Foothold Expo 2011: A R-evolutionary Success

On June 23rd, Foothold Technology welcomed AWARDS Users from across the country to the NYU Kimmel Center for the fourth Annual Users Conference. The theme was “Evolution”, and with this in mind we returned in a revamped format—an Expo—attracting over 200 attendees representing 90 human service agencies across nine states from coast to coast.

Since starting the Expo four years ago the goal has remained the same—to provide a meeting place for the broad spectrum of human service agencies we work with to connect and knowledge-share about best practices, to learn what’s new in humans services, and to delve into AWARDS more intensively. Executive directors, IT professionals, case workers and many other agency contributors helped make this year’s Expo the most successful yet.

The “track” system introduced this year allowed attendees to better tailor their breakout session choices.  The sessions ranged from intensive AWARDS tutorials on Service Plans, E-prescribing, FormBuilder to analytical offerings covering a diverse range of topics—from a discussion on the federal Meaningful Use initiative to a data analytics workshop.

Our keynote, Dr. Stephen G. Post, renowned Professor of Preventative Medicine and author, kicked off the morning on a subject close to home—The Hidden Gifts of Helping—and  all Expo attendees were given a complimentary, copy of Dr. Post’s inspiring book which he graciously signed for attendees.

The book is not the only thing some lucky attendees took home—our always-popular giveaways this year included an iPad 2, Nook e-readers, Flip video cameras and more.

An Experience in Social Networking

This section was written by one of our enterprising interns, Morgan Namian.  When Morgan isn’t spending her summers at Foothold she’s wielding a lacrosse stick as a senior at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY.

This is my second summer interning at Foothold and this year I was given the task of integrating social media into the annual Expo.  I couldn’t have been happier; as a college student, I spend an embarrassing amount of time per day checking up on my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and I was more than happy to use my, erm, extensive research in the social networking field to design a way for AWARDS users to interact with Foothold staff and with one another at the Expo.

The idea behind Twitter’s presence at the Expo was to make the cultivate a truly interactive experience for those of our users and agencies who have also embraced the technology, and to introduce it to those who hadn’t already. As a result, we encouraged attendees to tweet at us throughout the day with questions, comments, rants, raves, and photos in order for us to maintain constant interaction with the entire Foothold community—and it worked!

Ultimately, we found that our users are really pretty enthusiastic about Twitter!  Working behind the information booth I braced myself, iPad in hand, as we were bombarded with feedback about the sessions, our keynote presentation, the sandwich options, and the list goes on.  I have to say that the coolest part about it was that in the midst of the 250 Expo attendees, we were able to make contact on an individual and personal basis, thus reinforcing our tight community appeal—and that’s what it’s all about.

Additionally, I think Twitter opened up a new world of interaction for our users at the Expo—using the #FTExpo2011 trending topic, our attendees could make connections with one another throughout the day, hopefully forging new and beneficial relationships in the spirit of case management and reporting!  Or, at the very least, in the spirit of networking and making new acquaintances.

It is our hope that we can continue the process of using the social media to connect to our users, and to connect our users to one another—so help us out! Follow @FootholdTech on Twitter, and like Foothold Technology on Facebook. We would love to hear from you!

A Visual Memory

If you attended Foothold Expo 2011 this June, you may have seen an artist working on some rather large, colorful drawings.  Mathias Vestergaard, a self-titled, “Creative Misfit And Ideator”, was on hand to create graphic recordings of our keynote presentations and several Expo sessions.  Shortly before the Expo, Mathias approached us about graphically recording our event and we decided to take the plunge to see how this creative approach would complement the Expo.

If you don’t know what graphic recording is, don’t worry – you’re not alone.  It’s an emerging technique that can be used as a learning support tool by visually representing thoughts, ideas and processes.  Graphic recording is designed to visually capture and summarize real-time information in an unobtrusive, creative and interesting way. The recorder draws a map or mural of a discussion as it unfolds, recording the key points, insights, and “a-ha” moments in real time.  The participants can see a visual representation of their ideas and how they are related, which leads to better understanding and retention of the topic of discussion. Since one of the primary goals of the Expo is to share ideas and promote a deeper understanding of AWARDS, we thought it was the perfect venue to try this unique learning method.

Next year we will be celebrating our fifth year of connecting the Foothold Community at the annual Expo.  Join us on July 12th for Foothold Expo 2012 and we promise to build on this year’s extraordinary success.