Insights from an Organizer - Behind the Scenes of WOC with Michael Silberman
With Web of Change just one week away, we sat down with Web of Change event chair Michael Silberman to get his thoughts on this year's conference. We hope you're as excited as he is for what's ahead next week!
What are you most looking forward to this year?
I'm most looking forward to the stuff I'd never been able to predict -- the unplanned moments, discussions, and experiences that emerge from the unique alchemy of the participants. As organizers, I see it as our mission to create a space or platform where that can reliably happen.
The ridiculously high degree of open, honest, authentic exchanges that we're able to foster at Web of Change is what sets this event apart from most others. I'll consider this year a success if most of us leave feeling like we've heard and experienced things from and with people that we couldn't have in any other setting.
I also find that the most valuable events are the ones in which a majority of participants play a role in shaping the experience or content. That's increasingly true for Web of Change, where even the planned sessions are optimized for discussion over content delivery. This isn't the place where you come to sell an idea or show how smart you are -- it's the place you come to build and collaborate on a concept and find out how you can get smarter about your work.
Is there anything you're nervous about?
This may sound odd, but the primary thing I tend to worry about is a ton of people getting stuck and not being able to make it at the last minute -- not because they forgot but because they had some kind of improbable travel disaster. I think there's something powerful about a group being able to start and finish an experience together as one, so I'm always conscious of how we integrate even that one person who ends up arriving late.
What makes this year different?
In addition to our new location for this year, I'm excited about a few other new things:
First, we're welcoming the most diverse group of participants this year that Web of Change has ever seen. And not by coincidence!
The event Advisors and the new WOC Board made a big, intentional effort get this event to more accurately reflect our communities and movements. We're far from where we ultimately aim to be, but this year fifty percent of attendees are women, and twice as many as last year will be people of color. My own experience has been that more diverse rooms are actually a pre-requisite for having so many of the critical conversations that happen at Web of Change, so there's a strategic imperative here to ensure that we're able to continue achieving and raising the level of dialogue and discussion that participants expect and get from WOC.
Second, we have a few new bells and whistles in this year's agenda. We've added space for "open sessions" in every block. Participants can now design and organize a new session as soon as inspiration strikes rather than waiting until the final session block of the last day, as in previous years. We're also adding a SpeedGeek session, a rapid and sometimes raucous mix of project demos which is a personal favorite of mine.
Every year brings its own unique set of surprises. I'm ready for whatever those may be!
Why are you still involved after all these years?
Well, there's simply no better place to recharge -- personally and professionally. Not that it's a relaxing event! On the contrary -- it's one of the most intense experiences I have all year. But it's a refreshing break from my usual reality because it always gives me a chance to meet or spend time with some of the smartest and most inspiring people in our space, dive into the big and challenging questions that we don't usually have time for, and to be challenged by a set of peers in ways that just don't happen on email or in other places.