Posted by Cindy Bracker, Communications Director

I feel like I’m preaching to the choir a bit in this post, because I know that the people that read the NCECA blog regularly are the most informed conference-goers we have.  YOU all are the ones who know to about the special help and guidance for first timers, the scholarships for students and teachers, all the new things we’re trying out, the locations of EVERYTHING, and so on.

But, we’ve reached the Q&A portion of the Inside NCECA column…for the next few weeks, I’ll be responding to comments on the NCECA Survey (if you haven’t taken it yet, click here….preferably BEFORE you read what follows)

Why is there no evaluation of the program here? It seems to ba all about everything BUT the program. This is wooriesome to me as a vetran member.

That’s actually a great question.  IF you have the app or access to a computer to use the web app, there is a short 3 question survey about EACH session you can take that speaks to that topic and presenter.  This data is used to “take the temperature,” so to speak, of the membership and help us make decisions for subsequent year’s programming.   (If not, I’d say that if you have questions or concerns about the program itself, please let me or any board member know your thoughts.)   I’d also add that the main reason for THIS survey is to try to help us improve the elements of the conference that repeat from year to year.  Because the programming is proposed and driven by members,  AND because speakers are not supposed to present two years in a row, it’s hard to frame questions regarding programming that will inform decisions for the coming year.  Does that make sense?  Please email me if you have more concerns or things you’d like to discuss.  NCECA’s goal is to continue to learn and evolve….

I was disappointed in the lack of environmental and sustainability discussions throughout the conference. I also felt that even though lectures were promoted for professional practice – they tended to be more focused on students or educators. I would like to see more available for the full time potter in early/mid career.

I, too, noticed a lack of proposals on sustainability and environmental issues.  It sounds like you are a person passionate about this cause.  Perhaps you’d like to put together a panel or co-lecture on the topic?  NCECA programming is always a reflection of its membership, so if you find a lack of programming in a certain area, you should try to fill that void!  ALL members of the board are always happy to help you workshop an idea into a proposal.

 Cynthia Bracker’s husband should give a lecture on grants available for technology, I learned so much from him in Lawerence. Have shared what I learned with head of our Dept at the community college where I work! Great stuff!

Hahahah.  Well, that’s an easy one.  I just told him.  BUT, NCECA does have a guideline that presenters don’t present two years in a row so that we can help keep the conference programming fresh and new and give a wide lots of people the opportunity to have that experience.  To be perfectly honest, David HATES blogging, but maybe I can convince him to put together something on technology grants….

As a first timer i want to tell you how overwhelmingly great i find your organisation, the conference and all your efforts. I want to thank you for a memorable and exhilarating experience. A timetable for the shuttle busses would be extremely helpful, not only the last pickup time. (Fellow shuttlers and me sat in front of a museum for 45 minutes waiting for the bus)

Thanks so much!  I’m so thrilled you had a great experience.  Please keep coming back.  I love the suggestion for the timetable and I will be forwarding this suggestion to Lew White.  Lew handles all of the bus tours and shuttles for NCECA.  As a local this year and not just a board member, I got to work with Lew more closely on the tours than in previous years and I find him to be a real team player who wants to make everyone’s gallery-going experience great.  I think we are lucky to have him taking care of this piece for us.  He seems eager to make improvements based on user feedback!  Great suggestion!

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to an NCECA conference with this many technical/AV glitches. Almost all presentations that I saw had dropped slides, missing sounds or missing videos. Not sure what the difference was this year… but something was definitely up. Other than that, thumbs up!

There were actually two things that led to the problems.  First and foremost, the overloaded internet at the convention center negatively impacted our tech team as well as some attendees.  Secondly, we had a lot of difficulty getting presenters to come in to the speaker prep room with ample time to troubleshoot.  Usually what happens (and what the speaker contract recommends) is presenters come in the day before their presentation for our tech team to test the whole thing and make sure everything is correctly downloaded without any glitches, compression issues, corrupt files etc.  We had a lot of presenters come in 2-4 hours before their presentation.  We tried to accommodate tall of our presenters as uch   Next year, we’re making appointments in advance of the conference

Please continue to offer PottersSlam: Clay Stories. It is a wonderful way to connect with other clay enthusiasts and hear first-hand how clay is a part of their lives. It is a very heart-warming addition and adds a beautiful human element to the conference activities.

This is just one of MANY positive comments about Clay Stories!  I’m so glad to see people are appreciating this session.  Owen Dearing and Steve Branfman put in tireless hours to make this happen last year and again this year.  Having spent three years myself coordinating interviews with a variety of NCECA members to gather their NCECA stories for the 50th anniversary video, (coming soon, stay tuned), I know what goes into putting this together.  With so much wild support for the session, I will work with Steve and Owen to see if we can cement Clay Stories place in the programming!

I would like to get very involved in NCECA activities.

I would very much like you to get involved!  I have already contacted the person who wrote this comment, but I also know that for each person that says something, there are at least 10 people who feel the same.  I was once one of those people who wanted to get more involved, but didn’t know how.  It took an out-of the-blue phone call from Keith Williams to get me involved in NCECA.  It has been a wild and incredible ride since that moment and I have loved every second.  But I’m not Keith (I don’t look that good in hats), so I don’t know who all of you are that want to get involved.  But I’d LOVE to have you involved, so drop me an email.  We’ll find a place for you and your talents!

Much clearer/visible signage, please!! And screens in the halls with the schedule/announcements, updated as they change throughout the conference days! I think these would make the conference experience easier and flow better, for both attendees and staff/volunteers. Perhaps the convention swagbag could be a small backpack or something that zips?? I’m sure I’d use it in my normal/daily life it was a bit more durable/practical.

Great suggestions.  Screens in the hallways would be awesome.  But they cost $900/day.  That’s not an exaggeration.  We do use the app to try to push important information out to attendees.  The KC Convention Center had 4 television screens built in that we were able to use, but I had to get them the files for these a week and a half in advance of the conference for them to run it through their system.  Changes on the fly would be great, but I’m not sure who would have the time to create the videos or slides, or proofread the information etc….I love the idea of a small backpack, but that’s going to multiply the cost of that bag itself probably 10-fold, and that’s not something that the organization can absorb.  I use my conference bag from each year to carry my lunch to work…

It would be great if there was an intentional space where k-12 teachers could meet to share ideas/curriculum/support. Maybe a room, like the student critique room… Also, it would be great to have an event where people who don’t know anyone at the conference can go to meet others… Social happy hour??

OK, I have a GREAT idea for this, but I need your help to make it happen.  The NCECA Connections time slot is PERFECT for this.  We just moved this popular conference piece to Wednesday this year, with great success, and plan to continue it in that time slot for next year.  A K-12 Connection would be great, and would enable teachers (and their students, if attending) to meet at the beginning of the conference and share notes and experiences.  But I need SOMEONE to propose it.  Will it be you?

As a newbie with little contact with others at this point I would have liked more guidance prior to the conference as to best ways to take advantage of a conference of this nature.

Did you check out the NCECA for first time attendees presentation online or live at the conference on Wednesday?  If you were not aware of this, how could we better have advertised this event directed at our first time attendees?

THANK YOU!!! I’m just amazed at the organizational prowess that went into this conference. From the experience of an attendee, everything was seamless and AMAZING! Words cannot express how wonderful this conference was. I’m sure it was millions of tons of work and just wanted to express my gratitude to y’all for making it happen. Also, NCECA made me love Kansas City, a new place for me! (Still craving that barbecue.)

Aw shucks, thanks os much!  I can’t tell you what it meant to me to read this.  If you want my BBQ rub recipe, send me an email….I’ll tell you anything you want to know about great BBQ!  Or come back for another visit anytime!!!)

The food choices in the resource hall for individuals working at the booths was absolutely horrifying. The lack of options shows a great oversight and bordered on offensive.

I feel you on the food issue, and I know it’s really hard to escape the booth to go grab something to eat.  However, NCECA has no control over the restaurants in the city or the food courts in the convention center.  I am a picky eater.  I ALWAYS go to the grocery store prior to conference (or upon my arrival if I already know of a good nearby grocery store in the host city….like Cosentino’s in KC) and stock up on some essentials so that I’m not forced to eat bad fast food.  Outside of the world of clay, I’m an athlete and how I fuel my body is extremely important to me, so I don’t leave that to chance.  I take matters into my own hands.

Some of the demos could have been more informative or better organized. For example, the Sgraffito demo was extremely basic and didn’t really teach me anything. Perhaps a different artist should have been chosen. Handfuls of people stood up mid demo and left the presentation. However, Kyungmin Park’s Facial Expressions demo was fantastic! She was entertaining, informative, and well prepared. I feel that her demonstration should be the standard for demos in the future.

Two thoughts on this.  First is that NCECA tries to provide content for a variety of skill levels, and what might be basic for one person might be perfectly appropriate for another, and what is WAY over one person’s head might be key to unlocking a whole new technique to someone else. Second thought is even if we were to set a minimum standard, how we can determine this during the proposal consideration phase?  Our current method of selection of presenters involves completion of a form by the proposer, including up to 10 accompanying images of work by the proposer.  Then the NCECA board reviews all of the proposals prior to our spring board meeting.  Usually there are about 100-125 proposals.  Personally, I spend 5-10 minutes per proposal reading, researching and making notes.  Then the full board comes together to discuss and debate ALL the proposals for about 8-9 hours for 3 days.   Do you think we need to have demonstrators submit a video to the board of what they plan to present so we can evaluate based on that?  Please keep in mind that if we have just 30 people submit even a 5 minute sample that’s 2 1/2 hours of reviewing content by 17 volunteer board members just for ONE aspect of programming.  I’m open to suggestions for improvement of the process…..?

