Susan Riley | August 2013

Building Connectivity: The Past and Future of a Conference

You may have seen all of the information we’ve been sharing about our annual Connectivity online Conference over the last several months.  Now that the dust has settled and we’ve had a chance to catch our breath, we wanted to take a moment to share with you some of the highlights, the behind-the-scenes action, our feedback and takeaways and some exciting ways you can still grab this incredible professional development.  We’re taking a look at both the past and the future of our online conference and we hope you’ll join in on our fun ride.


We had some incredible highs from this online conference.  As this was the 2nd year of our offering a completely online conference, we had a leg-up from last July.  First, we figured out that hosting a bunch of webinars on a static platform was really limiting.  We just couldn’t build a sense of community around a webinar – it seemed really 20th century.  So, we built a website to host the event and act as our venue.  So much better!  It truly felt like a virtual expo center and even had a presentation stage that rotated as the different videos came on.

Second, we also discovered the power of the teacher’s lounge.  Our online discussion board, this became the popular place to be – in addition to our Twitter live chat – to ask questions, network and make meaningful connections with others at the conference.

Finally, we had a great time having social media built in to the online conference venue and using that as a means of sharing the professional development we were all receiving with others who couldn’t attend the online conference.  As educators, we love to share and it was wonderful to have a venue which encouraged this natural instinct.

Behind-the-Scenes Action

Our first (and really only) snafu came at the very beginning of the conference when we turned on the website and let it go live.  We had so many participants who all tried to get on at once (think the doors to your favorite retailer at 12:01 AM on Black Friday) that it crashed the site.  Seriously.  I had about 50 emails within 120 seconds saying “I can’t get on!” to which I responded immediately that I was on the phone with tech support.

Thank goodness we have a terrific hosting service for our conference.  Hostgator fixed the issue in only 8 minutes and from then on, it was smooth sailing.  We had to turn off the Live Chat function, but that just moved us to Twitter and the Teacher’s Lounge, which were two great alternatives.  Each presenter had a time slot when their recorded video was available on the Presentation Stage and they were available in the Teacher’s Lounge and on Twitter as people had questions.  And boy, did people have questions!  We had such wonderful dialogue all day long, which I think was one of the best parts of the whole experience.

As presenters were on the stage, I was busy on the backend archiving presentations to their archive pages so if participants missed sessions, they could still access them later.  Plus, as each presenter came on, I was switching out the “Who’s on stage now” area and the Presenter Stage area and monitoring the boards and twitter feeds.  It was a whirlwind but was so worth it!

Feedback and Take-aways

I have to say that the feedback from this incredible day was better than anything I could have imagined.  With the technology hiccup in the morning, I thought for sure that we would receive some grumbling. But like true professionals, our participants understood tech issues and moved right past them into the meat of the presentations.  We received feedback like…

Best conference I have ever attended in my entire career.

I thought I would be able to get up and move around during the day.  Turns out, I didn’t want to leave my seat for fear that I might miss something – the sessions were so good!

I loved the sessions that included movement and actual practicing teachers implementing what they were saying.  There was such a good mix of presentations and real-world applications.  I can’t wait until next year.

Of course, we always have things to learn and improve upon.  We realized that with this many participants, we’re going to seriously need to beef up the capacity of our servers next year, as well as be able to either embed a Twitter feed on each presentation or get the Live Chat up and running.  We also think we’re going to offer a call for proposals to other educators out there who have something they’d like to share that we may not have thought about in the initial design.  All great ideas and pieces for our planning next year!

Just in case you missed it – the future of a conference

We had so many requests come in during the day of and immediately following the conference to make the videos available for people who couldn’t make the conference or who found out about it too late.  And in our eyes, making these presentations available beyond the conference is a way of extending their reach so that others can view and apply this valuable information in their classrooms and schools.

That’s why we’re happy to share that you can now download each presentation from the day for $9/each.  Of course, you’re missing the experience of networking with other educators, all the freebies from the conference, and our discussion boards.  But, you’re still able to get valuable professional development in the Arts and Common Core at a very affordable price tag.  View it for yourself or share it with a group – the choice is now yours.

Here’s a list of each of the presentations.  Just click the image and you’ll be able to read the session description, purchase and download within 2 minutes.

We can’t wait for the 2014 Connectivity Conference to do this all again.  We hope you’ll come back for new and even better sessions, and if you weren’t able to join us this time, that you’ll sign up for 2014.  Let’s build connectivity together!

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan