HighEdWeb’s President, Nikki Massaro Kauffman, joins the podcast to talk about the do’s and don’ts of pitching to conferences and the importance of being part of the Higher Ed community.
Joel Goodman: From Bravery Media, this is Thought Feeder. Welcome, my name is Joel Goodman with me as always is the insurmountable Jon-Stephen Stansel. And we are extremely, extremely excited to have Nikki Massaro Kauffman, who is a, an old, Higher Ed friend of mine and J.S.’s, uh, from conference circles among other other things, uh, on to talk with us today about conferences because it’s the fall conference season here in the U.S. and Uh, yeah, people are, people are getting back out there. So Nikki welcome. IN PERSON AGAIN it’s great to see you in person again.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Yeah, it’s great to be here and it’ll be even better to be physically in person again.
Joel Goodman: We want to, we want to talk about, uh, we wanna talk about all kinds of stuff, but maybe first, like give our listeners, uh, a little bit of, uh, insight into who you are, what you’ve been doing in, in Higher Ed for the last, uh, at least as long as I’ve been in Higher Ed, it’s been a while. Uh, and, uh, and, and what sorts of things are exciting you about our, uh, our community these days?
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Sure. So, yeah, I’m Nikki Masarro Kauffman. I, um, I go by the Twitter handle, @NikkiMK was fortunate enough to get that before all the other posers tried to take it. Um, I work as a programmer analyst for Penn State University and, um, I’ve been in Higher Ed for, uh, going on 18 years now, 19 years going on 19 years. And, uh, yeah, so old friend is true.
Um, but yeah, I’ve, I’ve kind of bounced around a couple of different areas between usability slash accessibility, technical training and, um, multi-media educational multi-media cuz I’ve been on the, uh, online learning side for a number of years. So I’m a bit different of a, a character amongst the HighEd people.
Joel Goodman: But so for the, the last little bit you’ve been, uh, President of HighEdWeb, correct?
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Yeah. Um, this is my, this is my second year as President.
I’ve been on the board. This is my fifth year on the, on the board of directors, but second year as president. So this is my, my first presidential year that I’ll get to see people in person.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: And in Little Rock, just down the street from me.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Yes.
Joel Goodman: Amazing. I was, I just drove through Little Rock and I mean, I am going to be at HighEdWeb speaking. So like that’s, , I’ll be back, but I just drove through Little Rock or Little Rock a couple weeks ago, uh, after, uh, uh, spending some time in Louisville, Kentucky and. It’s just a, it’s just a nice town.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Yeah, we, um, we do our board retreats, uh, since I’ve started on as President, we’ve been doing our board retreats, at where the conference will be hosted the following year so that the board gets a sense of, of where the conference will be held. And so I’ve gotten to go back to Little Rock last year and it was, it was really a great time.
I think that attendees are going to enjoy the location.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Speaking as someone from the Little Rock area, it is a hidden gym. I don’t think a lot of people know about. There’s a lot of just cool little restaurants and nice little downtown scene that I think gets overlooked. But, uh, yeah, it’s, it’s a lot of fun. But super excited, cuz yes, for the past few years, High Ed Web has been online only like many conferences for the pandemic and those conferences were amazing.
Like one thing I I’ve always loved about High Ed Web is like how well organized, like what a finely tuned machine. It is compared to other conferences. Not to down other conferences. I just think High Ed Web just kind of steps it up a a, just, just that much to make it, uh, extra, extra special and, and working really well.
But I’m so excited to, for it to be in person again. Cause there’s just an energy to being in person that, you know, sometimes doesn’t always translate, uh, digitally. So what are you most excited about as, as far as returning to, to the in person conference experience?
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: So I think, you know, mentioning that energy that comes from our community. It’s a really unique community in that we have stayed in touch outside of the face to face events that we’re on social with each other. We have a, a High Ed Web slack space that our members use to communicate throughout the year. So we really feel like we know each other a lot better than just colleagues who meet once a year.
We, we feel like we’re, we’re coming home to long lost friends. And so I’m really eager to, to see all these old friends to make some new friends. And some of these people have shaped my career. And I think a lot of what happens in a conference is what happens in between sessions and the conversations that you have with people, whether it’s, you know, sitting, sitting in a hallway, just checking your email or whether you’re going to like dinner on your own, with a group of people you’ve just met. I, I feel like it’s a, it’s a transformative experience.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Oh, for sure. Definitely. I will be the first to attest that. Cause I think was it 2014 when High Ed Web was in Portland? It was my first national High Ed Web I’d been to, to a regional before, and I was working as, a one person communications team doing social, digital, doing graphic design for pamphlets and all of this stuff.
And I remember going to that conference and going, you know, what, and, and talking to people and going to conferences and, and having those interactions and being like I could do social media full time. And I, that was the moment like that shifted for me. So, yes, I mean, these conferences and, and High Ed Web in particular is, can be very transformative.
Joel Goodman: Did we meet in 2008 in Springfield, Nikki?
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: We did actually, that was my first High Ed Web. Um, but yeah, it, it was, it’s like it’s as a sampler of, of all of the digital professions in Higher Ed. And so from being there, I got the opportunity to try them on and see how they fit and see where you can cross silos of the different pre the different, uh, the different specialties within Higher Ed.
And I think that’s, that’s a really special thing and it’s, it’s a conference of doers. So you’re really talking to the people who are on the ground.
Joel Goodman: Definitely. And I think along with that, you know, the, the thing that makes these conferences, I guess like obviously professional develop-y right? Like it’s the thing that we all go for is the content and the fact that you have so many people that are, you know, in the trenches, so to speak executing on, uh, on all of this work, uh, and then having them come and speak about it, uh, is what really gives, uh, I think High Ed Web in particular, because you know, it, it’s not just a bunch of vendors talking or whatever. Uh, you’re getting the people that are really experienced giving case studies, giving their own insights, giving, uh, a whole lot of. Uh, their, their intelligence and smarts and everything that they’ve learned and things that they’ve tried, uh, to this community and, and kind developing it.
Um, and so part of the struggle, I know every year, uh, is one whittling down the whittling down the conference proposals that you get, uh, from the community. But then also it’s, it’s getting new voices and fresh voices involved in the content that the conference puts out and, uh, J.S. and I over the years, and I’m sure you, Nikki have heard, how, you know, how difficult it is for some people to just put themselves out there and start, uh, start working on a, on a talk or, or start pitching something to conferences. And, uh, so we wanted to, to kind of take a step back with this, cuz we know there’s details and details of running a conference, but what do you think the for, for High Ed Web anyways, what’s the process like for someone pitching a talk to.
Uh, to come to, uh, either a regional or the, or the national event. Um, and do you have any, uh, tips for people that haven’t put together, those, uh, haven’t put together a talk yet, you know, or have been considering it, maybe like, oh, I wanna go speak at a conference, but they don’t know how to, how to get started?
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Sure. So, um, our call for proposals for the annual is around February and the annual is the hybrid event. So it’ll be in person and online. Um, so for 2023, we’re in, in Buffalo. And if you’d like to present there, the February call propo for proposals happens, then we also have two summits that are online, the analytics and the accessibility that will have a similar timeframe for calls for proposal.
But I find myself that if you wait until the call for proposals opens, you’re spending a, good chunk of the time, trying to come up with ideas of what you wanna present and then trying to put the talk together. And if you’re trying to, co-present trying to herd all the cats in one room to, to put the proposal together.
So what I do typically, is I keep, um, a Google doc as a presenter myself. And when I get inspired and have an idea on a thing I could present on, I drop it in the Google doc. Um, I make sure I put a bunch of bullet points of what I was thinking, because I have done things where I just put a, a catchier or a funny title in and then forget what it was that I was thinking.
But, uh, I think sometimes, I’m most inspired about what talk I wanna give, um, in the, in the actual event. So I’ll be at High Ed Web 2022 and have a million 2023 ideas because I watch other presenters and get ideas from them. And I know that I was sitting in Joel’s session at PSE Web, and I, I must have written down two or three talks, from just listening. Um, so yeah, I think, I think it’s good to keep a document of what you really wanna speak about.
Joel Goodman: One of the tricks that I have once you get that first one out there. So like PSE Web, right? The talk that I’m doing at High Ed Web this year is closely related, but like the PSE Web talk was big. It was, it was, it was a lot, uh, and it went for a long time. And so this is what I, what I pitched to, to High Ed Web is a lot more focused.
It’s it’s more compact. It’s more targeted at, uh, I think some, some tactical questions that keep coming up within our institutions around, you know, how do you, how do we do personalization on the web? How do we do all this stuff? And really like, uh, you know, one of the approaches, one of the approaches I have to, to jotting those things down, cause I do the same thing, I’ll jot down ideas as I go along or, you know, I’ll ask, uh, I’ll, I’ll ask our producer, uh, our producer, Carl here to, to jot down things, for me as he, as he sees me write stuff, which is also helpful. Um, but one of the, one of those things is, uh, I’ll uh, I’ll take a, a wider talk and say like, okay, how can I break this out to really apply to the, uh, the audience that I’m, that I’m talking to, or that that’s going to be at the, this next conference that I want to go to and take it down simple.
