More Community Leadership Summit X (CLSx) events in Europe!

The blooming of European CLSx event in 2016 (Milan, Paris , Rome, London, Madrid) has laid the foundations for one of my 2017 bets: help growing this network, organizing more and more Community Leadership Summit X (CLSx) events across Europe and, why not, the rest of the world.

Why this idea?

There are several reasons, and the most important is I’m not alone believing time has come to make it real.

Since October, in fact, Jono, Alessio and I have been discussing about a plan, and one of the first activity we did was validate it, reaching several other community managers spread all over Europe to get their feedback. Well, they all agreed on the genuinity of the vision, offered concrete support for running a CLSx event in their own city and added some important suggestion to the basic format. I’m happy when people feel empowered by an idea and offer their time to contribute!

Another element supporting the plan was the lack of similar european-wide initiatives to share, discuss and peer-learning about community management topics. Of course, we can be wrong here, so please comment with the experience you’ve: we really want to be collaborative, and not competitive, with other groups already acting in this field.

Also my personal passion plays an important role here: half of my soul is deeply committed to the world of communities, so want to jump on this challenge both as an occasion to improve in this field and to give back.

Strengthened by all this backing, we consolidated the idea of having more and more events in Europe about the art of community management, with a special, but not unique, focus on online and offline (face-to-face) tech communities. Have a preferred target is important, but all the other kinds of communities are welcome: non-tech, open-source or co-working oriented, just to mentioning a few. And, of course, the nature of Community Leadership Summit X events will remain the same: very localized, “for people, made by people”. We’re all volunteers and there are no companies or economic interests behind. Passions and self-improvement drive us in pursuing this vision. And the licence frames very well the boundaries.

How do we want to reach this goal

We have a plan in mind, but it’s a draft plan and so we want to iterate on that. Right now is made by three major steps.

As first move, we’re reaching our connections asking if they would like to facilitate the organization of a CLSx event. We’ve already received positive feedback from cities like Amsterdam, Berlin and London, in addition to previous CLSx event locations in Italy (Rome and Milan), France (Paris) and Spain (Madrid). It would be great to have 10 or more CLSx events happening in European cities in 2017.

Secondly, we want to make the organization of a CLSx event as effortless as possible: an event-in-a-box guide to use as template, global sponsorship agreements to cover the very basic expenses like food, site templates, graphical resources to use for printing t-shirts, roll-up, mentorship on what works and what doesn’t  etc, so event organisers can focus on the most important thing: create the local network, invite people, fire-up the discussion, enjoy while doing all of that.

Third, we want to create a “place” where share, discuss and improve our own knowledge on community management topics: a community of community leaders and passionate. In our mind it should be an online community with an initial focus on Europe, with CLSx events as the occasions to strengthen relationships through face-to-face interactions: we’re social beasts, after all.

Forth… well, let’s start from that, and then iterate ;)

 

Do you like the idea? Do you see missing points? Do you want to propose yourself as facilitator for organising an event in your city? Are you already part of a similar movement? Ping us, we’re eager to receive your feedback.

Reddit as source for a COPE strategy, and IFTTT for all the rest

IFTTT Reddit to SlackAfter the first CLSxItaly, we added to the Slack a new channel to share interesting community management resources, like blogposts etc. It was good, because allowed us to continue the discussion with interesting ideas, mainly thanks to the tireless work of Alessio.

But I felt we were missing something, like a broader sense of sharing with other community managers outside the Slack, that could be interested to same links too. Or an easy way to browse and search thru the different resources posted. Or a way to maintain the discussion visually connected with the different links posted, instead of a long stream of messages.

I remembered that, in the old days, a dedicated service was created for link sharing and discussion, a service that has survived to the present days: Reddit. Don’t know about it? You should! Reddit looked to me the perfect place to post our resources, and turns out that a subreddit dedicated to community management already exists: r/CommunityManager.

Great! But neither I could ask to all the CLSxItaly member to migrate from Slack to Reddit, nor force a double post on Slack and Reddit. Thankfully, IFTTT came again in handy, with channels for Reddit and Slack, plus others, so I was able to quickly implement a C.O.P.E. (Create Once, Publish Everywhere) strategy, using Reddit as source and then publishing the same content on the Slack content-sharing channel, Twitter and, potentially, many more. It also satisfy different kind of users with different kind of social feeds or tools habits (I, for example, still prefer RSS feeds aggregated by a reader).

I created a new IFTTT recipe using Reddit channel for the “this” part and selecting the “Any new post in subreddit” trigger, using “CommunityManager” as parameter.

IFTTT Reddit channel

For the “then” part, instead, I used the Slack channel with the “Post to channel” action.

IFTTT Slack channel

Too easy. Now, every time someone post a link in the r/CommunityManager, the Slack channel get a message (with a delay of some minutes). Is not that cool and complete as posting a link on Slack (with image, content snippet etc), but it works well.

