Silent Weekend is a voice off venue that welcomes people interested and involved in visual language. We have classes for those with no functional skill all the way up to and including those with native abilities. Classes are provided for RID members to earn CEU/ACET's. We also provide Professional Development Certificates. Come learn from some of the nation's top presenters. Participants from all over the country enjoy the atmosphere of camaraderie.
The 2018 Silent Weekend will be held at The Florida Hotel and Conference Center from Thursday, June 21nd to Sunday, June 24th.
Here is a quick look at this year's Silent Weekend.
Thanks to all who helped to make the 2017 Silent Weekend one of the best ever!
Every year after reading the observations we take some time to respond in an effort to make the workings of our event transparent and hopefully to provide insight to the weekend.
Below you will find our comments in a format that will hopefully allow you to easily find the issues that interest you.
First things first:
We apologize that the observation sheet was on the back of the professional development papers. When a presenter cancelled close to time to go to print we removed her pages but did not realize until too late that the shift caused the observation page to be situated in a way that one could not give observations anonymously if submitting the blue log for a certificate. We were happy that some realized they could submit comments by using the pink sheets or any paper to leave suggestions.
Lost and found: We came home with two zippered sweatshirts. I know one person stopped by the desk and gave a description of one which was brought to us later that day. If you are missing a sweatshirt and think it might be one we have, please send us a quick email describing it and we will mail it to you.
Changes we have planned for next year:
* registration will open earlier
Registration will open at 10 am on Thursday next year now that there are so many people coming to the pre-conference offerings.
* a schedule change
Next year we will have a 30 minute break after the 2:00 to 4:00 class and will have 4:30 to 6:30 classes at all levels. We have avoided this for years because paying 3 presenter for three classes from 6:00 to 8:00 is much less expensive than paying those three plus the eight more that this move will require. As we have shared many times, every change at Silent Weekend has the potential of raising the registration rate. The rate has stayed the same since 2012 while our expenses have continued to rise. If the weekend continues, an increase is eventually inevitable but we want folks to know that most suggestions for improvement come with a cost.
* more space between chairs
We plan to ask the hotel to set up the room with space between the chairs. We don't anticipate any problem with that request.
* smaller ladles for the chocolate
Whether you were ladling for yourself or the hotel staff was assisting, several plates ended up with more chocolate than desired. We will work with the hotel next year to find a solution.
*Nichole’s whisper /gesture/text zone
Nichole Longo is the third partner of Silent Weekend. This event is a large undertaking and Mike felt that 30 years had been enough. To keep it going Nichole came on board to help out. She now knows as much as either of us since she transports, sets up and cares for equipment with Mike and works all year with me on registration, presenter communication, CEU work, Professional Development Certificates, finances, book design and website maintenance. She works well with the hotel staff; she is also responsible for trying to teach me how to set up a face book page (not an easy task). Please find us on Facebook at Florida Silent Weekend.
She has a BA in Fine Arts, a BA in Graphic Design, and is by trade an industrial welder….but she does not sign. For 51 weeks a year Mike is the only Deaf individual she interacts with and they understand each other perfectly. Several years ago when Mike and I had some health issues she began coming to the weekend to be sure both of us made it through. She always hid in the board room because she is more comfortable behind a welding hood than interacting with people.
When we no longer needed a large staff to help monitor CEUs I asked her to stay out front to help in a pinch. She agreed. Each year she has been out there she has endured several chastisements over the fact that she does not sign.
Next year we will situate her out at registration but in such a way that she is not part of the Silent zone. If any of you have a question and there is no one who signs(Mike, Carla, me) available, you are welcome to enter the Nichole zone (since she will probably have the answer) but you must whisper, gesture or text to her…again, she does not sign.
Changes you will not see next year…… and why:
Our schedule will remain in two hour blocks.
Why: Attention spans vary according to individuals. For those who recommended one hour, one and a half hour, and three hour classes we can only say we have tried other time frames in the past, and this is what has worked best for the largest number of people.
We will not be adding extra days (and why Thursday and Sunday are advanced only).
Why: Silent Weekend was traditionally from Orientation on Thursday night to the end of class on Saturday. That was the schedule, the “weekend”, for 28 years. The afternoon class on Thursday was added in 2007 as a “pre-conference” bonus for those collecting CEUs. It is a gift; a pay back to the profession of interpreting.
