AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | Evaluation 2017

Hi, I am Laura DeMaria and I am the Senior Manager of AEA’s Operations department.

When I joined the AEA staff in September 2017, I had two main priorities: one was to learn as much about our organization and staff as I could, and the other was to learn as much about evaluation as possible. Within just a few weeks, I had a great opportunity to do both in real time at Evaluation 2018, AEA’s annual meeting, and our most attended meeting to date.

What impressed me most about my fellow staff was their absolute professionalism and dedication to customer service. Successfully running a 4,000+ person meeting in the labyrinthine Marriott Wardman Park hotel is an incredible feat! And to do so with such grace and positivity was a delight to see. From my station in the Information Desk, I was amazed by how much the staff accomplished, from the behind the scenes detail to the very public movement of tables, auction items, livestreamed sessions, the lights and sound, and even, at one point, a drum circle. AEA members, you have a highly competent staff at your service.

This January a few of us joined the Board of Directors for our first meeting of the year in this year’s conference location, Cleveland, OH. First, let me say this about Cleveland: what a city! The feeling I got was one of coming home. Warm people (even in the cold weather), the beautiful line of the edge of the lake against the city, the urban architecture, and the passion of the residents for their home town made us all agree we are genuinely looking forward to returning this fall.

During the Board meeting, I was struck with how devoted to listening evaluators are. Discussion is always lively, and the Board, and the members I have met, truly are committed to their value of inclusivity. This is one of my favorite things about learning about evaluators and the profession of evaluation, that no matter what your perspective is, there is room for you at the table.

I look forward to meeting more of you in the coming months, and especially at Evaluation 2018 in Cleveland!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

 

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Hello! We are Justin Sullivan, Libby Smith, and Kate Bentley from the Applied Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. When we attended Evaluation 2017, the AEA annual conference this year we knew we wanted to use the opportunity to get more active on Twitter. I (Libby) had avidly followed the conference hashtags in past years, but hadn’t jumped on the tweeting bandwagon. I knew that there was a growing community of evaluators on Twitter and we all wanted to be more connected to our peers and our field. With the help of our designer and social media manager, Kate Bentley, we devised a plan and dove in during the conference. We tweeted and followed others throughout the week. When we got back, we did what evaluators do…we pulled the data, analyzed it, and reported out!  Here is our infographic and some hot tips:

Click for larger image

Hot Tips:

  • You can scrape data from Twitter using R to analyze trends. This approach allows you to customize your search to focus on hashtags (#Eval17) or specific Twitter users. The resulting data set will include tweets, user names, and like and retweet data. You can also pull data to create a snapshot of what’s happening now or track trends over time.
  • Here is a step-by-step guide on how to connect R to Twitter to pull data. This guide is designed for first time R users. Learning how to code in R can be daunting; it comes with a steep learning curve. This guide includes a graphical user interface and code that you can simply copy and paste into R to get things going quickly. After working your way through this exercise, you will have a basic R skillset you can use to try other things.
  • When creating an infographic, it’s best to start by choosing a color palette using 4-6 colors. Choose colors that are complementary (think opposite sides of the color wheel) and suitable to your project. If you are working with an organization, use the palette they use for their branding.
  • The Noun Project has arguably the best icons on the web. You can search from over a million icons from thousands of authors. Licenses are available under Creative Commons, and there is both a free and paid version. These are high quality icons that will make your project stand out. Your icons should match the data you are presenting in content and context. Download a few icons and start thinking about how you plan to layout your content.
  • Use PowerPoint to start making infographics. It’s a simple interface with useful tools to move things around. Be sure to choose a catchy title, infuse a bit of variation in the size and scale of your icons, and try not to have too many repeating graph selections.

Thanks for reading and we look forward to seeing you at #Eval18!! You can find us on Twitter @arcevaluation and online at ARCevaluation.com.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Greetings dear aea365 readers! I’m Sheila B Robinson, aea365 Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor. Today we close Evaluation 2017 and wrap up another extraordinary experience for conference-goers — and not just those who tirelessly traversed the labyrinthian walkways of the Marriott Wardman, but also those who live-streamed sessions from across the globe, and who both shared and consumed the tremendous wealth of collective learning from hundreds of esteemed evaluation colleagues on social media platforms.

Hot Tip: If you are not yet tweeting, please consider this as one platform for serious professional learning and networking. I’ve kept a list of over 550 evaluators on Twitter (and I’m certain there are many, many more out there). If you’re concerned about having to sift through what today’s pop culture celebrity is having for breakfast to get to the content you want, think again. YOU choose* you what you see by carefully selecting who to follow. Interested yet? Look for the many aea365 posts contributed by our AEA Community Manager, Jayne Corso, with great tips, tricks, and how-tos.

