In 2009, Steffi Karp attended a Limmud event in Atlanta, Georgia. Her goal was to learn (Limmud is Hebrew for "learning") more about Jewish culture. The experience was so rewarding that she walked away inspired to found a chapter back home in Boston.

LimmudBoston is celebrating it's 10th year anniversary this year.

Steffi is no stranger to event tech so it was surprising to hear about her use of sticky notes. We explore why this no-tech solution to plan the program schedule is actually the most democratic option and how you can use it at your event.

The following has been edited for length and clarity. Excerpt begins at 17:41.

Poster board with sessions on moveable sticky notes

Taylor McKnight: Okay, so you and your team are managing [session proposals] in Salesforce.

Steffi Karp: In Salesforce, right. So they're actually dealing with it mostly in paper. But that's the only format -- if you don't enter it [in Salesforce], [a person] can't say, "Hey, I'd like to propose a session on what I'm doing, and a film, is that okay?" I always say, "Fill out that form," because if we don't have apples to apples, it's impossible for the program team to decide [on programming]. And it's also a great way for a program to be lost.

TM: So you just said that part of your team does it with paper though? Like are you printing those out?

SK: In other words, we're not asking them all to learn how to use Salesforce. And as long as it's proposed that way, then when they meet they can look at a sheet that comes straight from Salesforce that says Session Title, Session Description. Bio, additional panelists and their bios. All those questions are right there, and your name and address and any organizations you're affiliated with. So [we'll] know if we have 14 people from the Jewish Alliance on Law and Social Action. Then we might say, "Any chance that three of you can work together and some of you will wait till next year?" So that we're able to feel as inclusive as possible, but we're not crowding out everybody else who wants to present.

TM: It's really interesting that you have everybody submit those talks in the Salesforce. That's the main record.

SK: That's right. That's our single file drawer.

TM: You print those out and do you bring those printouts to a room where you discuss this with others and figure it out, or how does that work?

SK: [The program team] have been looking at an Excel sheet that gave them some of that information. But then when they're all together, they get a packet of all the sessions because it really is hard to do it all on the computer.

TM: So who's "They"? Walk me through that real quick.

SK: We have teams of volunteers, and there are probably 10 or 12 people who go to the slotting day, where we actually take all the sessions, and we have them on stickers. And the stickers go on to Post-It notes, and the Post-It notes are separated by topic [and] by color.

Session stickers being placed on Post-It notes.

TM: This is so interesting.  

SK: So all of Spirituality might be one color, and all the Israel [sessions] might be blue, and the Jewish Climate Action Network -- anybody who's talking anything about climate and health might be green, et cetera. And we have these giant foam core boards, that we've used since the very first year, that are separated out by the time period and all the classrooms in the building that we use. And we put the sessions up. That way we can look and say, "Oh look everything at two o'clock  is green. That doesn't work."

Steffi Karp discussing the proposed program schedule on poster boards.

So looking at those, we have these giant boards and then we can move them around. That's all done practically in one day. Once that's done and once several of our regulars, including me, come in and take a look at them and read through and say, "No you might not want these two at the same time." Or, "These are so close. Maybe they could become a panel instead of being two separate sessions." Then we put the sessions back into Salesforce -- the classroom and the time, and the fact that the session has been accepted. And not either withdrawn or actually not accepted. Sometimes that happens because we get more than 100 proposals for 80 sessions.

LimmudBoston is far from the only company that uses post-it notes.

Mathew Cropper tweeted, "the quality of conversation improved massively" after his team at NewsWhip moved from digital to physical pen & paper.

Adrian Segar, the author of Conferences That Work, is a firm believer. A post-it note wall even made the cover of his book! He explains the 5 reasons why the planning process thrives when using a post-it note wall.

  1. One place to easily capture every piece of information that any individual thinks is relevant.
  2. A public display of information that many people can easily view simultaneously for as long as needed.
  3. Simple public manipulation options, such as note clustering, inclusion/exclusion, ranking, and public modification.
  4. Somewhere for appropriate people to document and discuss progress and develop and implement process.
  5. A natural focus for easy spontaneous conversation, communication, and creativity.

Have you ever used good old fashioned post-it notes for planning? We'd love to hear how it worked for planning your event. Thanks again to Steffi Karp, Founder of Limmud Boston, for chatting with us this week!

Listen to the full podcast episode in the player above.

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