This wrap-up is coming several days after the festival, as it's taken me some time to do my formal thank-yous and post-mortem analyses to the people and communities who've provided me information and materials to give out this past weekend.
As I noted last week, I spent the past weekend down in Ewing, New Jersey for the 34th Annual Trenton Computer Festival
. This is a grass-roots hobbyist event put together by a coalition of several computer user groups, the Princeton chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)
, and The College of New Jersey
. The event includes vendors selling new and used computers, components, and software, student competitions, and hobbyist presentations on anything remotely related to computers.
My Saturday presentation
-- "The Role of Online Communities in Diabetes Management" -- was scheduled right before the keynote address, but halfway across the building, and immediately following the highly popular "Twitter 101" session. What with diabetes being a bit of a specialty topic and everyone wanting to get good seating for the keynote, the room was empty compared to the previous hour's standing-room-only group. There was no wireless Internet in the building, and while there was a working computer and projector, it was set up in such a way that I could either use my slides or use my notes -- but not both. And my notes had a lot of side information and skip-arounds.
For those reasons, my Saturday presentation was longer (and therefore more rushed) than I'd originally intended. While the information made its way across, I was not really able to realign to my audience the way I should have. Still, I was able to give out information and show folk the sorts of things we do in our social networks. Given that TCF audiences are highly variable, I consider this a "qualified success".
The Sunday "poster session"
was much better. I had a tabletop presentation at the entrance end of the building across from several computer clubs and amateur radio clubs. This gave me room for the poster/tabletop "project board", flyers and other swag -- a good thing, since people will often take flyers when they don't have time to speak, or the booth/table is too crowded, or the table representative(s) are engaged with other attendees.
Which doesn't mean I didn't get to talk to a lot of people about our online communities! I let folk know what we are, what we do, and how we support each other. That we're available 24/7. That there's at least one community waiting ready to welcome every person with diabetes who needs to, or wants to, connect with others -- and where they might find some of those communities. I got a chance to make real connections with real people, and I'm confident that having been there will make a difference in someone's life.
I've been looking to do tabletop/booth presentations for a while, bringing information about our online communities to health fairs and street fairs, anywhere a few dollars and a few hours' time will help others get the support they need and bring us the community awareness we've been looking for. While this was not the venue I'd originally intended for that first tabletop display, it worked out well as a "trial run", and now I have a set-up that I can use the next time the opportunity presents itself.