Finally, I did another recipe to post the same link on Twitter, to be really COPE ;)

Extending the GDG Community Summit with CLSx steroids

CLSxItaly communitiesSummer is coming, so it’s time to plan a new round of national community summits for Google Developer Group communities before enjoying a long series of mojitos on the beach. Given the main objective of these summits, offer a dedicated learning/sharing moment on community management topics to the GDGs, this year we (my team and I) come up with the idea to use the summit to extend this moment to all the tech communities in the ecosystem. And because we’re already familiar with CLSx events, we decided to organise a CLSx as activity for the first day of the summit, and leave the second day focused on GDGs only, as it has always been.

Why? Because GDGs are still at the center of our hearth, but we think we can do more for the entire community scene, so an open event for everyone interested in community management topics.

Because we’ve seen that the true potential of the ecosystem can be unleashed if the communities collaborate each other: sharing speakers, best practices and other resources, mutually empowering, drafting a common mindset for the city / area. And all these process can start only if the different community leads in the same area know each other. Clearly, this is not true for all the cities in the same way, but it’s a good starting point.

Finally, because we would also add our contribution to tackle the gender diversity issue in tech ecosystem, and working only with a set of tech communities doesn’t allow to have holistic approach this kind of issue requires.

Where? In the countries we support where the GDG communities are already thinking at country level instead of a single chapter level, so used to learn by sharing and ready to mix with a new crowds without losing their own identities. We’ve selected Italy (Rome), Spain (Madrid) and France (Paris), among the countries we support. We’re instead going for a “traditional” community summit in the other countries (Netherlands, Nordics, Greece).

Stay tuned :)

How to effectively get feedback on a talk

20160319-talkWhen I do public speaking, my talk doesn’t finish after the last question from the audience, it finishes once I’ve analysed the feedback attendees have provided. Feedback, for me, are a cornerstone of a talk life cycle (together with prepare, rehearsal and present). Let’s see different techniques I use to gather them, achieving more than 60% response rate.

Decide for meaningful and quick to fill feedback

My goal while asking for feedback is to know what I can improve for the next time: what is done is done, unfortunately. People are lazy by nature, so it’s important to find the right balance between time requested to provide feedback and detail of the information obtained. The less time, the better. Just an empty field with a question like “What do think about the talk” won’t work, it’s too generic and people will need time to think about it and what they input could be useless for me. On the other side, only a simple scale to grade the talk is too simple. Here the questions I generally ask:

  1. “How useful was the talk for you?”, a mandatory scale from 1 to 5 where 1 is “Time wasted” and 5 is “Very useful”
  2. “What you liked the most?”, a multiline free text form
  3. “One think to improve for the next time”, a multiline free text form

Make easy to provide feedback

Once I have the questions, next step is to ask them to the attendees in the quickest and painless possible way. Sites with a login is a no-go. Anonymous Google Form is perfect: credentials are not required, light to load, fits on mobile screens, focused on the task of input info, pre-fillable data via a customised URL. Try by yourself :)

20160319-slideThen the audience need the form link, so a add a slide like that at the end of my deck: the biggest QR-Code possible with form URL, plus the short address to the same form in case QR-Code doesn’t work (app not installed / low light / too small for people from the last rows etc). To be more creative, I can also use an Eddystore-URL beacon to transmit the URL, but software support to read it is, nowadays, far more complex than a QR-Code scanner. But it’s cool :)

Everything is in place, finally. But if you ask to give you feedback, only few attendees will do. Why? Because people are lazy, as said previously :)

Add some fun to the feedback experience

There are two main techniques I tested over time. First one is about explicitly ask participants to give you feedback, and declare the next 90 seconds will be dedicated to that, before start taking questions. Drawback is… the 90 seconds of silent after the request! People will be busy filling the questions, but 90 seconds of silent are tough to manage and can ruin the atmosphere of the talk.

20160319-wheel_of_namesAnother option comes from my colleague Martin Omander, that created thisWheel of Names” to distribute one gadget to the lucky winner of the raffle. I anticipate to the attendees that the ones that fill the feedback form will participated to a raffle for a small gadget. They only need to add a name or nickname at the end of the form to be eligible. Nicknames are important so people can stay anonymous in their feedback.
After the before mentioned 90 seconds, I open the form responses, copy the column with people’s nicknames in the space right to the wheel and spin it. Drawback is I need to have a gadget to offer, but sometimes can even be a symbolic object I donate to the winner, without a real value, just for fun. And it works, I can assure.

CLSxItaly: what happened and lessons learned

Communities corner

A corner with all the communities visually represented

Are you interested in what happened during the first CLSxItaly? Take a look to the Storify and to the recorded morning sessions. Curious about my retrospective? Please keep reading.