Cool Trick: Did you present a session this year? Want t0 extend your reach and share your content? Please post something – a handout, document, other relevant material – in the AEA Public eLibrary (it’s under “Read” on the main website menu) so that others can continue to learn from you.

Cooler trick: Did you present OR attend a great session this year? Please consider sharing your learning in an aea365 post! It’s easy – just a few paragraphs and you’ve got it! Our max word count is 500, and other contribution guidelines are here.

Hottest Tip of All Time**: If you have not yet attended an AEA Annual Conference, either in-person or virtually, please do! Ask anyone who has attended. I’ve yet to encounter someone who hasn’t felt it was worth every penny. The sessions, the networking, the socializing…meeting not only fellow evaluators, but also friends, and to many of us in a sense, family. After all, AEA is “home” for so many of us. Might it become your home as well?

A brief message from your blog curator: I am so grateful for all who approached me this week to tell me how much they enjoy and appreciate this daily blog, and I feel indebted to the friends who did outreach work for me by fervently encouraging others to contribute. All kudos belong to the hundreds of authors who have contributed over the years to make this the fabulous evaluation learning resource that it is. 

-Sheila

*OK, there are a few promoted ad tweets you’ll see, but not too many, so don’t let that sway you.

**And I would never in a million years exaggerate. 😉

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Hi my name is Jayne Corso and I am the Community Manager for AEA. Evaluation 2017 officially kicked-off yesterday! And, we had a great start with the opening plenary session from AEA president Kathy Newcomer. In her presentation, Kathy discussed the challenges evaluators are facing and how we can overcome those challenges to push evaluation and the evaluation profession forward.

Looking at the twitter response on #Eval17, her message was heard loud and clear. I want to share just a few of the conversations that were taking place online.

We look forward to more great plenary sessions! Keep tweeting.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on theaea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Greetings!   This is Nicole Vicinanza, Senior Research Associate at JBS International and a conference co-chair of the AEA 2017 Presidential Strand committee.  Our AEA president Kathy Newcomer and the members of this committee have worked together for over a year to develop the theme – From Learning to Action! You’ll find 29 exciting and thought-provoking sessions delivered by evaluation leaders and innovators around four conference sub-themes:

  • Learning to Enhance Evaluation Practices
  • Learning What Works and Why
  • Learning from Others
  • Learning about Evaluation Users and Uses

In addition, if you can’t be there in person, many of these sessions will be offered free through the virtual conference. Here are my tips to make the most of the AEA 2017 theme and the presidential strand:

Hot Tip:  Use the Challenge Questions to organize your learning.  Uncover and use the Challenge questions to get ready for the conference! Go to the AEA web page on From Learning to Action  and click on each of the sub-themes to see challenge questions for you to consider as you attend sessions at AEA 2017.    Think about which questions you’d like to get answers for.

Cool Trick: Use the mobile app or on-line conference program to pick sessions related to your sub-themes.   Look for your invitation to download the mobile app.  If you click on a session in the mobile app schedule, and scroll down to the 2017 Theme tag, you can see the sub-theme that session addresses.  In the on-line program, select a sub-theme you are interested in in the “Theme” search box to see all the conference sessions that relate to that sub-theme. You can narrow your choices by picking a TIG or “Presidential Strand” in the “Track” search box.  Consider the sub-themes as you choose which sessions to attend.

Hot Tip:  Get the big picture- attend the Plenary Sessions.  This year four plenary sessions will explore ways that our community can learn from evaluation to create better practices and outcomes.  (Bonus: Each session will also feature a winning video from our 2017 Video Contest.)

Rad Resource: Just can’t be there? Attend virtually. The conference has so many great offerings and opportunities to connect- you should be there in person if you can!  But if you can’t, you can participate in over 20 sessions of the Presidential Strand, free, through the virtual conference.  You and your colleagues can view the Virtual Conference Sessions and register now at https://aea.digitellinc.com/aea/live/6.

I’m looking forward to all the learning possibilities at AEA 2017!   I’m particularly excited about the sub-theme Learning to Enhance Evaluation Practices and attending sessions on “Adopting Economic Cost-Effectiveness Analyses to Enhance Evaluation Practices” and “Checklists to Activate Learning and Improve Evaluation Practice.”  What are you looking forward to?

