students and professionals.

The following sessions were well attended and universally praised:

Opening Keynote: MOOCs, Brad Mehlenbacher

Session 1
Digital Sources to Reconstruct My Day, John Martin
Wonder Drugs from Nature, David Kroll

Session 2
All About Infographics, Jen Riehle
Rhetoric of Amendment One, John Strange


Session 3
How to Present Technical Information, Douglas Johnston
Flip Your Meetings, Dr. Barbi Honeycutt

Lightning Sessions!
Accessibility & Usability, Neal Timpe and Michelle Tompkins
Job Hunting, Desiree Burns
Non-verbal Communication: Sarah Egan Warren and Jen Riehle
WordPress Multisites, Jen Riehle

Session 4
Active Presentations, Sarah Glova
Online Education discussion, Sarah Egan Warren

Closing Session
Discussion of Our Concept of “Self” and Reflections of SpeedCon, Wade Newhouse

As you can see in our article Hosting an ACM SIGDOC Unconference available in the SIGDOC 2012 conference proceedings, we discussed the five lessons we learned from hosting our first Unconference in 2011.  Those five lessons learned were:

  • Use one website
  • Solicit vendor and sponsor support,
  • Avoid “too many cooks in the kitchen”
  • Publicize the event more effectively
  • Include a closing event that would tie everything together or allow some final opportunities for networking..

We are happy to report that not only did we learn from 2011, but by implementing these changes, we had a better Unconference in 2012.


We used one website (http://speedcon.wordpress.com) for 2012 for information, registration, and for submitting talks. This made the entire process easier to manage and less confusing for our participants.

Jen Riehle, our webmaster, published information regularly to keep the site dynamic and helpful. Participants could find all the information needed about the Unconference in one location.

Vendor/Sponsor support

Our major focus in August was to solicit sponsorship for SpeedCon. We are so thankful for our amazing sponsors for making it possible to keep SpeedCon a free event. ACM SIGDOC, NC State University English Department, STC, Lifetime Asset Management, Flip It Consulting, InnerSights Counseling, and John Martin provided us all the necessary funds to run the conference.  We were able to provide coffee and muffins in the morning and sandwiches and drinks for lunch.  In addition, the sponsors funded outstanding door prizes including Kindles, gift cards, and tablets.

Planning Committee

In order to avoid duplicating efforts, we kept this year’s Unconference planning committee to just five people. Volunteers not on the planning committee were able to assist with gathering volunteers, making announcements in classes, and sharing information on social media. We successfully avoided the “too many cooks in the kitchen” problem while still managing to plan and organize.


In 2011, we did not have much time for publicity. For 2012, we began sharing information about SpeedCon about 3 months prior to the event. We created a logo for this year and wrote a press release to help focus the message as we contacted various groups. We posted our first blog post about SpeedCon 2012 in August and began direct email advertising right away. We targeted current students, faculty, alumni, and area professionals. We also made a concerted effort to contact other colleges within our university and other institutions of higher education. Contacting local professional organizations also increased awareness of our event. In addition to email, we used social media to share announcements about registration, topics, and details.  Flyers were posted around campus and the community.  As a result, the attendees represented a much more academically and professionally diverse background than the attendees from 2011.  Our attendees were graduate students and faculty from three departments at NC State University, UNC Chapel Hill, Fayetteville State University, William Peace University, East Carolina University and professionals from IBM, Progress Software, Extreme Networks and Love Wins Ministries.

Closing Event

One of the suggestions from the 2011 evaluations was to wrap up the day with a closing session or event. Some of last year’s attendees felt that the day stopped abruptly and they wished they had some transition.  For 2012, we invited Dr. Wade Newhouse from William Peace University to speak. He prepared a presentation about different versions of “self” and how different documents and media allow us to reveal (or conceal) our “self.”  What made his presentation more than just another session was that he pulled information, quotes, comments, and ideas from the six presentations he attended throughout the Unconference.  This personalized (and very humorous) talk made for a fantastic end to the day. The attendees and presenters felt like they had been heard and Dr. Newhouse closed the day with some thought-provoking observations and reflections.

Lessons Learned for 2012

SpeedCon 2012 was a great success. But, as with any event, improvements can be made for SpeedCon 2013.  We were quite happy with the number of people who signed up to attend. However, the number of people who actually attended was significantly less (60 registered and 38 attended).  We hope to figure out why so many people did not attend after registering.

We did much better with our advertising, but we can continue our efforts next year to get the word out to more people—including colleges, universities, and local professionals.  We were happy to have a number of faculty from NC State University and we hope to encourage more participation by the faculty in the future.

Even with all our advertising and information available on the SpeedCon website, we heard from some participants that they thought that everyone had to give a presentation at the Unconference. We made a last minute push to explain that we need attendees/listeners too—but we may have lost some people because of this confusion. Our goal is to make sure that we are crystal clear that anyone can attend the conference without committing to present.

We sent an email thanking attendees and asking them to fill out a brief survey. Unfortunately, the email went out during the Thanksgiving holiday week and we have received only 3 responses, down from 12 last year. We hope that our follow-up posts with presentation information may drive more folks to fill out the survey.

All in all, SpeedCon 2012 was successful, engaging, challenging, and interesting. We had great speakers and great attendees. We look forward to SpeedCon 2013.

SpeedCon 2012 Wrap Up
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