Let’s Talk About Attrition Rates at UnConferences

I’ve been helping to run UnConferences since way back in 2009 when Liz Davis and I organized the inaugural EdubloggerCon East at BLC. I’ve since helped to organize that conference for three years, a TeachMeetNJ, EdCamp Common Core and two EdCamp Leaderships.

Running an unconference is not rocket science, but it is a commitment of time and effort. I’m happy to do it. I welcome the opportunity to exchange information and ideas in an informal setting. I’m even happy to go to vendors asking for money to pay for food and door prizes.

Here’s my concern:

Is 50% attrition acceptable?

Why do we accept only half of registrants on a free event showing up as a good turnout?

For planning purposes the organizing committee must plan for:

  • enough space
  • enough food
  • give-aways
  • sponsors

Honestly, the time and efforts donated by the organizers is the same whether it’s 200 people or 400, but I hate to see the wasted food, that could have fed some local hungry families. I hate to see the vendors spend the money on the wasted food when they could have donated equipment or supplies to a local classroom in need. I hate to see the organizers stress over how many people will ACTUALLY show up and whether there is enough space and food for them.

So, why do I bring this up now after four years of hosting these events? 

I have seen the attrition rates creeping up over the years. Back in 2009, almost everyone that registered for a free event would show as the concept was such a novelty. Over the next couple of years, we would plan for 30% of folks that had “bought” tickets not showing. Then, last summer I planned for 50% attrition. But, last Monday, for Edcamp Leadership, we had only 25% of registrants show. Believe me, we all had a fantastic day, but it was disappointing.

What’s the plan? Do organizing committees continue to guesstimate? Or do we establish some unwritten rules about only registering for something that you are committing to attend. Please share your thoughts.

For Edcamp Newbies

Yesterday, with the support of SGEI and Kean University, where I work, I hosted edcamp Common Core. The idea was to gather NJ educators to discuss a common theme.

Here’s what I heard from attendees in the morning before we shared opening remarks in the auditorium:

  • Why weren’t the sessions posted ahead of time?
  • Where are the experts?
  • I did not come prepared to talk.
  • I just came to listen.
  • Don’t you have any handouts for us?
  • Am I going to learn anything?

I was nervous for a bit in the morning before the session board filled. Thank goodness Ann Oro did such a good job at settling the nerves of some of the attendees and even got some of them to post sessions.

Once we all got into the auditorium I went over some basic notes on the facility and then reviewed the concepts behind an unconference. I also went over the schedule with them so that they could see what types of discussions were going to occur and possibly even add an idea of their own on the way up to the first sessions.

I ended with these rules for the day:

  1. Listen. Everyone has something to contribute.
  2. Participate. You have something to add to the conversation.
  3. Think with your feet.
  4. Have a good time.

Here’s what I heard at the share-out at the end of the day and from e-mails sent to me that evening:

  • I wanted to take a moment to express my enjoyment at today’s sessions! The conversations throughout the day were healthy, respectful, and informative among the educators in the building, I look forward to future edCamp events.
  • Thanks for setting this up.  Best day this summer.
  • Again, the conference was great and got me thinking in a lot of new ways.
  • I’m becoming an edcamp junkie.
  • Thank you so very much for the opportunity to attend the edcamp today, It was my very first time and I must admit I was a little leery not knowing what it was really about. It turned out to be an eye-opening experience. It was great to see, hear and discuss a common ground with other teachers.
  • I greatly enjoyed meeting teachers from other school districts to share our thoughts on different areas of education.  Thank you for setting up this unconference.
  • Would you please email me information on how to set up an edcamp in my school?

It’s not that I didn’t attempt to educate attendees on what the day would be like. It was all on the website that was linked to the Eventbrite. It’s just that the concept is still so new to so many people.