Sunday was not added until 2009 when we had so many advanced signers attending that the hotel did not have enough rooms to put all the classes in on Saturday. The choice was to cap attendance or spill the advanced offerings over into Sunday. Should our beginner and intermediate numbers ever grow to that extent, there will then be Sunday offerings for them as well.
We will not do away with evening classes.
Why: Our event is set up so that there is a wide variety of hours and options available. The plan was never to have everyone go to everything. If you are a local attendee driving in daily, or if you are staying at a different hotel the evening classes may not be a good option for you, but many people do attend them and we are not going to deny them that opportunity.
Hotel set up and issues:
We cannot move the banners.
Why: The hotel has a policy whereby only hotel employees can hang and remove banners. The agencies that sponsor Silent Weekend earn the right to be recognized at the opening and throughout the weekend by having their banners prominently displayed. We will ask if the banners might be displayed next year in a way that is still eminently visible, but not a problem in any of the class rooms….stay tuned.
Chairs will not be set up in the round.
Why: While we understand the advantage of such a set up, it is unrealistic at a conference of this size. The largest head count for any session this year was 156. We also had sessions coming in at 113, 99 ,97, and so on. There is no way to set a room in a circular fashion for that many people so that each participant can see the power point and the presenter.
We will not be adding chairs to the rooms(unless registration numbers go up).
Why: Heroes Ballroom Salon 1 and Salon 3 were both set up with 120 chairs. The highest count in Salon 1 was 113. The highest count in Salon 3 was 99. There were enough chairs. The problem is that people who arrive early put bags, books, jackets, etc. on adjacent chairs and those coming in later are not willing to step over others to get to the vacant chairs. I entered the 99 head count class and asked everyone sitting next to a vacant chair to raise his or her hand. Every one standing in the back that wished to was able to find a seat.
We will not be having classes in the pool.
Why: This creative idea was proposed to us several years ago by a presenter. Being creative is not the issue. Hotel policy and insurance is. Only those registered at the hotel may use the pool. Not all our attendees stay at this hotel. We have no intention of limiting entrance into any of our sessions and a pool class would do so.
Lighting issues will remain (sigh).
Why: We address this every year. We have changed how the rooms are oriented, we have purchased drop lights, Mike has figured out how to turn the wall sconces off, we even tried a floor spot light one year (and that idea did not work well). Here is the story: Lights must be dim to see the power point, lights must be bright to see the presenter and participants, presenters move, participants are spread over a wide area. We STILL have not figured out how to solve this….all suggestions will be considered.
We will not be adding mirrors to the rooms.
Why: While the dance studio idea would be innovative we would have to figure out which rooms to put them in. Trust me when I tell you that we haul quite enough paraphernalia without adding anything as breakable as mirrors. My suspicion is that the hotel would frown on the idea anyway.
Program book issues:
The Table of Contents will remain in the front of the book.
Why: That is where it was and that is where it will stay because that is where it belongs. I think the suggestion actually meant to put the handout list in the front of the book. The handout list will stay in the back and here’s why: Every “tweak” to the program book can throw the page numbers off. The handout list is the last page on purpose. It is the last thing we add to the book before we take it to the printer.
The Continuing Education Unit information will continue to be put on the schedule.
Why: The CEU information IS on the schedule. I ask whoever thought it was only on the workshop description blurbs to please go back and look at the schedule. The CEUs are marked after each evening class that is eligible and marked above the advanced section on the schedule each day.
We will not mark” NO CEUs” on the beginner and intermediate classes.
Why: Not everyone who attends Silent Weekend is an interpreter. Our beginning and intermediate participants may not know what a CEU is and many are timid about attending in the first place. We are not willing to label their classes with jargon with which they may not be familiar. If you are an RID member please establish the mindset that you should only look for CEU offerings in the advanced level. We occasionally have a presenter do the paper work to offer them at an intermediate class but it is rare.
The Professional Development Certificate log will remain different than the RID CEU tracking.
Why: The Professional Development log is for those coming to the conference that wish to have Silent Weekend email them a certificate of attendance when the weekend is over. It logs hours spent at the event during classes and activities. We often have nurses, administrative assistants, program coordinators, etc. that take advantage of this. Some employers give credit for the hours spent at an orientation or a social event. RID only gives credit for educational pursuit. If an interpreter wishes to have a certificate of attendance for a portfolio he/she is certainly welcome to fill out the paper, but the certificate has no connection to an RID transcript.
The program book will not be offered digitally.