I’m excited

I’m excited because I get excited when one of my idea come to life and influence real people, in real life, and has an impact. So was CLSxItaly: from a thought I had in July to an occasion where 65 people met and shared around one the their passions: community management! First time for Italy, as far as I know, first time, for sure, for technical communities.
I’m excited because only half of the attendees came from technical communities, while the other half represented travel communities, open source projects, coworking and urban spaces, creative artists, maker and much more.
I’m excited because we has a 35% women participation, and diversity matters.
I’m excited because we all had fun: 3,74 average score (out of 4) is something we can be proud of ! :)

Key learnings

The CLSxItaly core organisers

The CLSxItaly core organisers

First personal gain was the core organisers team: discover that a spontaneous group of people is able to create a team that works great for accomplishing a particular tasks is always a bless! And so were Alessio, Michel and Stefano. Thank you guys, you make my small dream possible, and with style!

Second important point was the umpteenth confirmation that a vision, passions and personal relationships are the three key tools to achieve any goal: the before mentioned organisers team gifted me with their own time and commitment; Davide had no hesitation when I asked him “We need a place to host 100 people for an event, and for free”; Francesco, Francesco and Mara+Chiara+Andrea put real money to make everything possible: they all believed in the same vision I had and, sustained by a common passion and connected by our personal relationships, we all morphed that vision into a real fact.

Me rearranging unconference proposals

Me rearranging unconference proposals

Third key actor for the success of CLSxItaly were the attendees. Every time I received an Eventbrite notification that someone paid 15 euro to join, I though “Oh wow, another person that trusts in our idea”. The most important positive feedback we received were about the quality of the networking, the easy-going atmosphere and the constant sharing. All of them were only because of the quality of the attendees. Probably the non-free ticket for the event, the (still) niche topics discussed and the location helped to pre-selected the audience.

Regarding the experience to offer to the attendees, selecting only two core goals and working all around them made the job. We choose to focus in creating a learning path equally composed by frontal teaching along a common narrative (the plenary sessions during the morning) and peer learning (the unconference in the afternoon), plus special care in creating lot of occasions to get in touch each other and warm-up relations as soon as possible. All the rest followed: over the two coffee breaks, the lunch and the aperitif I saw lot of different aggregation groups, and this was positive. Despite just a bounce of folks have participated to an unconference before CLSxItaly, the general feeling was positive.

So, what’s next

I lead an unconference session regarding next steps for CLSxItaly. We had some ideas to run the next event in Rome in six months, drive by people of the local context. Let’s see. For sure, I want continue what has been started in Milan. But, as for Milan, I cannot do it alone. Wanna help? Join the discussion!

 

CLSxItaly: The Community Leadership Summit event is a reality

CLSxItalySome months ago, I threw a stone in the pond: I launched the idea to organize an event focused on community management for the Italian tech community ecosystem. Something new for our country, never realized before, something I consider really helpful for the peculiar ecosystem situation we’re living now. Thanks for all the support and feedback I’ve received so far, the ideas has became reality. On February 27th, in Milan, Talent Garden Calabiana is hosting the first CLSxItaly.

Should you come? If you’re the manager of a tech community of any kind (development, makers, operative systems and many more) and you want to learn more about your “job/passion” as a community manager, definitively yes! If your company is working on a technical product and considers the community a crucial part of its development cycle, you should come. If you think you have something to say about diversity in the IT world, you have to come!

How the event will be? A Community Leadership Summit X event type follows a precise licence, so the CLSxItaly will. The event will start on Saturday morning with plenary sessions (have ideas? Ping me please!), then the lunch and then the afternoon will be dedicated to unconference sessions, where participants can discuss topics, needs and ideas they like. A final aperitif will close the day together. This is the “official program”, them I’m sure lot of satellite events will happen, at the end community managers live on that!

What are the CLSxItaly’s goals? First, meet the other Italian community managers face to face. As already discussed, I know different tech communities that have gathered under a national umbrella (GrUSP, GDG ItaliaUGIdotNET, JUG, LUG etc), but I also know they don’t exist important cross-community relations, so the event can be the occasion to create them: similar experiences I had in other countries told me that it can only be a good thing. Then, I don’t know about any occasion in Italy to discuss, explore, share and experiment around the “art of community management”, so why don’t create one? Finally, I want to give back: communities have always been one of my passions since the far 2007, when I founded the CMLug, until today, when they are part of my daily job. And passions matter!

So, save the date (February 27th, Milan), spread the voice using the CLSxItaly hashtag and, if you’re interested in joining the adventure, please let me know, even in the comments: there are plenty of things to do (and to learn) and your hand, although small, is more than welcome. To make it more clearer: we need to start from the basics, from building the website… Any help on that?

Organise a national community summit – during the event

GDG Leads Summit France 2015

GDG Leads Summit France 2015

Between September and October of this year, I organised two national community summits, one for Italians Google Developer Group leads, the other for French. 70 people in total, a weekend each, lot of fun! After explained the reason why I worked on that, my stream of consciousness continues along a temporal line: the before the summit, the during, discussed in this post, and the after, subjects for future post.

As described previously, the summit agenda is co-decided together with the participants, and it can be very fluid and dynamic. But there are some activities I always run, because I consider them structural to a good summit.

Define summit objectives, and their importance

Summit goals

Summit goals…

The opening activity defines a list of common summit objectives, from participants point of view. We need concrete metrics to measure summit success, and the number of achieved goals from that list by the end of the event is a good one.

There are plenty of techniques to create that list, but I personally prefer to ask participants to write down on sticky notes the two most important objectives they want to achieve at the summit. After 5 minutes, I start asking to a person to read her first goal and then, back to all the participants, how many have reported a similar goal. Then, we may slightly adjust the original goal to include also the others, copy it into a whiteboard and add how many people have it in common. Finally, all the sticky notes covered by that goal are discarded. And I repeat, until all sticky notes are finished. When discussing a goal, I try to be specific and precise, because it’s easy to move to very generic objectives hard to measure, like “Getting ideas to improve the quality of my community”. Improvements regarding what aspect of your community? Number or participants? Core organisers? Speakers? Sponsorships?
Writing down on two sticky notes, instead of freely asking what those goals are, allows to focus on the really important ones. Otherwise, without selecting them first, it would be easy to say multiple times “Oh yes, true, this point is important also for me”, losing the importance dimension.
In addition, the list provides insights on potential topics to discuss in the months after the summit, during the follow-up community management training sessions.

Identify common pain points, and who has already solved them

... And pain points

… And pain points

The second activity is for creating a map of current weaknesses the communities have. I use this map, again, both to measure summit success, in terms of useful replies provided to those points during the event, and to plan after the summit. And it has another great use: it can connect people who don’t know each other: in a summit with 20+ community managers with different level of expertise, it’s easy that one pain point has been already solved by another community, so it’s worthwhile to chat with its managers to understand how. In fact. I often run this activity just before the lunch or the first long break, to warm-up the informal conversations.

Among the many techniques to create this map, I proceed like previous activity: one sticky note each attendee where write down the most important need their community has. Similar discussion to find if others have same need, copy it to the whiteboard, together with the number of sharers. But now, before moving to the next one, I ask how many people have already solved what we just highlighted on the board. If someone raises her hand, I say to the people with the need: “Memorize her face, now you know near to who you have to sit down during the lunch”.

During the summit

Then the summit continues, with its specific agenda. One attention I have is to leave different free moments for destructured chats. Moments with nothing to do, but I don’t give the impression they are empty slots of time: I put them in the agenda, using terms as “Free chats”, or “Coffee machine chat moment”, so attendees know what they are supposed to do.

Inevitably, the summit also arrives near to its end, and I reserve the last two hours for three activities: a free Q&A session, a quick summit retrospective and the group photo.

Free Q&A session

Despite the unplanned free chat moments, I’ve seen that some questions are common to lot of people, so discuss them all together can save some time and allows to stay all aligned, and I reserve 45 to 60 minutes for a firechat with me and the other Googlers. In the past, we have gone from the kind of support Google can offer for their activities, to national events we can plan together, from details on some Google-wide initiatives, to complaints from managers. We’ve also discussed the evolution of a national community identity, a strategy to record, edit and publish sessions presented during the community events, if and how to do social media involving all the communities and much, much more.

Summit retrospective

In order to verify summit success, I reserve another 45 to 60 minutes to a quick retrospective. We start from the first whiteboard created at the beginning, asking, for each objective, how many people feel it has been achieved. Then, some simple math: if 7 people participated to the summit to figure out the next step of their community in term of event format, and 5 of them have been able to find good ideas, we had a good success on this goal. Clearly, only people who proposed an objective can decide if it has been reached or not. The sum of the success scores for each point defines how the summit has met the expectation of the attendees, if the time they bet on the event was well spent or not.
Similar approach, but this time for needs partially or totally solved.

Then we decide if there are Action Items we need to carry on after the summit. Writing them down and assigning responsibilities and deadlines for them is crucial, because the day after the summit is… A totally different day and it’s easy to forget everything!

Last part of the retrospective is dedicated to fill a form I prepared with evaluations for every single activities and sessions proposed during the summit, in a scale from 1 to 5, plus some bonus questions like the global usefulness of the summit, the best thing, the one to improve for the next time etc. Ten minutes are reserved for this activity, because… Again, tomorrow is Monday, and we have already forgotten everything!

Group photo

Picture, or it hasn’t happened“, so it’s time for the group photo. And to start saying goodbye, or having the lunch together. And, for me, to start thinking to the summit follow-up ;)