There are many, many more edcamps already scheduled. There’s even another in NJ on December 1. Please share our experiences from yesterday with your colleagues and future edcamp attendees.

edcamp Common Core

A few months ago, as we were planning our PD for the summer at Kean, I realized that I really wanted to provide an event at the SGEI this summer that was of no cost to educators. The theme that we chose for this edcamp is the Common Core Standards.  Educators are encouraged to gather at this event to discuss the following topics:

  • What are districts doing to implement the Common Core?
  • What am I expected to know about the Common Core Standards for the grade level(s) and content area I teach to prepare my students for the 2014?
  • What am I expected to know as a classroom teacher?
  • Just how different are the Common Core from previous state standards?
  • What kinds of professional development are available to assist with implementing the Common Core?

is proud to present this FREE event for NY and NJ educators. 
This “UNCONFERENCE” will be held at the STEM Building 
at Kean University on August 9, 2012 from 8am – 4pm.

Register for this event using

We are looking for educators that have been implementing the standards in the classrooms/schools/districts to join us that day and facilitate conversations at the roundtables. Please contact me directly if you are interested in helping make this event a success!

EduBloggerCon East 2011

It’s that time of year again! Liz and I are gearing up for #ebce11

What, Where and When:

EduBloggerCon East
Monday, July 25, 2011
Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Tower, Boston, MA
9am – 5pm: Come all day, or any part of it! (If you want to help organize the day, you can show up at 8am.)

If you can’t attend in person, consider one or both of these ways of joining the conversation:

UStream Channel – http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ebce11
Twitter Hashtag: #ebce11


EduBloggerCon is based on the idea of an “unconference”.  If you are not clear on what an unconference is, please check out my post on it from last year. Join  new and old educational colleagues to discuss topics not always discussed during more traditional conferences. The bonus is that this event is FREE thanks to the donation of space and bandwidth from the November Learning team.


Please visit the “I’m Attending” page at http://www.edubloggercon.com/ebcEast2011Attending and add your details. In the next couple of days, Liz and I will post a schedule that attendees may begin to fill in.

One more thing…

Liz and I have decided to add one more component to this year’s event. We’d like to have 5 Ignite presentations. Liz and I will each take one, which means we are looking for three more volunteers. Ignite presenters will be using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes just as seen in these videos.

From the Ignite site: “Fast-paced, fun, thought-provoking, social, local, global—Ignite is all of these and more. It’s a high-energy evening of 5-minute talks by people who have an idea—and the guts to get onstage and share it…”

If you are interested in presenting your idea in this challenging format, please contact me (lisa dot thumann at gmail dot com) or Liz (Liz b davis at gmail dot com) to reserve your spot and find out when your slides are due!

I hope to see many of you there on the 25th.

Web 2.0 Smackdown at EdubloggerCon East

EdubloggerCon East 2010

Yesterday was the 3rd Annual EdubloggerCon East. Among the sessions facilitated during the day, was our Web 2.0 Smackdown which we streamed and archived. Here’s a link to the archive as well as all the links shared. Thank you to all that participated both in-person as well as virtually. Enjoy!

Instapaper http://www.instapaper.com/

Readability https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/46442/

yolink http://yolink.com/education/

SweetSearch http://www.sweetsearch.com/

Read 2 Me (ipad App) http://www.whatsoniphone.com/reviews/read2me-review

isock (ipad App) http://www.commonsensemedia.org/mobile-app-reviews/isock-talking-sock

Access My Library http://www.accessmylibrary.com/

Toondoo  http://www.toondoo.com/

Evernote  http://www.evernote.com/ (specifically for it’s handwriting recognition capabilities)

Delicious  http://delicious.com – (specifically using it to tag copyright-friendly images for student projects)

Packrati.us  http://packrati.us/

TutPup  http://tutpup.com/

Intel Thinking Tools  http://www.intel.com/about/corporateresponsibility/education/k12/tools.htm

IPEVO Point 2 vView usb camera – http://www.ipevo.com/Point-2-View-USB-Camera_p_70.html

Cast.org – The Science Writer – http://sciencewriter.cast.org/welcome;jsessionid=4987B5B2A1837E13741DC957D698372D

Connect The Dots – http://connectthedots.aldoshoes.com/

Voicethread Site License – Specifically for groups to manage accounts on Voicethread.com – using VT to give feedback for 200 students – great idea

Google Squared – http://www.google.com/squared

Paper.li – http://paper.li/

Twitter Tim.es – http://twittertim.es/

Mashpedia – http://mashpedia.com/