GRPC: Thoughts and you may not like them all.

.I will admit that this will probably my first and last GRPC and allow me to explain why: To have this great line up of speakers and only assign 10-15 minutes per person is a crime. I like the fact I got to meet other bloggers and readers of my blog, but I went there for the information and that limited amount of time forces the speaker to do a “tweet” version of what could be a great exposition. I could have gone all day if it was just John Lott, Eric Friday Jon Gutmacher and Mark O’Mara on the stage about Florida’s Self Defense and Stand Your Ground laws plus a Q&A after they were done. I know it is a limited focus that might not interest everybody but then again many non-Floridians watched with all the attention they could muster for that hour.

The Second Amendment Foundation are top at what they do but are about 10 years behind schedule regarding new media, their website itself is a good example. The conference format as it stands now is obsolete and expensive to maintain. I did not mind the meet-and-greet with fellow activists, but the point is to spread the word to many people as possible more than any cocktail party. To put it mildly, they are still on AOL Free Trial Period.

Don’t get me wrong, a conference where you can get the best and brightest together is a darn good thing, but I felt shortchanged as I expected more time with each speaker. I generally went the smart way picking and choosing which speakers I wanted to hear. I can’t stand still for too long in crowded situations, specially if the subject matter is not something I care about. I understand that what’s going on in the UN is important, but it just does not catch my interest as much as a discussion about Carry & Self Defense laws.

I’d think that a mixed format that includes new media would be a great solution. Keep the conference but have panels on subjects that people can go to and spend more than 15 minutes listening to a speaker. You will also have to reduce the number of speakers to give them time or run panels parallel to each other while letting people decide which one they want to attend. The mixture of a live & present audience with the ones attending from home will be the best of both worlds in my opinion.

Most importantly, use the power of the internet to spread the message. One word: Webinar. Imagine how many extra people could the SAF reach if the conference was available at the click of a mouse. And few people would mind paying for it, I sure as heck wouldn’t mind. My expenses for the trip (I drove) were close to $350 and I wouldn’t mind paying $100-$125 if I could listen and interact with the speakers from the comfort of my home for 2 days.

SAF admitted during the conference that they were behind on social media and the internet. More than behind, I’d call it being blissfully unaware as some (many) gun bloggers are commenting about something that happened during the conference.  SAF mustn’t be afraid to ask for help from the new generation, the experts on the cyber battlefields. Besides it will leave the old heads with the time to concentrate on more legal battles and prepare the next generation of Second Amendment barristers.

“Evolve or Die”
Carved note found near a fossil of a dinosaur.

 

15 Replies to “GRPC: Thoughts and you may not like them all.”

  1. I really like the webinar idea. Put them on YouTube even. With travel getting more expensive every day (And more of a hassle) it makes no sense to have to gather everyone in the same geographic spot.




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  2. Miguel, I am sorry we didn’t get a chance to meet up. I looked for you on Sunday and I didn’t catch you. I was a speaker on Saturday and yes, 5 minutes is limiting but it also forces one to be succinct and to the heart of the matter which helps keep peoples attention spans.

    I am sure there is plenty that SAF can try and experiment with in new social media and they will as time goes on. But as operations director of a local grass roots org, I can’t tell you how important it is to get like minded people in the same room from around the gun rights community. That meeting in Meat Space solidifies friendships, working relationships, strategic partnerships and allows for much more in depth discussion on various gun related issues in the downtime of the conference. It costs people personally or as organizations a not insignificant amount of funds to get there and it’s worth every penny for us. I have been to a few of them and it’s been invaluable.

    That said, I don’t know what GRPC is like from the perspective of gun rights bloggers or from the perspective of the average gun owner. I do know that if you believe it can be more, SAF is surely willing to listen.




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    1. I agree that face to face is important and that aspect must be kept. But I know of several people that wanted to attend and couldn’t for different reasons and doing a webinar could have “brought them in”. I admit this would be something that would need to be refined, but if the 4 nutjobs of The Squirrel Report can have a live audio call in show via the interwebs, I am sure SAF can gather some gunnies experts in the the new media.
      Second Amendment Foundation? There is an app for that 🙂




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  3. I’d like to see at least the schedule of events. If the big info session was all the speakers lumped together, than yeah, it would be a very horrible convention format.

    Now, a disclaimer. I’ve never attended a Gun Rights convention at all. Don’t blast me because I’m merely posting my thoughts.

    I know Miguel already posted it but SAF’s convention is what uh…was the norm for Anime Conventions when Anime was more or less small in its following and the conventions were merely starting out. With the wealth of info being presented, a panel-type convention might’ve been best, not sure, like I said, I speak from attending conventions with attendance numbers in the thousands. Not sure about the numbers there.

    Maybe a few speakers here and there focusing on one issue, and multiple panels at the same time slot. Granted, two panels you want to be in might take place, so it’s a pick and choose. This would be softened if SAF would also record and upload each panel online.

    As for expenses, the panel has to be big, giant names that a webinar or an all blogs stuff can’t cover. It has to justify the cost of attendance (kinda like I’ve yet to go to any convention past Virgina/Maryland of any type) else it’s wasted time on everyone.

    That said, my two cents on this, just throwing it out there.




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  4. I remember an internet that allowed anonymity. IMHO Ray Carter is a great influence at SAF. He’s made positive change modernizing communication and with any luck will continue to. The size of SAFs accomplishments far outstrips the size of the org.

    If they never did another conference again, but kept the point of the spear sharp in our court system… Well I would miss the idea that they would spend money to engage the grass roots. But honestly they do such awesome things in the courts that a conference or a webinar here or there don’t matter to me. All IMO -a (former employee)




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  5. There is no “they.” There is only you, and me. If one of us thinks there’s a job that needs to be done, one of us should be doing it. 😉

    Personally, I find the format of the GRPC hugely helpful for the meatspace contacts. The speakers on the podium simply let the attendees know who they need to talk to in order to help, and be helped with, common goals and shared interests.