And I think for me personally, I’ve, I’ve struggled over the years with putting together conference talks that I think will get accepted mostly because I’m, I’m hesitant to go too basic or too simple. Um, and so I want, I want to talk about something that’s big and inspiring and all this kind of stuff, but a lot of times the, the talks that one get selected and the talks that end up having, uh, the biggest impact are ones that really just break down, uh, you know, a more, a more, I guess like digestible chunk of strategy or insight or, uh, or tactics and, and explain like how someone else has done it and then just leave room for Q and A. And so I think that’s, uh, at least in my mind, that’s a good kind of entry way into pitching a talk is don’t be afraid to go simple with what you wanna pitch, uh, because that’s the stuff people, uh, that that’s, that’s kind of like lowest common denominator for folks that can, that can, you know, access that content.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: And I think it’s so true, cuz one, there’s so many things that we do every day that we take for granted and just think everybody knows. And there are people out there who that’s just revelatory information for. Uh, so sharing that knowledge of just, just the basics, I, I think is really important. And, and another thing I, I do when come about presentation topics, sometimes I think about things I want to learn and by submitting a presentation on that topic, and if it gets accepted, it’s like, I better learn all about that now, cause I’m gonna be presenting on it. So it kinda lights a fire under me. I think I did that presentation on, on, on GIPHY, right as I was launching the University of Central Arkansas GIPHY account, I, I, I submitted the presentation on it and like had, you know, a six month window to actually learn it and figure it out before building the presentation on it.
So that’s another thing it’s like, think about the things you’re doing right now. Um, and it can help you in other ways.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Yeah, I, um, actually co-presenting a workshop with, uh, Jackie Vetrano and Paul Gilzo, two other seasoned High Ed Web presenters. We thought it would be great to, to help the presenter pipeline by offering a, a workshop on presentation skills. And one of the things we’re talking about in the workshop is how to come up with ideas.
And so one of the things, some of the prompts that I have include things like, you can present on a mistake you made, you don’t have to be the expert. You can present on a question about how something big, like a pandemic is going to affect the future of our profession, or, um, you know, if you’re, if you’re not sure you wanna go it alone, and honestly, I still love to copresent because it’s, you’re not sitting there awkwardly in front with people and, and waiting as they file in, you can kind of have a natural banter going. And so sometimes I’ll find something I worked on with somebody else. Or, um, one year I talked to somebody who’s really great with maps and thought,
well, I know accessibility, he knows maps, let’s do something on how to make maps accessible. Just to mix and match and have something that was different.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: And for those people, people who are are. Starting out and, and wanting to present or, or have done it for a while. And, and don’t wanna just get in front of a crowd of people. There’s poster sessions as well, where you can create your poster and, and presentation and, and, and have that banter one on one, as people come up and you can interact with them.
So that’s another great way, uh, to, to, start presenting. But one thing I, I constantly hear and, and being a former theater major, I, I don’t understand this at all, but I, no, I, I do understand, like people do get stage fright and they, they say like, oh, I may have some anxiety about getting up, uh, in, in front of a crowded room and presenting.
Um, what, what would you suggest for, for people wanting to get over that anxiety a little bit and, and perform well, presenting at a conferences?
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: I really have never gotten over the anxiety and I’ve been doing this for a long, long, long time. And I think that, um, I think that you have to understand that anxiety is when you care about something that you’re doing. And it’s also when you’re, when you’re pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and growing it’s. It’s kind of like exercise for your soul. You’re it’s going to, it’s going to feel uncomfortable, but if, if the best things I’ve ever done, the best jobs I’ve taken, the, the best presentations I ever have given, they’re the ones where I feel most anxious. And so I think you can use it. I also think that if you’re feeling uncomfortable, I, I sometimes have a relaxing, or an energizing playlist, just sort of running in the room while I’m waiting, and as people file in it just I’m. I really love music can’t play any of it, but I love it. And so having music in the background just sort of gets, gets me, you know, to focus on something other than my own nervousness.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: That’s wonderful advice. And another thing I wanna say about how wonderful that I, I like about High Ed Web, because as I mentioned, I don’t get anxiety about speaking in front of a giant crowd of people, but I get a ton of anxiety speaking to people, one on one . Uh, so it’s like after the, uh, after the presentation, like all, you know, the interactions that that’s what makes me nervous, but High Ed Web has these wonderful little decals to put on your, name tag, like please approach me, please leave me some quiet time or, or maybe you can flip your, your card around, so that’s a really nice touch.
I think that, uh, makes High Ed Web extra special, uh, tho those, those little details.
Joel Goodman: So I’ve, I’ve definitely gone through this Nikki where I have submitted, a talk, and that I think is really, really good, and I’m really excited, you know, one of those ones where it’s, it’s not simple and it’s, it’s a big talk that I , that I really wanna talk about. And then I, then I, I get, I get, I get denied. I, it doesn’t get chosen.
And, uh, it’s not that discouraging to me. Like, it’s, it’s more like, Ugh, they don’t get it, but that’s fine. Uh, but I know for folks that, especially folks that haven’t actually, uh, done. This are kind of new to submitting talks. Like that can be a discouraging thing and, uh, can sometimes even prevent them from, you know, trying to test that out other places, uh, any, any tips that you have for, for that? I mean, I think part of it’s just like, you gotta, you gotta build up some self esteem and, and keep trucking, but coping with coping with that disappointment of not being able to, to do this talk that you want, uh, maybe like, uh, help, help listeners kind of understand the, the selection process and, and all that kind of stuff.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: I think um, one of the things I’ve done to kind of work around, it was always to submit more than one proposal and let the program chairs see what resonates with them. But yeah, there’s, there’s sometimes a topic that you would love to do and it feels like they’re just not ready for it, for whatever reason.
Maybe, maybe the attendees don’t know what this thing is. Maybe it’s like five cognitive leaps ahead of what anybody else is doing. And you’ve, you’ve gotta wait for the world to catch up or whatever, but, you know, it’s, it’s really thinking about who the attendees are and what they want, and it might be going back and resubmitting or, um, you know, a lot of times presenting is really about marketing your ideas.
And so if they’re not ready to hear that big idea, you might have to sell the little ideas that get to the big idea. And that happened with me, we’re doing, um, the other workshop I’m doing is a web components workshop, which is a very, very technical topic, but it’s also, um, something that people would have to pay extra for.
And so I can understand why it didn’t get picked the last couple of times I pitched it because if nobody knows what these are and why they would want to attend, pay extra money to attend a session, of course this isn’t going to be something that would get picked. So I backed up a bit and I did a lightning talk, that was to a broader audience, even though it was a programming topic, I made it relatable and explained how web components are great for consistent branding across a siloed institution. And, and why it’s, it’s better from a scalability standpoint. And, and I, you know, in these 10 minute talks and then showing some of the components that I’ve done and presenting little bits of these things, I’m finally able to get that workshop approved.
But I also then reconfigured it to university audiences. And so we’re gonna look at a couple different siloed university sites and how you can use components across all of them so that you’re sharing the same bits of technology. So I, I took it and made it even more Higher Ed specific. And I, I basically spent a few years selling people the idea.
Joel Goodman: And I can relate. I mean, the, the talk that I had selected this year for High Ed Web uh, which, which is now a miniature version of a larger talk that gave at PSE Web was there, it’s, it’s a, it’s a riff on what I had proposed last year and didn’t get selected it’s you know, and so I just modified it, I mean, my trick was I added some buzzwords into it.
Um, because I, because I know that like everyone on campuses these days, uh, are, are dealing with leadership that wants personalization and all this stuff on their websites. And, you know, my question is like one, how can you do that and not be creepy? Uh, two, do our students actually shop for degrees like they do for kitchen appliances on Amazon and three, uh, how can you just be, how can, how can you use personalization in a way that’s actually caring about your users and not just exploitative of them and, so like kind of, kind of framing this, this talk about hospitality and Hospitable Design that I’ve been, I’ve been floating around online for the last, the last couple years. Uh, I think really helped sell that home. So it’s a, it’s kind of a pick yourself up dust yourself off, reconfigure kind of tweak that, that description, tweak that talk a little bit.
And, and like you said, I love the idea of just like selling it, because I think I did that without really realizing it for the last two years, and, and it works. You start floating the ideas and people want to hear it.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Yeah. I, I, I really think that sometimes that is what you have to do. And in the end you get a stronger, better product. I’ve completely reworked the original workshop that I’ve offered in other places to make it very specific to our audience. And I’m really happy with the end product. So I would definitely not get disappointed. And I would definitely think about how you can still do topics that you enjoy. And, and when you, if you do submit more than one, make sure they’re topics that you really do wanna do because you will eventually have to do them. It might not be the one that you love the most, your favorite child, but, uh, you know, make sure it is a child you wanna be responsible for and feed.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: That’s happened to me a couple times where it’s like, I, I submitted two or three things and the one that like, I was just like, okay, I’ll do this as a lark let’s see. You know, and that’s the one that gets selected as opposed to the one that I really wanted to do. But you know, still, I mean, there’s still value in it and you take the time to learn it.
And, two, I think an important thing to remember is if your if your presentation doesn’t get accepted, it’s not, a statement a about you or the quality of your work. It could be a number of other things. I’ve been on selection committees where it’s like, okay, well, we’ve got five different people with very similar topics.
We can only pick one and it’s really, really close, uh, of, of how we decide that. Or, how it fits into the program. And if it doesn’t get accepted, there’s nothing that says you can’t resubmit next year, or submit to a different or conference where I’ve had, you know, things that have been rejected from one conference and then accepted into, to, to another.
So, uh, it, it’s good to just go ahead and submit.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Oh, that one’s really fun when you have different ones accepted at different conferences, and now you feel like you have extra workload and you might customize them for each location, but it’s still a lot less work if you can repurpose some old material, but there is no rhyme or reason.
Joel Goodman: What I found with that too, Nikki is I’m better when I give a talk a few times. So once I hit the second or the third, or there is one time I did a talk four times, um, like, I’m, I’m good. Like, I know exactly what I’m saying. I’ve like polished, it it’s smooth, I’m not like, you know, like for me, that actually starts to reduce that anxiety that we talked about earlier, because I, I know the material I’ve already talked about it.
I know where, you know, I know what jokes are gonna land. I know what points are gonna be interesting for people and what to expand on. And it just, it just helps you kind of refine what’s there. So I think. I conferences generally, don’t like to, to hear this, but like, it’s okay to use other places as kind of a practice session for your, for your talk.
If that’s something you can do. I mean, even if it’s local, even if it’s not a conference, even if it’s just like, you know, giving a talk to a group of a group of students at the institution you work at or, or something like that, it helps you kind of,
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Or your coworkers so that they have, especially your boss, if they, if they know what it is that you do, this might be the first time they actually really understand that you know your stuff, because you’re not normally presenting it in a very formal way. But yeah, I, I think the other thing is the other challenge is after you’ve done these a few years, you think, oh, they already know this thing.
And so you’re obviously not gonna give the exact same talk to the same audience, but I’ve learned that not everybody attended my, my every session in all the previous years, so it’s okay to reuse a few of your old slides or old analogies to help bring everybody who’s new to your sessions up to speed.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: And I think you hit on a, a good point there about your boss seeing it and, and accepting you as an expert because you’re presenting, I think in Higher Ed this is super important because faculty live by publish or parish. They’re going out and writing papers and publishing and going to presentations, and that’s what their tenure is based upon how often they do that.
And for, for those of us in staff roles, I think it’s just as important. And you need to, to go back to your campus and brag on yourself, write up, you know, I, I’ll never, I’ll never forget working in, the MarCom office at a university and a, a, a professor sending us a, a press release. He wrote up about going on a podcast that probably had like five listeners.
And I’m thinking I’ve been on five podcasts. I, I, I have a podcast you know, and this is going on the university homepage. And, you know, the president’s seeing it, like, why am I not doing this for myself? So when I go into those meetings, You know, it’s like, okay, I I’m publishing too. So what was everybody’s first conference talk?
What was the first presentation you gave and what conference was it at?
Joel Goodman: I think the first ever that I did, I think it was at High Ed Web, I think it was High Ed Web Austin. So that was 2011. It was right before I moved to Austin and, uh, I was in grad school and I was, uh, I was studying I was in a semiotics class. So it was just a lot of, uh, Baudrillard and all kinds of stuff. And. I decided, uh, so I did, I did a case study based on something that we had done internally, but, uh, I, my visual aids were just icons.
So I just, I just used icons from the noun project and gave the talk and, um, it was really fun at the time and people liked it. Um, if you go look at the slide deck on, you know, slide share or speaker deck or whatever, like you have no idea what’s going on because it’s just a bunch of the the semiotics definitely did fall down a little bit, uh, without the explanation.
But, uh, yeah, I talked about, we we’d done this, uh, I’d built this, this kind of like pseudo web app, social integration thing for, basically some anti-me efforts at the university I was working for, and we were, we, we put together sort of a, sort of a scavenger hunt contest sort of thing with, with like Facebook likes and different check-ins and things like that and had some great, great art direction from our, our design director and everything else.
And it was a really, it was really fun. And so we, we definitely saw that it helped improve yield for, for enrollment marketing and or enrollment management. And we, uh, yeah, I decided to do a talk on it and it was fun and it was Austin. And, um, and then I moved to Austin, not because of that, but I moved to Austin shortly after.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: That would’ve been my next question now. I, um, so it’s hard for me to try to figure out the origin story here. But part of that was because before I was ever in Higher Ed, I worked as a classroom teacher. and, and, and, and before I was a teacher, I was in my high school speech league. So I’ve, I’ve been doing some form of presenting my entire life.
Um, my first like actual conference was the Penn State Web Conference, which was a regional thing in 2007. I didn’t even have to propose somebody was just looking for someone to present XSLT, and my first national was High Ed Web I, um, it was 2008 where we met, somebody said a coworker wanted to do a poster session together, and then the coworker was unable to make it didn’t really know anybody, um, I was one of the first, uh, the people who were actually live tweeting sessions and that’s really how I got to know everybody. And.
Joel Goodman: Same.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Same here!
Joel Goodman: That conference, that year of that conference in particular, like it was kind of pivotal. Cause I had ju, just started or I was a year into it in my first university role and yeah, I met everyone. I met Todd Sanders. I met you. I met Gilzo I met like everyone.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: There was the sushi run.
Joel Goodman: There. Yeah. With Fienan and yeah. Um, that it was It really was. And, and all of that around like all of the connection on Twitter before the conference, and then the activity on Twitter during the conference. And then, you know, from there, we’ve just had this really tight-knit community of kind of, kind of the OGs that were, uh, that were in that group around 2007 to 2009.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Yeah, it was like, I came in new. I was so worried about, you know, what would I do? And, and. But then I made these lifelong friends and those lifelong friends gave me all these additional opportunities and encouraged me. So
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah, High Ed Web really got me on Twitter too. Like I think before my first HighEd web was a Little Rock regional, and I still had like some AOL screen name type handle on, on Twitter and like was on the back channel. And I was like super embarrassed, like, oh yeah. I’m I don’t even wanna mention it now. Like I was like, yeah, I probably one, oh, you can use Twitter professionally?
This is awesome. Two like, oh, I better change my handle to something that , I’m not like embarrassed to introduce myself as, so, yeah, the, the back channel at High Ed Web is, is very active and, and a lot of fun. Uh, I think my first presentation was some, I was, was at a inter I can’t remember the organization now.
I started in, in the classroom as well. And it was about using social media to reach international students, and it was very much the, oh, hey, there’s this new thing called Facebook, and you can get on it and, uh, talk to talk to students and, and share events and things like that. And, uh, I, and a couple years later, that was my first High Ed Web national presentation was, was a poster session on, on that topic, um, at, in Portland.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: I feel like I measure like these moments of my life in these High Ed Web locations. It’s like, that was the Portland year.
Joel Goodman: Yeah
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: That was second Milwaukee.
Joel Goodman: That second Milwaukee. I think I, so I missed Portland. Which was a bummer, cuz my sisters live in Portland and I wanted to go see them. But I had to miss Portland. I think it like landed on my wife’s birthday. And I was like, I’m not, I need to, I need to be home for her birthday, and then, um, and then I, I think I missed second Milwaukee, but I was there for first and third and, and forth.
So much Milwaukee.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: I missed Austin and first Milwaukee and I had so much FOMO that honestly, this is really terrible, but when I would bid new jobs in, in, at Penn State, I would ask as part of my questions of interviewing them. Like, what’s your travel budget? and you know, how many conferences can I attend it? Because there are a lot of intangible factors when you, when you negotiate, if you can’t negotiate on salary, if they say this is as high as we go, then you start asking for things like work at home days and High Ed Web.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: And that’s another, uh, advantage of presenting because many conferences have discounts for presenters, so when those budgets are tight, like that was like the only way I could go to conferences was if I was presenting. So it’s like, okay, well, you know, I need to get something in, so I, I, I can, I can actually get the budget to attend.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Well, presenting and volunteering. We’ve got, uh, we’ve got some really neat, uh, if, because sometimes it’s hard to get a, a good, uh, leadership role in Higher Ed, unless you have some experience leading. We’ve got a, a chair for sponsorship and a vice chair in the membership committees in High Ed Web, that, um, are good opportunities to get involved. And, and if you track your volunteer time, you can use those toward conference benefits. So if you’re not ready to present, or if you are ready to present, but you wanna get to know the community better, that’s also a good way to get involved and get out there.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Exactly. Yeah. Getting out involved, is it, adds another layer to the, the whole experience too. You’re, you’re giving back to it as well. So it’s a, it’s a great opportunity. And, also segues well into our, our next question and the value of networking, right? How, you know, one of the, I think we talk so often about some of the biggest takeaways from conferences actually don’t come from the presentations themselves.
They come from the networking times between those presentations. So how important is networking at conferences to you, Nikki?
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: I think it’s one of the key pieces of a conference. I mean, you do have, when you present, you’re, you’re getting out there because you might get tweeted and retweeted from presenting and, all of a sudden, you know, you get these upticks in, in, in LinkedIn and, and some more Twitter activity, but the other part is just going out and talking to people and expanding your network.
I we’ve had people in the community that have raised funds to replace somebody stolen laptop. Um, we’ve had people in the community that help find other positions for people whose departments have downsized. So the bigger, the, the wider, the network and the deeper connections you can make, the, the more opportunities you have for yourself, you might, you might meet somebody on the vendor side of things that in knowing them, you have a better understanding of what the product is and how you might manage that relationship, if you are migrating to a different CMS, so it’s, it’s a very valuable experience.
Joel Goodman: I totally agree. And I think one of the special thing, well, I don’t know this it’s hard because like High Ed Web was the first kind of conference community that I, that I entered. Um, It’s it’s more than just like professional relationships. You become friends with these people. I mean, we, we all know there, you know, groups that are going to each other’s weddings and, you know, major life events and getting together, you know, driving cross country to, to just, you know, have, have cocktails or things like that.
Um, or, you know, or groups that, that get together and spend some time after the conference, just having a little mini vacation with friends. That’s that’s something that I think you don’t see a lot, especially in like mega conferences, like mega corporate type of things. Um, but also like for me, it’s that community are the ones that I know I can, connect with, or hang out with, at other conferences when they’re gonna be there. So like PSE, Web Nikki was gonna be there, like, cool, I get to hang with Nikki, you know, or, you know, or when Penn State Web was still a thing or, or when it became elements, like knowing that there was a significant chunk of folks from High Ed Web that were going to be there.
Um, and that those friend groups kind of overlapped with the, with the, you know, the Penn State regulars. Those, those are kind of, um, I, I think on a, just on like a kind of soul feeding level are, are really, really great things to have, you know, that you have support beyond just the professional side. Um, but then when you do need the professional stuff, you’ve got those deeper relationships to, to be able to lean on and, and everyone, you know, does want to pitch in because you’ve spent the time getting to know them and that’s, uh, I think that’s, that’s fairly unique in at least in Higher Ed and at least in High Ed Web, uh, I, I don’t know how it, how it hap or how that happens, or if that happens at, you know, other Higher Ed conferences, but, uh, you know, in kind of other sectors, like the like enrollment management or student affairs and things like that.
But I know for those of us in High Ed Web, um, the conference and the general community, they, you kind of follow each other around when it, when it comes to other, other events and other and other, uh, conferences. And that’s, that’s super, super valuable I think.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: I would say this from a Higher Ed Social Media Manager’s perspective, so many Higher Ed social media managers are the only social media person on their campus. So getting to a conference and being able to talk to other people who do your job and understand it and understand the difficulties is just. It for your mental health. if nothing else that you, you need, that you need that network of other people doing, uh, your job, uh, that you can talk to and commiserate with and, and share ideas too, but mostly commiserate.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: There’s a lot of value in commiseration.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: There there’s a lot. Yeah, exactly. Just going, it’s not just me, that’s dealing with this problem because it, it feels like that.
Joel Goodman: There are a few High Ed Web years where it was mostly commiseration. And you see, you know, you have this group of people that go through similar industry ups and downs together. And so it’s just a little bit more resilience and, and definitely comaraderie so,
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Yeah, I know I’ve, I’ve gone, you know, if I’ve been traveling to a certain city and I know there are people nearby, um, some of the conference folk that I’m friends with, I might say, hey, I’ll be, I’ll be running through this city at this time, or if there’s a concert I really wanna see and it’s four hours away actually.
Um, I am. I have a conference friend amongst High Ed Web people that we’ve gone to a number of events this year conferences, just because we can. And, uh, it’s, it’s kind of neat to be able to just get together and do that stuff. But I, I do think there’s a double edged sword there in that, because we all know each other over the years from an outsider’s perspective, it can feel like you’re intruding.
And it’s really not. A lot of us are just, a lot of us are deep down, really shy people, myself included that just sort of project outgoingness. And we don’t think of ourselves as insiders. We think of ourselves as outsiders. So we stick to the people that we know, but it’s not cuz we don’t wanna meet new people.
And so if you’re new, um, know that we’re always happy to have new faces and, and don’t worry, you’re not crashing anything. And. And if you are one of the insiders who thinks there’s still an outsider, um, I challenge you when you go to these events to, to meet some new people and invite them into your group and, and adopt a newbie.
Because I I’ve met some really great people when I started, when I actually joined the board and realized, oh, I’m an insider now. And now it’s time to make more people insiders. And it, and I think you know, I would’ve never met some of these people if I hadn’t realized. Oh yes, Nikki you’re, you’re kind of on the inside.
This is about as inside as you can get.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: High Ed Web is one of those, those magical few places where you can walk up to somebody and go, hey, I know you from Twitter and not just be completely awkward and weird, like, oh yeah, oh, great, okay. Uh, so that, that’s another great way, to uh, to meet people at High Ed Web.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Some of the deepest conversations I’ve ever had are with, with conference people, conference friends, which is so how do you even explain that to people like philosophical life discussions?
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Excellent, well, I think all three of us are presenting at High Ed Web this year. Nikki you’ve mentioned a little bit about what you’re presenting on, but we we’ll give it a like round conference roundup what to expect from the three of us and, and, uh, at High Ed Web. Uh, so let let’s go for it.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: So I did mention that we’re doing a workshop for people who wanna get better at presenting with season, with seasoned presenters. That’s a pre-conference workshop. I’m also doing a post-conference workshop on, um, web components for university websites. That’s for the more, uh, programmer crowd, but it’s, I usually like to present things so that people are coming from any level of experience.
So if you know, a little bit of HTML and a little bit of CSS, you’re good. Um, and then I am doing a session in costume about the magic script, that progressively loads web components to increase the performance of websites and only load what you need when you need it, and so, you know, because it’s called the magic script and that’s how we refer to it,
I did order my top hat and my, uh, my magician tail coat. So, you know, I, I like to have fun with my presentations and entertain myself. Hopefully other people will find it equally entertaining.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: We need a cosplay, um, section of, of High Ed web.
Joel Goodman: That’s that’s a diff that’s a different conference J.S.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: If you’ve ever wanted to just cosplay or present on something fun, but relate it to work, this is the conference for it.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Well, I’m doing my presentation on what Higher lead, Higher lead Higher Ed can learn from the entertainment industry. So may maybe, maybe I need to, to, to dress up like Invincible and, give it that way. Yeah. I’m gonna talk about some of my experiences over the past year or so, working in the entertainment industry and how it relates to Higher Ed, what they can learn from it.
Uh, basically spoiler alert, it’s gonna be all those things that you’ve wanted to do on your social media. Uh, you probably should be doing because, uh, some of those, those, those big brands are, are, are doing that as well. And it’s, it’s perfectly acceptable. And also second spoiler alert the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, there are silos in other industries. That are just as heavy as, as Higher Ed.
Joel Goodman: And I will not be dressing up for my talk, but I am gonna be speaking on a topic I’ve been talking about a lot called Hospitable Design, uh, something I’m, I’m kind of working through, but essentially like how we can be kinder in the websites that we design, how we can really take a, uh, a, a caring approach to designing interactions, designing experiences, and, and in this particular talk how we can apply that to personalization on the web, which is a hot topic among our colleagues at institutions these days.
Cuz all they hear from their managers is we need personalization. We need personalization. Oftentimes they don’t know what that means. Uh, so we’re gonna, we’re gonna break it down and figure out what that means. Um, and, uh, J.S. and I are trying to figure out how we can do a, a live episode of Thought Feeder, uh, during the conference and maybe get some, some other voices from attendees in for the episode.
So, uh, if you’re there, look out for that. If you’re not gonna be there, you’ll be able to listen to that. Or, uh, you know, probably we might even be able to do it live, well, we’ll have to see, we’ve only done one live episode.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: There’s a really good German beer garden in downtown Little Rock. And I think we should just set up the mics outside and, and do that. Have some, have some sausages and.
Joel Goodman: Yeah. If, if someone wants to be on the mic, they have to bring us a beer or a pretzel.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Count me in.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Yeah, definitely. So the conference is October 9th through 12th, in Little Rock, Arkansas and it’s hybrid. So if you can’t make it in person, definitely check it out. Um, There are many other ways that you can get involved with High Ed Web if you can’t make it to this event. Like I said, we have a slack space where we’re around year round.
And if you, uh, if you wanna bring a regional to you, uh, we definitely are looking for ways to host smaller, more travel-able uh, versions of High Ed Web because that in person experience is something I think we are all just waiting for.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Excellent. I can’t wait to see you at High Ed Web this year.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Yay. Face to face people!
Joel Goodman: Thank you so much for listening to Thought Feeder. If you liked this episode and any of our other ones, you can rate and subscribe on Apple Podcast, but you could also just subscribe to us anywhere that you like to get podcasts. That’s Spotify, that’s Google, that’s Amazon that’s I don’t know, Stitcher and Overcast and everything else.
So wherever you like to listen to podcasts, we are there. We’d also appreciate you sharing this podcast. If, if, if you think your friends would like it, we are on Twitter at thought feed pod. We are also on the, the web at thoughtfeederpod.com. And, uh, yeah, we would like to thank Nikki Massaro Kauffman for being on the show today.
And Nikki I’m so excited to see you in man, you know, a, a month plus two, you know, month and a month and a week or two or something. So thanks for being on, uh, it was great to have you.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman: Thanks. It was great to be here.