Next week 10 of us from across the advertising and digital industry gather in Boulder for another two-day workshop, teaching and learning at Boulder Digital Works Executive Workshop. We’ll have 80 “students,” mid to senior-level agency folks mostly – account people, creative, planners – who are interested in getting their agencies to evolve more quickly, embracing the kind of work, teams and processes that will keep them relevant in an age of constant change.
Those attending think they’re traveling to Boulder for the content and the learning, which will be pretty darn good. But like the instructors who keep showing up — despite little or no compensation and a significant commitment of time and energy — they’ll discover they’re really coming for the community. The connections they make, with each other and with the instructors, will turn out to be as valuable as the talks and exercises they sit through during the two days.
BDW, with the help of the team above, has learned this lesson well. Those of us who gather to teach do so in large part because the workshops bring us together in a manner and place where we can not only share ideas and find new sources of inspiration, but where we can deepen relationships that extend well beyond the cluttered and noisy classroom.
At the same time, the school’s done an equally good job of connecting us to students (both workshop attendees and those in the graduate program) and the students to each other in ways that extend beyond specific events, whether it’s giving them access to ongoing sources of content or, in the case of graduate students, to mentors and prospective employers.
In some cases it’s been accomplished with a basic use of social media tools – they do a great job of connecting everyone via Twitter, a Posterous blog, and the BDW crowdsourced website – but also through a cultural mindset and commitment to keeping us connected. How many conferences have you been to where that’s not the case?
For anyone putting on a conference or a workshop, or launching yet another institute, here is thought worth keeping in mind: events last for a day or two; community lasts for years. Do a good job at both.