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Jayne Corso

Hi my name is Jayne Corso and I am the Community Manager for AEA. Evaluation 2017  is only days away, so let’s focus on social media for the conference! Here are a few tips I have compiled for staying social during an event, especially through Twitter!  Why Twitter? Twitter makes your posts visible to people who aren’t already in your networking, therefore, increasing your reach.

Hot Tip: Use the Correct Hashtag

Almost all events have a hashtag, and Evaluation 2017 is no exception. Use #Eval17 when sharing posts related to the conference. Nothing is more frustrating than tweeting at an event then later realizing you used the wrong hashtag and have missed out on conversations. Through #Eval17, you can connect with others at the event and share your thoughts and comments on sessions, content, and presenters.

Hot Tip: Find the Right Balance

Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how often you should be tweeting at a conference. Your posts should be informative and valuable, so you want to find the happy medium in content. My suggestion is 2-3 tweets per session. This gives you the opportunity to still have a social media presence without missing valuable education and networking time.

Hot Tip: Share Valuable Information

As mentioned above, you want your posts to be valuable to other attendees or even evaluators who couldn’t attend the conference. So, how can you do this?

1) Try asking questions – this can often spark a conversation. 2) Be helpful – share session suggestions, speakers you have enjoyed, topics that were interesting, and even restaurant tips. 3) Share photos and videos – visual content often receives more engagement than simple text postings, so this is a great way to share your experience with others.

Hot Tip: Have Fun

Have fun using social media! Your posts do not need to be series or educational. We enjoy seeing your personality poke through and how you are interacting with all aspects of the conference.

And one for LinkedIn…

Hot Tip: Make Connections on LinkedIn instead of Twitter

If you want to connect with a speaker or attendee, try LinkedIn instead of Twitter. LinkedIn is a more professional social media platform and an introduction on LinkedIn is often more personal and noticeable.

I will be tweeting at Evaluation 2017! I look forward to seeing your posts!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on theaea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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It’s finally feeling like fall in the DC area, which can mean only one thing…Evaluation 2017 is right around the corner!  My name is Lauren Lawson and I am a member of the AEA education team.  I’ve worked for AEA since 2013, and manage the educational content (sessions) for the annual conference and Summer Evaluation Institute, as well as oversee all online learning including Coffee Breaks, eStudies, and Lunch Hours.

Since Evaluation 2017 is less than two weeks away, I thought I would take a minute today to share a few tips for maximizing your conference experience.

Hot Tip: Mobile App

With over 800 sessions and 4,000+ attendees, figuring out what to attend and who to network with can be overwhelming.  In advance of arriving in DC, I suggest downloading the mobile application* for the conference and creating a user profile.  After downloading the app, you can search sessions by TIG, speaker, or keyword, and by creating a profile, you can connect with similarly-minded people.  You can also save sessions to your personal agenda which should make navigating the conference a bit simpler when you arrive. The mobile app invitation is automatically sent to all registered attendees.

Hot Tip: Know the Session Types

Familiarize yourself with the various session types.  For example, ignite presentations are short 5-minute presentations with automatically advancing slides.  There are 10+ speakers organized into each ignite session and there are five of them during the conference.  There are also roundtables, demonstrations, panels, and more!

Hot Tip: Take a Break

Recognize that you don’t have to attend every possible session.  The conference days are long, so take a break and remember that missing a session here or there to connect with colleagues over a cup of coffee is a good reset!  Plan your agenda to see what matters to you, but don’t forget to take a step back to digest what you have learned.

Hot Tip: Meet the AEA Staff

Lastly, please reach out and introduce yourself to the AEA staff.  We will be at registration, at the info desk, helping direct people, and checking on speakers throughout the conference.  We would love to get to know you and hear what you think of the conference.  It’s always nice to put a face with an e-mail address!  I look forward to welcoming all of you to our hometown soon.

*The app invitation email also has a link to a web-based version if you do not have a smart phone.

 

Lauren Lawson is Senior Manager of Education and Learning Services for AEA.  She attended James Madison University and currently resides in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Brian, 9-month-old daughter, Abby, and Bernese Mountain Dog, Harper.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hello! My name is Kristi Pettibone. I’m an evaluator at the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences and I’m the Program Chair for the Translational Research Evaluation (TRE) Topical Interest Group (TIG). Translational research evaluation is focused on the idea of evaluating the progress of research through the translational research process – which typically includes moving from the basic research, through applied research, and on to some form of impact on a population – which might be a clinical treatment, a policy, a public health intervention or an economic impact.

One of my goals for this year has been to encourage cross-TIG panel sessions and presentations during Evaluation 2017, AEA’s Annual Conference. The TRE TIG is a smaller TIG and one way we can engage with more people is to identify other TIGs that share evaluation methodologies and topics with us.