1) the annual NCECA conference should be in the Fall (not the Spring) so everyone gets energized closer to the beginning of a new academic year / not when the school year is almost finished. 2) this would also be better timing for Universities to recruite incoming graduate students for the following Fall (right now, with NCECA in March / our application deadline has passed! and 3) why not have the Emerging Artists’ presentations the FIRST day of the conference rather than the last day of the conference? / this way, everyone would know who they are and then have the rest of the conference to meet them in person and network. I’ve made these suggestions before, but nothing ever changes. Oh well. PS> Kate Vorhaus is personable, super organized, and GREAT!

First and most importantly, YES!  Kate is GREAT.  That’s why her name rhymes.  NCECA is lucky to have such an incredible staff.  NCECA has always been in the spring…..except one year in Greely it was in June or July and it was a disaster.  Our membership now is roughly 50-50 academics to non-academics…it might even be 40-60 now, so switching to the fall just to suit the academic calendar is not necessarily ideal for the membership as a whole.  I have often asked myself about the emerging artists presentations too.  It’s always been that way, but maybe it’s time for a change?  I’ll bring it up in our upcoming board meeting.  🙂

The one negative, especially in Lawrence, was the restaurants saying they had a clay show but the shows were miserable … Just excuses to grab the lunch crowd. We rented a car to drive there and were very disappointed.

There were a LOT of shows in Lawrence, and only two of them in restaurants.  The Growler show at the brewery was curated by a couple of our own clay folk.  I understand it was a good show but a challenging space.  However, in this case, I think the show itself was about more than just the clay work, but about the connection between the vessel and what it provides.  Free State Brewery is also a historical building in Lawrence dating back to the civil war and part of the iconography of the town.  The show at the diner was a salt and pepper shaker show.  Salt and pepper shakers are small…what do you expect from such a show?  In Lawrence there were also three shows at the Lawrence Arts Center, a blockbuster show at the Cider Gallery, 2 exhibitions at KU and 3 separate shows at Brackers.  Plus the overall charm of the town.  I think it was well worth the drive.  Yep, I’m biased.  Not making any apologies.  Lawrence rocks.

I did a blinc20/20 presentation on Thursday which I think went well from my end. (Thank you so much for the opportunity!) It would have been great to have a short Q & A period afterward. The lack of any connection with the audience was awkward and left me thinking that I could have sent the slides and script and stayed home. Also, the last presenters of the afternoon did not have much of an audience. Perhaps a bit of exchange would warm things up? I think it could be a really nice alternative to the lengthier presentations. AND thanks for ALL of the hard work. It was my first conference, being accepted for the blinc20/20 tipped the scales in terms of my decision to go, and I hope to attend several in the future. Great job everybody!!!!

Those are some GREAT suggestions for next year.  The Blinc format was brand new this year and not without mistakes, but your input will help make next year better!  Thanks SO much for this.  I’m already brimming with ideas for improvement.  Would love to bounce some ideas off of you if you are willing…?

Thanks again to all who have already taken the survey.  And please, tell your friends about the blog and our social media feeds.  There are SOOOO many places to get information about the NCECA conference, no one should feel left in the dark!  It’s my goal to enlighten all!  But 6000 people means a lot of light bulbs, so if you’ve got a flashlight, I’d appreciate the assistance!

Until next week….

Categories: Featured, Inside NCECA

5 Responses so far.

  1. I just reconnected with a former student on Facebook. I started taking students to NCECA in 1976? Here is a message from one of those trips one of my student still remembers. I took 2 carloads of students to Champaign, Ill.
    “Yes its been awhile. We were sitting next to a group of art students last night and I told my husband about the time we piled into your little Honda and drove from Billings (MT) to Champaign Illinois for a ceramic convention (NCECA) and how much fun I had in college and I’m 61 now and feeling great”
    -Joanie K. from my early teaching days.
    My students observed that the sky takes a big dip in Iowa.

  2. Keith Williams says:

    Just a follow up suggestion… Cindy you asked the first time attender how we might better communicate the availability of your training sessions. Do we have the ability to pull any new conference enrollee from our database and send them an email a week out? Maybe we already do this, but if we have the capability getting a specialized, short email with an attention grabbing subject line might help. Just doing what passes for thinking out loud…

    • Cindy Bracker, Communications Director says:

      I love the thinking out loud. I did send an email to all those who pre registered and self-identified as first time attendees. Perhaps the respondent registered onsite. Perhaps a sign at registration..? My first timers session was posted on YouTube and in the app. Always open to more ideas!

  3. Jane Kirk says:

    Cindy, Just a thought on the process demonstrations some found too basic…Perhaps listing them with a skill level in addition to the topic? That way you wouldn’t get people wanting advanced sgraffito, for example, walking out on a demonstrator half-way through a presentation being given at a more basic level.