Everything I learned from 3 days at NTC 2016

Another NTC has just wrapped up and I have that familiar feeling of brain fatigue, where my head literally hurts because of all the information that has been crammed in over the past few days. So many ideas, tools, and sources of inspiration that is at risk of fading away by the time I make it back to the office. To make sure everything I learned gets preserved and put into practice, here is my “general-gist” summary of the sessions I went to. This is just what I personally got out of the sessions, and not a summary of everything the session had to offer. I’ve included links to the slide decks, Twitter accounts and collaborative notes where available if you want more notes from the session.
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Giant Conf Wordle

Giant Conf 2015: Summary in 5 Sentences

Giant Conf is over for another year. If you missed it, and don’t have time to read my notes, maybe you can get something from this word cloud. Not sure if it’s truly based on the number of occurrences of each word but it’s close. My overall takeaways in 5 sentences are:

  1. Ask the right questions.
  2. Fail early and often to accelerate learning.
  3. Perfection is a barrier to progress and creativity.
  4. Design is about solving problems.
  5. Critique is a skill that needs to be practiced.


Ant Christian and Joel of Giant Conf

Giant Conf 2015: Day Three Session Notes – Leslie Jensen-Inman, Steve Stegelin, Sharon Bautista, Rebekah Cancino, Jared Ponchot, Dan Willis

Giant Conf is over for another year and I felt energized and inspired to go into work and make mistakes, stop being perfect, fail often and ask lots of questions. Over the three days I saw 20 different speakers and had fun trying to keep up these notes. Revisiting them here helped solidify some of the concepts in my head. I hope they become useful to you somehow.

Thanks to everyone at Giant Conf for making this another great learning experience! Continue reading

Sonya Looney onstage at Giant Conf Charleston Music Hall

Giant Conf 2015: Day Two – Sonya Looney, Adam Connor, Michele Marut, Sandy Culver Plemmons, Elizabeth Eadie, Jonathon Colman, Aaron Draplin

Totally taking onboard one of the themes from Giant Conf 2015 with these notes: “Don’t be perfect.” These notes are far from perfect, but I know that if I don’t get them out right now, they’ll be forever lost in Evernote. So here they are in all their raw, unperfected beauty.

You can read my notes from sessions by Scott Berkun, Kevin Hoffman and more.

And more notes here, from Jaimee Newberry, Denise Jacobs plus more. Continue reading

Jaimee Newberry on stage

Giant Conf 2015: Day One Session Notes continued

I had some good feedback from people about the detail of my notes from day one at Giant Conf 2015. This was really down to how well structured some of the sessions were, especially from Scott Berkun and Kevin Hoffman’s sessions. Some of the other speakers spent a lot of time telling personal stories, which were awesome and inspiring, but I found myself only taking notes of the main point of the story and left out a lot of the detail.

Here are the rest of my notes from day one. Continue reading

Giant Conf Denise Jacobs

Giant Conf 2015: My Day One Session Notes

Giant Conf is a design/UX conference held in Charleston, SC. It was pretty exciting to see it come out of nowhere, but still able to pull in an impressive roster of speakers in its debut year in 2014. I was there to experience it just a few months after I went to Austin for SXSW.

SXSW is an example of a conference that’s grown too big to be easily enjoyed without a ton of planning and fatigue. You have to meticulously plan out your days to make the most of it. You have to physically prepare for lots of walking around and standing in line to get into sessions. There’s also the stress of worrying that you might not get into the session you stood in line for an hour for. On average, I saw about 4 sessions a day.

With Giant on the other hand, I was able to roll into the Charleston Music Hall in the morning. Grab a free coffee and breakfast pastries, sit in the beautiful theater and listen to top draw speakers such as Aaron Draplin, Ethan Marcotte, and Jared Spool. With only 3 venues, each within a few minutes walking distance, I was able to get about 6-7 sessions a day.