    My weekend was like this…

    When I got there Friday afternoon, I wandered down to the lobby and immediately bumped into someone who introduced me to someone else. The three of us stood there and talked for a bit, and by the time the conversation was over:

    1) One person had just agreed to help edit someone else’s book;
    2) Two people had just agreed to help promote someone else’s work;
    3) Three people had agreed to collaborate on an educational project that might, possibly, be very beneficial for the entire gun rights community if it comes together.

    A few minutes later, someone else that I’d literally just met introduced me to yet another person. Ten minutes after that meeting, I’d agreed to promote their cause on my Facebook page. The project wasn’t even on my radar until I met these folks, but now that I have met them, I’ll be watching to see what happens in their corner of the internet. Similar serendipitous meetings were happening all over the lobby as people waited for the registration table to open.

    Also on Friday night, I finally had the chance to meet someone I’ve known for years. That was a hoot! It wasn’t just fun & games, however, because less than an hour later, he tapped me on the shoulder and told me I really needed to talk to “that woman over there,” who turned out to be a national news reporter at the conference trying to figure out what the gun rights people were all about. Although she didn’t use any of my quotes, I consider my time with her well spent — and I reasonably believe she was working hard to provide a fair, unbiased story about gun rights, which means I now have someone in the mainstream media I’d be willing to call if I needed that kind of exposure for my own projects or (more likely) someone else’s.

    Saturday morning, I bumped into someone I met briefly at last year’s GRPC. After we met last year, I was able to put him in touch with someone who needed his help on a gun rights project. I asked him how that was going, and he told me that the project had grown far beyond what the original person had envisioned, and was likely to have national implications because they were able to bring together several shared interests and resources.

    Saturday during the day, I slipped out multiple times to catch various speakers as they came off the podium, to hand them a business card or a note. I think some good things will come out of those meetings too.

    On Saturday night, at an after hours party, I sat and listened as several lawyers from different states compared their courtroom strategies for gun rights cases in their respective areas. In the other corner of that room, three people from different states gun-rights organizations were comparing notes on fundraising, and I overheard snippets of other conversations about dealing with hostile media, dealing with friendly media, massaging political egos, and a whole lot of other equally valuable tidbits.

    Sunday afternoon, I had a long conversation with a woman who told me she was the only female who attended the first GRPC in 1986. She gave me a very personal history of the gun rights movement, and I encouraged her to finish writing her book. I hope she does, because her personal history is our shared political and civil rights future.

    None of that would have happened with a webinar.




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    1. See? You are gregarious, a person that enjoys the company of other people. I am a grouch. 😛 My idea going into GRPC was absorbing information.

      Now, BOTH formats can be made without problem. You wanna meet und greet, you can attend the conference. You wanna stay home and watch speakers in your undies while eating Cheetos, it can happen too.

      The mental bleach can be found in Aisle 3 by the air sickness bags.




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      1. Miguel,

        The existence of a way for the grouches to opt out would have meant that I would never have met the guy who tapped me on the shoulder and introduced me to the national news reporter. Hmmmm…. 😉




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        1. Sarah would not have forgiven me if I did not do the right thing….and I like to sleep indoors. Mosquitoes hang around 10 months out of the year in South Florida.




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  6. Wanted to go but didn’t attend GRPC due to prior commitments. When I saw the speaker list I had the same concerns – too many people, too many topics, not enough time.

    One aspect of these sort of things is exactly what Pax mentioned above – 2/3 of the reason to go to seminars/industry meetings/etc. is the meet-n-greet function. We depend a lot on grass roots because that’s where our strength is, and F2F is where connections get made that lead to all sorts of good things.

    I understand that SAF tried to get as much meat into a one weekend sandwich as possible, and to that end, maybe more frequent meetings than once a year (say, semi- annual or quarterly) that focus on a limited set of topics with a similarly limited number of speakers, with the whole thing online within 48 hours for those who can’t make it in person. I wouldn’t rule out monthly one-topic webinars as a option, either, with the capability to post questions from viewers, with their contact info. There will be more viewers and questions than can be answered, but if I see a question from Fred in Dallas about reaching women I can drop him an email about what my club does at its annual Ladies Day at the Gun Range event.




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  7. The format and schedule keep good speakers down to sparse minutes. It’s the nature of the beast.

    This was my first conference. I am told it has grown by quite a bit over time. I have no complaints, but think the growth could allow for some changes in format.

    The Web-Ex idea is good, but I also think that breaking the conference from one room into multiple rooms would do wonders. Start within the main room with one group, get the “must deliver” information out there, and then break the panels into separate rooms. That allows parallel panel discussions, where each person gives a short (3-4 minute) intro, followed by a more interactive discussion with the attendees.

    In this format, I’d see the Kilmer/Gura/Jensen/legal types in the main room to talk the big issues, followed by the state-leaders, etc broken into multiple rooms over the day. ALso, for those willing, getting the legal eagles into smaller sessions where Q&A is possible would be great.

    That kind of panel expansion will give everyone time to ask questions and get answers. True, it might create a situation where two panels at the same time mean you cannot see it all, but there are worse problems in this universe. Especially if the panel was recorded and available later on the Internet. I would not suggest more topics, but rather focus the additional time to flesh out the topics already planned. Next year’s conference will not have the emphasis on a national election. That should also increase time for the gun-rights specific panels.

    The greatest value for me was meeting a great number of people I have interacted with (and around) online over the last 18 months or so. That cannot be replaced.




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