Was sitting around the last few days getting ready to attend AND present at a conference that starts Wednesday July 29. And as usual, as the conference sneaks up on you, logistical issues begin to pop up.
Thursday, one of the conference administrators came to me and said “We need a way to communicate JUST to conference staff. We don’t want to gather phone numbers to text everyone, and we don’t want to have to call everyone anytime we need something. We want to just be able to blast a text to the entire group and let them respond as appropriate. And we need it in 30 minutes.” OK. Nothing like something to warm up the old chops five days before the conference. But that was a simple request with a simple solution. Celly. Celly you say? Indeed. Celly is a free messaging system that can be used to send out announcements, polls, be an interactive bulletin board, or as a scheduled announcement device. It works with both smartphones AND dumbphones!! It works with a desktop or laptop, or they have apps to use. With Computers or smartphones, you get a message in a nice interface and an alert in your status bar. If you are using a dumbphone, you just get a text message. Users sign up for free in a process that takes about 3 minutes. Now we have a private comm channel set up for the conference, at no cost. You can thank the good folks at Celly for that. And for more information on Celly, visit their website. Great resource for schools or any kind of large group.
Friday goes without excitement, then Monday afternoon, a facilitator comes to me and says “I have a lot of digital files my presenter wants to share with the participants at the conference. Can you put their content in the app so users can download it?” Hmmm…this one could take a little more thought. Depending on the content format and size, putting it in the app may or may not be roblematic. PLUS you throw in the fact that some folks just don’t like to use apps, or may not make the conference, OR the content size may be too large for the mobile device, we decided to be creative.
First things first, the content that needs to be shared. We decided to move the content to Google Drive. Why? 15 GB free storage to start with. We created a shared conference folder, then created a sub folder for docs, which are probably small enough to fit on a mobile device without playing Pacman and eating up all the storage, then creating a second subfolder for any media, which would be huge. So item one cleared and ready for take off.
Second thing, we needed a way to link the digital resources through the app. Easily done. Just put the link on the file in the app, and it’s downloadable, right? Well yes and no. The Google link was huge, and case-sensitive, making it problematic if someone in the back of the room wanted to download it during the presentation. OK, no problem. We simply go to Bit.ly which is a URL shortener, and shorten the code. That works, but there is still that case sensitivity thing, PLUS if you are in the back of the room, you may not see it well. So item two is kinda fixed by using Bit.ly
Third, we still needed to get the short URL to the users who wanted to view it in the back of the session. So without a second thought, I throw down my ace in the hole: a QR Code! A QR code is simply a graphic containing just about whatever kind of data you want: Phone number, email, URL, text message. You simply use an app to scan the code into your mobile device. So to make this easy to handle, we went to Bit.ly and got our short URL then proceeded to go to QR Code Generator and pasted it in the appropriate form, pushed the button, and viola, we had ourselves a custom QR Code that linked to our digital resources stored in Google Drive. We could then just download the QR Code as a JPG file, send it to the presenters and ask them to insert in into the first page of their slide show. They could include the short URL for the ones who just wanted to enter the short URL, AND we dropped in the QR Code for those that had a ….. uh oh…. we forgot about folks who didn’t have a QR code reader.
So hitting cleanup in this equation was how to get folks a QR reader. Which took us back to the app. You remember the app. We talked about it back a bit. Instead of putting gobs and gobs of data in the app, we just went in and added a section called Digital Resources. Since we created one app specifically for Android and one specifically for iOS, all we had to do was pop in the URL for the FREE QR reader downloads into each app, and then send out a push notification to the users, and everything was hunky dory (there’s a phrase I bet a lot of you don’t remember).
So there you have it. Four solutions in five days leading up to a conference. What are the take aways? Here we go.
- Cel.ly provides a great conference communication network, for conference staff OR the conference at large if you don’t have an app.
- Google Drive provides a great way to share content at a conference, and modify the content on the fly if you need to do so.
- Bit.ly is a great way to shorten your URL to get to your shared content
- QR Code Generator is a great way to put that short URL in a useful format that you can add to the first page of your presentation.
- Adding a resource link in your conference app for users to download apps they might not have ever thought about or used saves the day without piling on the file size of the app.
By the way, be sure to hit the QR code at the top and see if it goes anywhere! You can leave comments in the comment area if you want.