Last week Skye Jethani had some issues with our twtpick experiment to find some new speakers for THE NINES. He blogged about it. After an email from me, he called. It was a good, pleasant conversation.
In order to help folks understand what we were doing I posted a clarification on our blog and Skye was kind enough to post an excerpt over on Out of Ur, site of his original post.
To further show that it is good in both of our understandings to have disagreements without being harsh, we have agreed to ask each other questions so folks can see a clearer picture.
Skye is, of course, a journalist and editor and I am not. So my answers tend to ramble on. Forgive me.
Skye: You’ve noted that the Twitter poll has been really effective at generating more names of possible speakers for THE NINES. What other criteria do you use to select the speakers?
Good question and we get it a lot. To keep from rambling on too much, I gave an answer in May in response to our SAGE online conference. You can find that full answer here:
I also answer why sometime speakers choose not to participate there.
But in summary, we ask for nominations from our staff, about 15 people. Most of those staff are based across the country and have some wide relational networks. Now many of those nominated comes from those we work with in our regular programs.
As I said in that post: “Most of the speakers have been a part of one of our Leadership Communities, Labs, or the like. Or we have known them forever through our history. So, if you have never been a part of one of our programs, it is hard for us to know you.”
In order to get a blend of speakers we do seek out some interesting stories from people that are friends of friends. And we try to mix people our clients have heard before with people that few have heard. If you were to go back and look at THE NINES last year, Aha! And SAGE this year, you would find that to be true.
I would just also say that we choose to platform people that we think have a story that needs to be told, particularly if they are an ‘unknown’ voice. We try to cast a wide net.
We ask a lot of people, and sometimes speakers choose not to participate and I cover that in that previous post.
And I will also say – we ask God to have people say “yes” that can help leaders expand and clarify their own leadership as a Christian leader. That means I can listen to someone that I disagree with and still learn something and gain clarity on my own leadership. There are some people on our list that I think I can learn from even though I may not like how they lead, their church, their views, or other assorted baggage they may bring with them.
I think most viewers and participants at any conference are very discerning about what to keep and what to throw out.
Skye: Given all of the shortcomings you and Todd have acknowledged about the Twitter poll, why have you decided it’s worth keeping up?
I am the king of shortcomings and failures so people pointing them out really doesn’t hurt my feelings. (or feeling as some of my staff would say)
But like I said in a previous post, despite the fact of sending surveys to thousands of people after last year’s THE NINES asking for recommendations, we got back pitifully few names. And the ones we got were mostly people we had just had on THE NINES. The few that weren’t were people we had slated for future online conferences. So, bottom line, not a lot of new names.
In addition, we did ask some friends on an informal basis and got a few new names.
While I knew almost all of our Aha! And SAGE speakers from being the old man at Leadership Network my guess is that very few others knew the majority.
Now our blog doesn’t have the readership that yours does, but as we have asked via our twitter and blogs, we still tend to get the same names.
Here is the first tweet from two weeks ago from Todd Rhoades, our digital guru:
Todd put it out there to his twitter followers. It says, “tell us who you would like to see.” Some have said we should have considered all the implications and unintended consequences of everything we try. Honestly, if we did this, we would never get anything done. If you worry about how a few will respond, we wouldn’t reach very many people.
But we liked the idea to try it. We like trying new things. If things don’t work, we just don’t do them again. We’ve had some faulty programs and events in the past and we just move on to the next idea. We are ok with people not liking the idea.
We had no idea so many people we see or use it. We hoped we could get at least 100 new names and a 1000 people to look at the page. Obviously we have surpassed those numbers.
The site lets people nominate whoever they want, whether we like them or not. Plus it lets us see who nominated them and who is saying “I would like to hear this person speak.” So there is no anonymity to hide behind.
Sure, the template technology, which allows very little tweaking, is limiting. I didn’t figure people would use the “dislike” button much and just eyeballing it, people are using the “like” button 10 times more than the other one. One has to really read into the page to look at this as a ‘like’/’dislike’ of the individual. This page was created to solicit names of speakers people wanted to hear/see at THE NINES. In that context, ‘like’ means I’d like to hear them; ‘dislike’ means I would ‘not like’ hearing them. Nothing more.
And like I said on my previous post, a high dislike factor means that this person may have some interesting things to say.
It won’t stay up forever, once we get ready to release the “official” site for this year, I think we will leave it alone.
