Big Ideas ’13?

We hadn’t even packed up the staging before people we’re already asking about Big Ideas 2013. We are so flattered, and at this point are still in “afterglow” mode. We are soaking up all the good ideas, reeling with all the amazing and profound thoughts that were shared, and foraging through all of the beautiful photos and videos from the event. Well yeh, all that and paying bills, organizing files and sending thank yous:) Anyway, I wanted to acknowledge the overwhelming support and excitement around big ideas, particularly those that are eagerly awaiting version 2.0.

YOU can steal this model! There are several components of this conference you can steal and use on your campus, in your division or in your organization. Below are a few tips/tricks:

  • More than half our speakers were FREE. You just need to be creative. Are you brining someone to campus this fall (for students) that you can write in their contract to do a TED style talk for a professional development program? Have you checked your university’s speakers bureau? Talk to your friends (outside higher ed) and your family to brainstorm a list of people with interesting stories. Want an awesome keynote/featured speaker that is an advocate for a certain charity? Find out if you can exchange service for a speaking engagement. Even if you get 4-6 awesome TED style talks your on your way to a great half day program.
  • Interviews can be even easier to book, you just need an awesome dynamic host. We are lucky enough to have amateur gameshow host in the making working right in our department, but if you dont have that luxury here are some ideas. Talk to people at community theaters, the theater program on campus or one of your favorite trainers/facilitators that you bring in for student training. Once you have your host then you can look for interviewees. Interviewees typically are more apt to get on board and are much more likely to participate for free. Look in local news, campus wide news, or ask your students about the most interesting person they know.
  • Cool curators is the perfect thing to compliment a half day “big ideas” style program. It can either be the first thing as people are coming in, the middle to add in a break, or the end with some food stations (cheese, crackers and fruit…nothing fancy). Essentially cool curators is an expo style component of the experience. We had “ignite” style talks that were 5-7 minutes long and ran 5 in a row in our coffeehouse, then there were “poster session” type displays at tables, and lastly we had a gadget/tech showcase. It was a HUGE hit!

Here are the only rules…

  • Speakers should be outside higher ed/student affairs. Let the cool curators exhibit show off cool stuff going on in the industry. However, until this concept of speakers outside our industry becomes common practice we have to continue to do it pockets. It is truly a powerful way to spark new and innovative ideas.
  • Stick to EXPERTS and inspiring stories. Kohl Crecelius is an expert on empowerment because he is empowering people in third world countries through Krochet Kids international. Your boss might be really good at empowerment, but Big Ideas come from EXPERTS. People like John Lahutsky, Amber Rose Johnson and Eric LeGrand have powerful inspiring stories. Your neighbor might have a cool story, but push yourself to find crazy inspiring stories. They are out there…
  • Find someone to be the vision keeper. Molly Barker introduced us to the “vision keeper” terminology and I LOVE IT! You need a vision keeper with Big Ideas planning. You will face a LOT of resistance, and most of it isn’t even meant to be negative. It comes from fear, misunderstanding, and the almighty status quo (which can add up to a lot of pressure on the vision keeper). The vision keeper should be the project manager so that each aspect of the program connects to the vision of Big Ideas!

Now you are ready! You dont have to wait until Big Ideas 13, you can go out there and plan your own. If you do, share info about it here. Depending on where it is…we may check it out!!

Courtney O’Connell

The Jersey Alliance, President

Big Ideas Conference 2012, Vision Keeper


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