Conference Postponed? Find Other Ways to Collaborate

Like many of you, I was so disappointed to learn that GSA’s Annual Government Web and New Media Conference has been postponed, likely a victim of the management issues at GSA. While I can understand GSA’s dilemma, it’s really a shame to shelve this meeting. THIS conference has always been well-run; and – more important – it serves as the one time a year that a large number of government web managers (particularly, but not exclusively, federal government web managers) get together in person to collaborate.

Well, it is what it is. I hope the conference will be rescheduled. But in the meantime, don’t sit around and wait for GSA to create opportunities to collaborate – do it yourself! How? Well, here are a few ideas.

1. Call some other web managers in your geographic area and set up a meeting. You can choose agencies whose missions are related to yours or a variety of agencies. You can (should) include state and local government web managers. Agenda ideas?

  • Invite speakers – there are savvy web experts everywhere or you can do it as a group webinar
  • Create a seminar series or brown bag lunches on specific topics. Share expertise and figure out ways to work together.
  • Do “show and tell,” allowing web managers to showcase things that are working well or things they have in the works. But don’t just talk at each other. Work together. Could you adopt common methods for organizing content or helping customers who get stuck on a task that crosses agencies? The more we do things alike, the easier it is for customers to use all our sites. Could you work together to come up with better sequences of related content, so customers can move between agencies seamlessly?
  • Do usability testing – pick two or three sites from your meeting group, come up with some typical (top task) problems, and use 3 members of your group as guinea pigs (Steve Krug says you can use just about anyone to test your site, and you’ll still get worthy results). Work together to fix the problems. Or watch a First Fridays session together. Learn how GSA does usability testing and then do some yourselves.
  • Include managers of other delivery channels – call centers, correspondence units, publications, in-person customer support. Figure out how you can work together to make customer service seamless and effective, no matter how customers interact with the agencies.

And folks – I’m not just talking about doing this in Washington DC. If you’re in a regional city or a state capitol, it’s likely there are several agencies working on multiple websites, within commuting distance. In 2005, members of the Federal Web Managers Council hit the road, holding regional meetings in Denver and Chicago to go over federal web policies. The house was packed in both cities! So I know there is an audience out there – find them.

2. Set up local or regional conference calls to supplement or follow-up on the Government Web Managers Forum calls. Focus on opportunities for collaboration. How can you work across agencies to share resources or conduct training or measure customer behavior when a task cuts across agency boundaries?

3. Use the Government Web Managers Forum listserv to kick around ideas. Don’t just look for best practices – look for ways to collaborate together to solve problems and improve customer service. Think big.

4. Get involved in one of the Sub-Councils of the Federal Web Managers Council. Collaborate with your peers to come up with tools and resources everyone can use.

5. Use Ning or GovLoop or LinkedIn or Go to Meeting or any number of technology tools to set up task groups around particular issues or initiatives.

Be creative. And whatever you do, share the experiences and outcomes of your collaborations with your colleagues, through the Government Web Managers Forum. Success begets success, so let others know how you’re working together to improve customer service.

Collaboration is so important. Why? Customers judge all of us by their experience with any of us, so we need to work together to make sure all government websites (and other delivery channels) are as good as they can be. GSA has done an outstanding job providing leadership and support for collaboration among the government web management community, and they’ll continue to fill that role. But you (yes, YOU) must step it up, too. Show some spunk. Be a leader. Find ways you can cause collaboration that will improve government customer service.
Remember: we serve best when we serve together.
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Andrew Krzmarzick

This is a true bummer that the baby’s been thrown out with the bathwater, Candi…and you offer some encouragement for those who always look forward to this event, reminding them that there are ways to simulate and experience conference proximity and support every day.

Ron Pringle

While I’ve never been to GSA’s Web and New Media Conference I’ve only ever heard great things about it. Its cancellation is a disappointment.

I would like to offer an additional idea to your excellent list Candi, which is attend the National Association of Government Webmasters (NAGW) conference in September in Kansas City. While it’s focused on local and state government, federals will find themselves at home as well. You can find more info at

Joe Flood

If you’re in the DC area, there are lots of free Meetups related to web management that are worth attending. I’m a huge fan of the WordPress meetup but there are also meetups for Drupal, web content management, social media and other issues. It’s a free/cheap way to expand your skills and meet new people.

John Robert Nixon

I concur with my colleague Ron. The NAGW National Conference is a great opportunity to learn about a wide variety of government web and new media topics. Plus, it’s a very affordable conference being in Kansas City with a modest room rate and low registration cost. I hope to see some of you there.

Candi Harrison

Ron – so glad you mentioned the NAGW conference because it’s a great idea for feds to attend that conference. We need to intermingle and work together more across levels of government because our customers – especially citizens – often don’t know what level of government offers the services they want. We need to make service seamless across and between levels of government.

Tara Linne

I was really disappointed the conference was cancelled. This would have been my 4th year and I always leave with new ideas and valuable information. Plus it is a great opportunity to network and make new contacts. You had some great ideas Candi. Thanks! I hope this is only a temporary cancellation and at some point, once all of this blows over, the conferences will resume.