In the months since the 16th annual Allied Media Conference, we’ve spent many hours going over feedback from participants, coordinators, and volunteers provided to us through the AMC2014 Reflections Survey and other debrief conversations. This feedback from our network is one of the main tools we use when planning for the evolution of the AMC from year to year.
Below are some of the major takeaways from our reading of the over 250 responses to the AMC2014 Reflections Survey. Your feedback has helped us identify areas that we will focus on in planning for the next AMC.
Room for a growing AMC
Even with up to 16 concurrent sessions, rooms were filled to capacity and beyond at the last AMC. While this growth is a good problem to have, we are going to do everything we can next year to secure even more and larger classroom spaces for sessions so that more people can participate with greater comfort. We want to alleviate the disappointment expressed by many participants who hustled their way to a session they were excited about, only to have their hopes dashed by the "sorry this session is full" sign.
Last year, due to construction in buildings that we normally use for the AMC, we expanded into the Old Main building, about a half mile away from our primary location at the McGregor Conference Center. Practice Spaces were located in McGregor, while most 90-minute sessions took place in Old Main. Many survey respondents appreciated the expansion into more space and more rooms (even if rooms quickly filled up). We also heard that you found the half mile distance between buildings difficult to traverse and this posed an accessibility issue for some, although the shuttle van helped a bit.
We have no guarantee from Wayne State that construction will be completed in time for AMC2015, allowing us to access more rooms in closer proximity to one another. One solution we are devising are different types of activities that will allow the AMC to continue to grow regardless of the constraints of the WSU construction. Expect, for example, more off-site tours and field trips.
Building friendship and connection
What we bring into the AMC shapes the AMC. In our Presenter Guidelines we ask presenters to "put on your best energy dress" when facilitating a session. We are asking the same thing of participants. Come with a positive open mind. Consider your words, tone, assumptions. Step outside your pre-existing relationships and make new friends and connections. Here’s a great testimonial from a survey respondent of the kind of vibe we are going for:
"Rather than the typical transactional networking space, participants were ready to dig in, get vulnerable, and make lasting connections. AMC seems to prioritize relationships – ensuring everyone is seen and included over emphasizing status, who you know, and what you have to offer."
We will continue to strive to make the AMC more accessible to more people. One point that survey respondents identified for us is the need for chairs without attached arms in every classroom so that sessions are accessible to all types of bodies. We will continue to work closely with the access experts in our AMC community to add new dimensions to the way we approach accessibility. We will continue to invite your expertise, vision, and participation in crafting the AMC’s approach to accessibility.
We heard from many that the lunch options provided on site at the AMC were too expensive and not very tasty. These food options were provided by Aramark, a company with exclusive rights to all catering on the Wayne State campus. Every year we wrack our brains for solutions to this perennial problem – how to provide healthy, delicious, affordable food for AMC participants when we are not allowed to bring in outside food options. We welcome ideas from you, our AMC community on how to solve this problem. In the meantime, we are exploring the possibility of serving breakfast and lunch out of The Towers dorm cafeteria, which could include more meal options.
Expanding the range of nighttime events
For people who like to drink and dance in loud, sweaty community with others to mind-blowingly good music, the AMC parties are pretty much the best things in the world. But we realize, there are many other ways to enjoy one’s evening. For AMC2015 we will make an effort to include more sober events, kid-friendly events, film screenings and/or quieter, conversation-oriented events in the evening.
Connecting with Detroit
There are many exciting media-based organizing efforts happening in Detroit year-round. AMC2015 will features more tours, direct service opportunities, and collaborative projects with organizations and groups in the city from whom we draw so many of our lessons and practices.
In 2013 and 2014, we put a lot of energy into preparing AMC presenters so that participants would walk away from sessions with concrete tools and resources, in addition to inspired feelings and expansive visions. We did this by creating a zine of Presenter Guidelines and requiring all presenters to participate in pre-AMC webinars to discuss the guidelines. We heard from our survey respondents about many examples of specific resources shared through sessions. For example:
"My favorite sessions were the ones that went in depth with an issue we are almost all very familiar with (like gentrification) instead of just scratching the surface. My favorite sessions also imparted concrete tools and examples of their practices."
"Adrienne Maree Brown's emergent strategies training blew my mind and is a tool I will use to constantly check myself, train other folks, and train organizations."
"I learned to make stop motion videos and how to facilitate storytelling gatherings as a tool for visionary organizing."
As we select sessions for the next AMC, we will continue to prioritize sessions which offer concrete tools and helpful resources for you to take home.
The next AMC
We are grateful for your feedback which allows us to think about how to plan and what to focus on in the coming year. As always, the excitement around the AMC – even after it’s over – gives us energy and motivation to make this coming year the best Allied Media Conference ever.
You can get involved in next year’s AMC by proposing a Track, Network Gathering, and Practice Space. The deadline to propose is November 3. The call of AMC2015 session proposals will go out in January.
See you at the 17th annual Allied Media Conference, June 18-21, 2015 in Detroit!
All photos in this blog post by Ara Howrani.