Hot Tip: To set up cross-TIG panels, start early and reach out to the TIG chair and program chair to gauge interest and talk about potential ideas. You can also use the upcoming conference to make connections with people in other TIGs. We reached out via email to program chairs from TIGs with shared interests and scheduled a conference call in January to enable participants to brainstorm ideas.

Hot Tip: Make sure to coordinate with the program chair of the TIGs with whom you are co-sponsoring sessions because each TIG needs to list the other for the co-sponsorship to be reflected in the online program.

TIGs provide opportunities to group ourselves by field, by topic, by methodology, by identity, and much more. The evaluators in the Translational Research Evaluation TIG use a wide variety of evaluation methods to understand and assess the evolution of ideas through the research process. Creating cross-TIG panels is one way to bring people together during the AEA Annual Meeting who are using these common methodologies.

Below are cross-TIG panels we organized for Evaluation 2017 to ensure that we get as much exposure as possible to members of other TIGs.

Rad Resource: Check out the online program for AEA’s Annual Conference – Evaluation 2017: From Learning to Action. You can search for sessions by TIG by filtering on the Track option.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Translational Research Evaluation (TRE) TIG week. All posts this week are contributed by members of the TRE Topical Interest Group. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Hi my name is Kelly Laurie and I am the Events Manager for Eval 2017. We are less than 3 weeks out from Evaluation 2017 and I am very much looking forward to seeing the conference that’s been on the top of our minds for months come to fruition.

Food and beverage. Meeting space. Audio Visual. Hotel Rooms. Signage. Attrition. Exhibits. Wifi. Registration. Rehearsals. Contracts. Lighting. Deposits. Transportation. Entertainment.

As a meeting planner, these are just a few of the details that we think about daily in preparation for the conference. Our goal is to ensure every attendee walks away with a memorable conference experience.

Every decision we make has a direct consequence and as a team we discuss the impacts of those decisions and how they affect the association and attendees, and try to ensure that all decisions align with AEA’s core values.

We hope each of you enjoys the conference, has adequate opportunity to network with your fellow peers and takes away new information that you can use in your professional career.

Please be sure to introduce yourself to the events team while at the conference. We’ve been in touch with many of you over the past few months and it’s always great to put a face with a voice or email!

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Happy Fall! I’m Sheila B Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor with some Hot Tips for first-time conference attendees at #Eval17 in Washington, DC.

Hot Tips: Here’s what I’ve learned both from my own experience and from many others.

  1. Build your agenda before the conference. There are hundreds of sessions, and no, you cannot attend them all! Use the online conference program to help plan your agenda. Try to attend a variety of session types sponsored by different TIGs.
  2. Leave your day job behind. This is your time for learning, networking, and having fun! Set up those “out of office” messages and try to give the conference experience your full attention to get the most out of it.
  3. Masquerade as an extrovert, even if you’re not. I traveled to my first AEA conference alone and didn’t know anyone there. I met my first AEA friend by recognizing the name on her name tag as someone who had authored an aea365 post I enjoyed, so I approached her and told her as much. We ended up talking, attending sessions together, and even having dinner. And regarding those “BIG NAMES” in evaluation, approach them too! After years of attending the conference, I’ve just about met all of them. Guess what? I’ve found them all to be genuinely nice people willing to chat for a few moments, sign books, and pose for pictures.
  4. Attend the Networking Events
    • First Time Attendee Rapid-Fire Orientation
    • Poster Exhibit & Meet the Authors Reception
    • Awards Luncheon (ticketed event- additional charge)
    • Silent Auction to Benefit Traveling Presenters

OK, #4 is probably more a continuation of Tip #3 but also important enough to warrant its own number. These sessions are fabulous networking opportunities. It’s easy to strike up conversations with poster presenters, the people who gather with you at a poster of interest, book authors sitting at their tables, and people shopping and mingling at the silent auction. You automatically have something in common with people when you’re in the same place at the same time. Why not let that be your icebreaker? Oh, and here’s another one. Go to breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Yes, really. So many people travel to this conference on their own that typically, the restaurants start asking people with the tell-tale red name tag and interest ribbons if they wouldn’t mind sharing tables. I’ve met some of the coolest people this way!

Get Involved: While there will be hundreds of high quality sessions and fabulous learning opportunities at Evaluation 2017, it’s meeting fellow conference-goers that makes the biggest difference to me. It’s how the learning extends far beyond the conference, and for me, the most joyful part of the experience. I hope this becomes true for you as well. Safe travels!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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