Anyway…I was meaning to write about Giant last year, but life happened. One year later, I’m back at Giant Conf 2015, and this time I’m determined to get something written here. So here are my edited notes from the first 3 sessions from day one: Continue reading

birthdays for all

What happens when your wife tells you that she’s starting a nonprofit

It’s not everyday you get a text from your wife telling you that she’s starting a nonprofit. In case you don’t know what that looks like:

I am starting a non profit and I need your help will talk tonight love you

My wife, Steffi, is a stay-at-home mom. She is a qualified attorney, but she spends her days looking after our two kids. It’s not uncommon for Steffi to declare to me that she’s starting something new. Usually she’ll announce something like, “healthy living starts tomorrow”. Or “lets get rid of Comcast”. Although she usually has the truest of intentions, more often than not, I know that her declarations aren’t going to have too much impact on me if I just smile and nod.

So my reaction to her announcement about starting a nonprofit was the same as usual. At least it was until she called me on my drive home from work to pitch me the concept. She told me that the nonprofit was going to be called, Birthdays for All. The lightbulb in my head turned on immediately. She didn’t really need to say much else, because I was already sold.

My first thought was a flashback to our daughter’s birthdays. We always wanted her to feel like she was the most important, special, and loved girl in the world on her birthday. We would spend so much time and effort into making it happen. So the idea of Birthdays For All resonated with me. Why can’t all kids feel the same on their birthdays? I know that the vast majority of kids aren’t as lucky as my own.

There are too many kids out there that don’t even get any attention whatsoever on their birthday. Could Birthdays For All help solve that problem?

That was a question that we were both willing to sink in a lot of time to answer. So we both got to work. She handled the business administration during the day, while I worked on the user experience, branding and web design. In less than a month, we launched the Birthdays For All website. We got the word out to our friends and family on Facebook and immediately started receiving donations and building our email list.

the first version of the birthdays for all website

Thanks to everyone who supported us, we were able to buy presents to all the June birthdays.

It’s amazing how today’s technology allows us to take an idea and make it something real in no time at all. Here is a list of platforms that made it possible:

Please go and check out the website: https://www.birthdaysforall.org

Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BirthdaysForAll


9 Nonprofit Marketing Tips and Trends for the Future

Whilst at SXSW 2014, I managed to glean some marketing tips and trends from nonprofit experts such as David Neff (@daveiam) and Beth Kanter (@kanter) at the Future of Nonprofits session held at the Driskell Hotel. Here are 9 tips and trends that I interpreted and tweeted:

  1. Reach Gen-Z by getting content into smaller form factors. Mobile devices are the primary way that tweens use to access the Internet, so content needs to be adapted to smaller screens. That 19 page PDF annual report isn’t going to cut through the extreme amount of content accessible at their finger tips. Break up the content so that it is smaller and easier to digest with less time and attention.
  2. The number of B Corps will rise. It may make more sense for arts/cultural organizations to register as a #BCorp versus a 501(c)(3). These organizations don’t have the same urgency and cause based stories that more traditional nonprofits may have. As a B Corp, they can still support the community but have more options to generate income.
  3. Less fundraising, more marketing. Instead of directly asking for money, nonprofits need to focus on marketing their stories to draw people in and give them something to connect to.
  4. Bring media back to social media. Nonprofits need to produce better videos, photos and infographics that people consume and share quickly. People love to share media, especially infographics, which allow people to process information much more quickly and get shared more than just text and images combined.
  5. Listen out for micro-trends and micro-interests with tools such as @socialmentionFind out what people are talking about within your field and who your key influencers are who talk about your subject. Join the conversation in real-time, by talking about topics that are being discussed right this second.
  6. Cultivate informal and network learning. Help the social media savvy millennials learn about your cause with your content, and target #philanthroteens to crowdsource motivation. This generation of philanthropic teens love to learn from their peers and their own discovery.
  7. Capitalize on the joy of the internet. Put a positive spin on your mission and story. You can build support by spreading happiness. Even if your cause is difficult to talk about, focus on the success stories and try to find a humorous side.
  8. Create more video content with @vineapp and @instagramYou don’t need big budget productions to show authenticity and your impact.
  9. Listen to the needs of your supporters to keep them happy. Measure your donor retention rate and create a strategy to optimize by taking care of your biggest fans.

Thanks to the following who discussed these trends and topics at SXSW (sorry, I’m missing some names here):

David Neff (@daveiam)
Beth Kantor (@kanter)
Corey Pudhorodsky (@coreypud)
Rob Wu (@robjwu)
Mark Horvath (@hardleynormal)