Doing a Flip Conference Without Flipping out … too Much

--Originally published at FLN – matthewtmoore


This is the story with only weeks to go.

In under three weeks there is a tremendous flipped and blended learning conference happening in Huntley, Illinois, June 15th and 16th. This is more than a sales pitch for the Illinois Flipped & Blended Learning Network Conference (#ilfabn), this is a behind-the-scenes look at some of the things that it takes to put on a flip conference. You can read in my previous blogs about the genesis of this idea from the mind of one crazy Chicagoan, combined with the unlimited energy of another Chicagoan, and a fella from a cornfield. There is also a previous blog in which I described the good, the bad, and the ugly of getting a conference planned and on the ground. This blog is a last-minute update as we prepare to actually put this thing on. You can find the registration page along with the most current schedule here.

A Small Scare…

Among the things that we have nailed down since the last blog are the actual facilities costs. We have been very lucky, that Huntley High School has worked with us, and generously provided facilities at a considerable savings to us because one of our cofounders works at the school.  However anyone looking at putting on a conference needs to be in clear communication with their district office from the very beginning.  Additionally, make no assumptions about what a district can or cannot do for you because, districts have legal and fairness restrictions that they must abide by regardless of how much they may want to help you. I am speaking from experience, as just this week we had a bit of a scare regarding liability insurance and who was going to be in charge of that.  You don’t expect someone to fall while sitting in a desk at a conference, but at our conference we want people up, moving around, and creating. While you think a group of adults could do that without hurting themselves, we’ve all been to the teachers lounge, and we all know who we work with.  This is an item that cannot be left to chance, it needs to be part of the discussion from the very beginning with the host site. This is just an example of the million and one things that you may or may not think about when trying to put on a conference even with the very best of intentions.

Now For The Fun Part…

On the brighter side we also have entered the phase where this conference gets really fun. Our boundless energy guy Gerry, think of a squirrel with a few cans of Red Bull in it, he questioned why ate we bringing all these presenters and having them only talk once?  He decided that it would be best if we took each presenter that was willing and have them do a half hour speed session during the course of the day. Using the speed sessions our attendees could participate in as many presentations as possible.  We are also offering an evening edcamp where if you want to learn more about a particular topic you have opportunity. Another idea from the mind of Gerry (WARNING): was a Google doc for every presentation so the discussion on any given session, workshop or edcamp can continue in the digital space long after the presentation has ended and interaction and relationships can continue to build.  

Both Live And Remote…

Our idea guys, Kevin and Gerry, were at work again and decided we would “stream” some of the conference content so follow us on Twitter @ilfabn or subscribe to the ILFABN newsletter for details. Our keynote @donwettrick liked the idea enough and he is offering a special session. We had the “why buy the cow…” conversation but Don, @katebaker, the presenters, and sponsors have been generous with us and our mission is “Outstanding conference, Affordable cost”. Additionally, our larger goal is to build a regional network of flip and blended professionals within the larger flipped community. We want to provide this digital content at our ILFABN Homepage along side the podcasts, blogs, and other resources going up every day. Let’s be honest we will add content once we have recovered about June 20th.


More sessions are being added due to demand!

We have opened more rooms to accommodate the number of registrants.  I take credit for the ability to react to this one.  When we called for presenters we clarified that each presenter may be asked to do a any presentation twice.  Our goal was to ensure we had flexibility in scheduling and could provide the widest number of options to our attendees.  As it turns out, not many will be presenting twice as we had awesome proposals and many willing presenters, but times like this allow us to expand and react quickly. In terms of cost, the incremental cost of opening a new room is a no brainer provided we are careful not to dilute concurrent sessions.  The additional attendees quickly cover the cost of the additional room and do not impact the fixed minimum facilities cost or keynote fee.  Planning for “right-sizing”, whether expansion or contraction, is important from the outset.

Now for some silliness…

We have had multiple, yes multiple, requests for an edcamp session about how to put on a successful conference.  THAT’S SILLY! If you have read this blog, and the two previous blogs, you realize this conference is the result of giving Larry, Moe, and Curly keys to a school building, contrary to the legal advice of our legal team at Dewey, Cheatham & Howe.  We have lots of ideas, but if you return here in a month this blog will likely contain a list of formal apologies and a litany of failed “good ideas”.  I have the greatest respect for @bennettscience, @helaniemarshall, @kenbauer, @kellywalsh, for Flipcons and other conferences from which we have blatantly stolen and attempted to imitate. Check back next month for a wrap up and report but regardless of how ILFABN goes I am psyched I am a part of this with Larry and Moe…err…Kevin and Gerry.

Come see us in person June 15th and 16th at the Illinois Flipped & Blended Learning Network Conference … $45 for two days … and Gerry has an open couch because I call Kevin’s.



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