Using An Online Community Platform to Crowdsource Conference Sessions

By Andy Steggles posted Aug 19, 2013 05:09 PM


It’s that time of year again--time to crowdsource sessions for Higher Logic’s annual Users Group Conference, HUG Super Forum. This year is the fourth year we've done the conference, with each year drawing more attendees, and we expect this year’s event to be the best yet. One of the reasons I think HUG Super Forum has been such a success is the way we pick the sessions. That is to say, we don’t pick them--Higher Logic users do.

Each year we use crowdsourcing to set the agenda for the meeting. About six months in advance of the conference, we announce the call for sessions on HUG, Higher Logic’s user community. This year’s call for sessions post is here if you’re a member of HUG; in case you’re not, this is what Rob Wenger, Higher Logic’s CEO, posted:

It's that time of year again! Time to put together the educational program for the HUG Super Forum. Since this event is FOR YOU, we want YOU to tell us what you'd like to learn.

We'll have 21 educational session slots this year. Some given by members of the Orange Army (HL Staff), most given by Connected Community users, like you. The great part is, you (the HUG community) decides what will be presented.

So, please suggest a session and/or vote on the suggestions made by others. It can be one you'd like to give, or one you'd like to hear. As always, those with the highest ratings and most positive comments are the ones you'll see in December.

HUG members can either post topics they’d like to see covered at the conference or submit sessions for consideration. Users then upvote submitted sessions or propose sessions in response to suggested topics. Because the platform the whole process takes place on is the HUG community, the process isn’t the usual thumbs up/down that people think of when they hear “crowdsourcing”--it’s more interactive and transparent and the result is always a fantastic lineup of sessions. When Higher Logic staff evaluate all the submitted sessions to set the agenda, we don’t just select the sessions with the most votes; we take both votes and comments into account.  For example, you might have two very similar submissions, so you’d likely not choose both of them even though they are rated very highly.

Because users are so involved in the process, the result is increasing attendance each year and high satisfaction ratings for the event because the sessions are all relevant and timely and address issues users are currently dealing with. The traditional route of doing a blind call for submissions where the only people who see the submissions are a committee often results in a program that isn’t relevant to a wide number of potential attendees or failed attendee expectations. Crowdsourcing the call for sessions helps align user needs and expectations and helps them build a conference that they look forward to attending every year.

Remember, registration for the SuperForum is now open... sign up now!