The Top 10 Reasons Why I Enjoyed Evaluation 2014

I recently traveled to Denver, CO for Evaluation 2014, the annual conference of the American Evaluation Association.  It was an incredibly fun and informative trip, filled with networking, new techniques, and innovative resources.  Hurrah for continuous improvement!

Last year, I reflected on the event in the style of David Letterman’s top ten list.  I’ve decided to repeat that effort this year (albeit, a bit late for the after-party). Perhaps it will be a new tradition! Without further fanfare, I offer:

The Top 10 Reasons Why I Enjoyed Evaluation 2014

  1. Dude. It’s Denver. We’re a mile high and there are evaluators…everywhere…with fancy ribbons! It’s like some kind of geeky heaven!


  1. Social network analysis is cool, even if that workshop full of people was righteously hot. You may operationally define “hot” amongst yourselves.


  1. TIG Madness! I’ve signed on as a Facebook contributor for the Independent Consulting TIG and I can’t wait to get started!  I also joined the NPFTIG dinner at the Appaloosa Grill on Thursday night. I’d encourage your attendance at this event at next year’s conference – this is a truly great group.


  1. Drinks with these smart, fun, marvelous human beings. What happens in Denver stays in Denver. ‘Nuff said.


  1. There are data viz goddesses all over the place. Hey Stephanie Evergreen! Lunch with you is always a treat, and your work continues to be the bomb. (BTW, that nail polish you liked is called OPI Scores a Goal. You. Are. Welcome.) And people, Ann Emery is taking the consulting world by storm.  Can I use the word pluck?  Look it up.  Pluck: spirited and determined courage. She’s completely inspiring.


  1. I had the good fortune to watch the Cartoon Guy (AKA Chris Lysy) in action from the front row of the Data Placemats session. Evaluation IS fun! (Sidebar: Chris challenged me last year to write a blog post about the conference – and I’m back for another round, so thanks for the kick-in-the-pants Chris!)


  1. At this point, you may be asking, “What is a Data Placemat?” It’s food imagery…and data…all in one conceptually aligned universe! What could be better than that?  Shout out to Veena Pankaj for her groovy presentation and for our sidebar conversation in the lobby lounge.  It’s always exceptional to learn more about what’s happening at Innovation Network.


  1. Speaking of food and data theme, it’s a brilliant combination. Am I right? If you add a little vino and a bunch of evaluator author-types, you’d find yourself at the AEA Poster Session. (Which was AWESOME, by the way!)  Our poster channeled Flat Stanley by spending a bit of time in my hotel down the street, and then in Sheila Robinson’s room followed by Ann Emery’s digs, before I stopped by the handy-dandy FedEx office to ship it back home. Thanks to everyone who gave it shelter and stopped by to see it!  I look forward to hearing from you.


  1.   Continued my fangurling ways around Michael Quinn Patton. My goal this year is to actually reach out and introduce myself. (Consider yourself warned…I mean informed, MQP.)  I am so eager to dig into his new qualitative research book!


And the number 1 reason that I enjoyed attending the American Evaluation Conference:


  1. Sheila Robinson and Kim Firth Leonard just mentioned our blog in their session about writing effective survey questions.  WOOHOO!


It’s always a pleasure to spend time with people understand your discipline and get excited about professional growth.  I’d love to hear about your favorite professional development experiences, whether in person and online.  What conference, training or workshop would you recommend to a colleague?