Skye: Have you been surprised at all by the feedback you’ve received from folks other than me?
Well we have certainly been surprised by how many people have looked at the page and how many suggested folks.
So far, and I know you don’t like it, this little experiment has generated tons of potential speakers. (Over 400) A lot of people, over 12,000, have made a comment. We never get that kind of feedback with any other technology. The number of comments is about ten times the number of any other list on their platform. Which means that the topic of Christian Leadership is ten times more popular than iPad apps right now.
Todd had a call from someone on the list who wanted to be taken off, and we took them off. I had one call from a pastor friend who felt bad for someone near the bottom and said I should have mercy on them and take them off. I told him that I like that person and they had always been gracious to me and that it wasn’t going to influence whether we would invite that person or not.
I was surprised by some names at the bottom of the list because I think they may have a good contribution to the conversation. In fact, I will blog about that hopefully later this week.
Other than a very few bloggers and a few comments on your blog, it’s been pretty quiet, except for the thousands who did vote, and the hundreds who submitted speakers.
Now part of that is that we have a pretty solid list of people that don’t like Leadership Network, the churches we serve and how we do it. (Not saying you are in that camp) But part of my job is to keep us focused on our mission and plan and focus on those that are receptive to our point of view.
About the weirdest thing I read was that someone said 9 minutes was not long enough and that 20 minutes is also too short. We think both of those are way too long for this type of format. We find that good communicators can make a good point in six minutes.
Skye: How might a pastor without a publishing deal, a big church, or massive name recognition get a shot at speaking on THE NINES or any other Leadership Network event? How do you try to cultivate new, wise voices?
Well, I sound like a broken record ( I guess you have to old to even know what that is anymore) but I would encourage people to go look and see who spoke at our last three online events and you will see that most of these aren’t authors and don’t speak “on the circuit.” Now many do lead innovative, growing churches but that is sort of our niche. I make no apology for that.
The lists do tend to be dominated by churches that have been in our Leadership Community programs because we get to know them over time. Our Leadership Communities and Labs are high commitment and highly selective. That’s where our process of helping churches double their impact in half the time works. Those are our core efforts.
The things like these online Conference is maybe 5% of what we do. It’s a visible 5% but something that we try to do on a shoe string and borrowed time.
And we have used this list project to gather some new names looking carefully at multiple blogs, twitter trails and web sites to check some folks out. I added four dozen blogs to the additional 250 I already follow to check in with folks. And we are going to seek out some videos from some folks that we have gleaned from the site to try. And others we will save for future online conferences.
Now you suggested that we take three minute videos and look at them.
Actually, we already had in the plan something like that and we will announce that soon.
But we don’t have a full time staff to work on this. We sort of throw things together and hope they work. Even with that, I don’t think we could preview all of them. So, Todd has cooked up a plan for that. At least I hope he has. Like I said, we use this to experiment.
If you are looking for slick and polished stuff, by all means go to one of the really great Christian leader conferences that are happening this fall. We announce a new one in our Leadership Network Advance about every issue. And we go hang out and meet lots of folks at them when we can. But we hold these parts of our program together with bailing string and bubble gum and save most of our firepower for our Leadership Communities and Labs.
In 2009, we had 51 “live” gatherings for Leadership Network things and 1 online conference. Sure the online conference reached a whole bunch of folks, but it’s not our core deal.
Skye: On a positive note, what can we look forward to about THE NINES this year? How will it be different than the last conference?
I hope were having Skye Jethani to share with us!
Well it is going to be shorter. ONLY 9 hours instead of 13. Speakers are going to be limited to 6 minutes.
All kidding aside, we have several new layers we are adding this year that we aren’t quite ready to announce BUT here is what I can tell you:
Everyone can still come for free.
IF you want to buy a beautiful program book with a tentative schedule and run order with notes from many of the speakers, that will be an option.
We are going to have a group party option too!
And a super duper, maximum learning option as well I think.
Perhaps a surprise location that will intrigue some and anger others.
Hopefully, some guests and color commentators “live” that day.
If I sound vague it’s mainly because we have thrown lots of ideas on the page and are now trying to figure out if we can do them all. I am not afraid to have us fail boldly at this type of thing. We learn each time and try and improve the next time.
Hang with us. The best is yet to come. Or at least the better.
If you follow @leadnet on twitter you will get the latest information about our event this year.