The Aquisition of Memories, Part 2: 2017 Facebook Communities Summit

Welcome to the Facebook Communities ummit

Almost a month ago I attended the first ever Facebook Communities Summit. It was a surreal opportunity that quite literally fell in to my lap via a private message on Facebook.

In February of this year I received a private message from a person named Kyle who asked if I would be open to talking to him about my experience with Facebook groups. He found me through his search for groups in South Carolina.

Between moderating Facebook groups for parents with Cadets at The Citadel and also having written about being an Army mom I get some strange unsolicited private messages. I was not sure this Kyle person was legit, so I did what I do when I’m not sure about someone and Googled Kyle. I soon found out that yes, Kyle was in fact with Facebook. We arranged to talk by phone the first week of March. I gave him my feedback on groups and how they have really helped new parents learn about being a supportive, but not meddling, parent of a cadet. The conversation lasted less than 30 minutes. That was it, or so I thought.

A month later in April I received another message from Kyle asking for my email address. This time he wanted to send an invitation to apply for the 2017 Facebook Communities Summit. I was told it would be held in Chicago. The people who are selected to attend would have to get to the host hotel but then everything would be taken care of by Facebook, the hotel room, and meals from Wednesday June 21 to Friday afternoon June 23. I filled out the application and didn’t really think about it again. After all there are millions of groups, some far bigger and with broader outreach than my groups for parents with students at a small military college with less than 2500 members of the entire Corps of Cadets.

May 2 I received an email letting me know I had been selected to attend the Summit!! It was only at this point that I researched what this Summit was about. To my surprise I discovered Mark Zuckerberg issued what was being called by the press a Manifesto about Building Global Communities. Several articles were written about the Summit, none of which I read or even heard about before my new friend Kyle got in touch with me. After reading up on the opportunity I had been given I really became excited.

The invitation stated I could invite two other admins from my groups. I did ask the two parents who have been helping answer questions in my groups, but they weren’t able to attend. I made my plane reservations and began getting really excited about attending this historic event. I had no idea just how neat this Summit would be.

I arrived in Chicago the early afternoon of June 21. We were told ahead of time that we would be staying at the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Ave. The Facebook staff sent us a general itinerary, but we were not told exactly where our meeting venues would be. It made for some pretty funny conversations. “I’m going to Chicago for a meeting. A guy I don’t know invited me. He’s paying for my hotel. We’ll be going to an undisclosed location for a couple of days.”

From the time I arrived at the hotel it was obvious this would be a first class event. The hotel was amazing. The Facebook staff lined the way to the registration area. Registration was efficient and the tone was upbeat. My room was beautiful. I went to lunch at Lou Malnati’s for a taste of Chicago and later met my cousin’s daughter who works in Chicago. When I returned to my room a welcome bag was sitting on my bed, complete with a welcome letter and a card with stats from one of my groups.

Our opening reception was held at a neat venue that was an upscale food court. We could go from station to station to try all types of delicious food while we met our fellow attendees. One of the highlights of my visit to Chicago was meeting a fellow attendee on the ride to the reception. His name is Phil and he works in the nonprofit arena. We quickly found we shared many common interests. He is the founding admin of the Albinism Community group on Facebook.  Throughout the night I met scores of admins from a wide variety of groups. In one area of the facility they had a banner set up. The group admins were encouraged to write the name of our group on a piece of paper and leave it for the artists who would draw their rendering of what the group is about onto the banner over the course of the Summit. I enjoyed visiting their progress.

Thursday morning began with a great breakfast buffet at the hotel. There was a long line to be seated but I saw my new friend Phil at a table by himself and decided to invite myself to join him. It was a great start to the day to hear about his work with children.

 

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With Phil on the shuttle ride to our “undislosed meeting location.”

We rode to the meeting venue which was in an area of town that I was told is the meat-packing district that has turned into an arts community area. Phil and I decided to head right to the room where the opening Keynote would take place to try to get a good seat to hear Mark Zuckerberg speak. Even though we got there early it was hard to find a seat with a good view. Phil had requested accommodations for his low vision. We ended up with aisle seats right near the front of the meeting room!

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Our seats near the front of the room

 

If you haven’t heard it already, you can see and hear the talk given by Mark Zuckerberg here on this link. I was thrilled to see my photo that is used on as the cover of one of my groups was shown right behind Mark! (lower right in the photo below) He was very impressive in his presentation and message. He set the tone for the rest of the Summit.

 

We were told we were brought together to not only learn about new tools for Facebook group admins, but to also give the Facebook staff feedback. I must say here that everyone I met that works for Facebook was very personable, bright and compared to me, very young. They are truly an impressive group. I left feeling a bit envious of their work environment.

We were divided into four separate groups and rotated through four different meeting rooms throughout the day both Thursday and Friday. I was in the “Circle” group.

I need to take a break now for some meeting planner geeky observations. The entire meeting facility was outfitted in custom-made backdrops for this meeting. The theme was carried throughout all the printed materials, room set up and design. The break area called the “Together” room had a large interactive display with the word Together spelled out. On either side of the long spelled out word were tables with fresh flowers. Attendees were encouraged to place the flowers into the letters of the word TOGETHER. Several long banquet tables were set up and that is where our lunch and snacks were displayed. The food was amazing.

For dinner we were whisked away in our motor coaches to the Adler Planetarium for dinner. It was the perfect facility to host a diverse group of Facebook staff, group administrators and speakers who were breaking new ground in building community where the sky is the limit. From the opening reception time with a photo booth and open bar, to the beautifully appointed tables in a room overlooking Lake Michigan, ending with a reception and dance afterward it was the perfect ending to a jam-packed day.

Friday was a much like Thursday where each group rotated in and out of breakout meetings. Phil and I had first row seats for the opening session. He told me his freinds at home like to take him to concerts since they always get great seats. I was thrilled to see the cover photo for The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2021 used as part of the back drop during the opening session with Naomi Gleit,  VP of Social Good at Facebook.

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Naomi Gleit, VP of Social Good at Facebook opens the Friday morning session. Note the photo to the lower left from the group I admin, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2021.

I continued to meet fascinating people, including one young man who is scheduled to do a space jump in August. He showed me a few articles about his planned jump. I decided right then to follow his progress and told him he would be in my prayers.

The most fun I had that day was in a session with the comedian Brian Babylon. We were broken up into smaller groups to discuss the unusual things we experience as admins in Facebook groups. Once the group decided on a few fun scenarios the sheets were shared with Brian Babylon of, “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” on NPR, who acted like he was the host of a talk show and the selected members of our group were called up one by one to be “interviewed” about our experience as admins. In the Circle group we had members discuss pooping in the woods stories from a hiking group to fishing stories from a Texas-based fishing group then I was called up to be interviewed. I discussed the fact that every year in the groups for new Citadel parents I have to discuss the differences in men’s underwear. We had fun discussing “tighty whites”, boxer briefs, compression shorts and regular boxers then moved on to  how odd it is for a chaplain to be in these types on conversations. It was a fun light-hearted session.

The speakers, the venue, the food were all amazing. The Summit ended with a toast at the very end. It truly was a surreal few days. I am still processing the expereince weeks after it ended. The attendees are connected in a group set up for Aumni of the Summit. I don’t post must to the group but I do read the group wall often and continue to learn how to be a better admin.

A big THANK YOU to the staff of Facebook for an incredible expereince.

Some photos from the Summit follow.

Our lunch and break area:

The customized banner:

A few new freinds:

Brian Babylon and a few of his guests from the Circle group:

 

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