Why: Once the program book goes into cyberspace any one can access it including those who have not come to the conference. The material in the book is the intellectual property of the presenters. If people could access it without coming to the conference then the number of paid participants could go down and the presenters would find less work.
Videotaping will continue to be banned at Silent Weekend.
Why: As we said, workshop material is the intellectual property of the presenter. I have asked most of the presenters and none has granted permission. I understand that if someone is funny, if the material is dense, or if you have a friend on stage, you might want to capture it, but please see it from a presenter's point of view. Once it has been videoed he/ she loses control of the work. If people can enjoy it on YouTube there is less chance that they will come to a conference and the less conference attendees, the less work for the presenter. Photographs are acceptable, but videotaping is not.
We will not be having panels of presenters.
Why: This is a money issue. Everyone who teaches for us is paid. To pay several people on a panel for the same session would undoubtedly have an impact on your registration fee. We do not have teams of teachers any more for the same reason. If you attend anything that has more than one presenter, the main presenter has made an arrangement with the co-presenter about how the remuneration will occur.
Presenters will not be granted CEUs for their workshops just because they are Deaf.
Why: We are well aware that there is a lot of learning going on in the workshops that are not receiving CEUs. The reason they are not receiving CEUs is that the presenter did not do the paperwork to apply for them. CEUs are only granted to workshops where the presenter has filled out an instructor form listing very specific educational objectives that are then deemed acceptable by the workshop sponsor (Silent Weekend is the host of this event, not the sponsor). If that is not done, or if it is done and not acceptable to RID, no CEUs are awarded no matter how good the teacher or the material is.
Ice breakers will continue to come and go.
Why: We change things every so often to see what works and what does not. As far as ice breakers, we have done them on three different years. One was quite successful, one not nearly so, and a third had a mediocre turn out. At this event ice breakers are a bit of a challenge because the skill spectrum is so wide.
We will not be instituting a “buddy system” nor will we semi-organize groups.
Why: We are certainly not opposed to experienced conference goers befriending a first time participant, but the idea of setting that up for 450 participants is daunting. That being said, if you come every year and notice someone who is not familiar to you that seems to be “wandering”, please become an ambassador for Silent Weekend.
We have a message board for participants to communicate with one another and if you wish to meet with others in the food court, please feel free to contact attendees that way. We have our hands full doing what we are already overseeing and don’t wish to take that on.
The jury is still out on having a “show”.
Why: Many people come to Silent Weekend to earn CEUs. Entertainment is not approved by RID for continuing education units. Yes, I know you can learn a lot at a show but that is a battle you must take up with the national office. People still miss the ASL Improv show that took place on Saturday nights for years (for an extra fee). That was run by an outside company that piggybacked on to our event. We continue to discuss it and will let you know if we ever plan to have one.
Our program offerings will continue to change.
Why: We cannot offer everything every year. We have had a large variety of topics over the years offered by well respected individuals. Some of our past presenters have included: Daniel Burch, Peter Cook, Donna Drake, Antonio Goodwin, Len Roberson, Angela Roth, Keith Wann and there have been many more. We are happy to entertain all suggestions and we research every recommendation, but we also realize that for every new presenter we bring on, we must say good bye to someone who is presently on the team. We must do that from time to time for variety sake, but it is usually a hard decision.
Our website will continue to be the best place to find needed information.
Why: Letting it be known that Thursday’s pre-conference workshops were for advanced participants was made clear on the schedule page and link, on the workshop link, and on the presenters’ bio page on our website. Because orientation does not happen until 7:00 p.m. on Thursday there is no way to make that clear anywhere else. Please check the website for information before attending.
We will continue to allow presenters to run their classes their own way.
Why: For those who had suggestions on where the presenter’s hand should be when fingerspelling from a platform, how much of the session should be activity versus lecture, how in-depth ‘advanced’ should be, how basic ‘beginner’ should be, how much movement should be required, etc…we want to let you know that if your comment was on a pink paper with a presenter's name on it, it will be mailed to him/her.
We hire professionals and in general we do not interfere with the style in which they choose to present. If the style is unacceptable to enough people, that presenter’s attendance numbers will fall and we will reconsider his/her position on the team.
As a participant we hope you will exercise the autonomy to do (or not do) whatever will promote your comfort in a workshop. If you want to stand up and stretch, please do so. If you do not wish to answer, simply shake your head no and look down. There is no one on staff who would deny your request if you mentioned that you did not want to be called on or if you said you would be standing to stretch from time to time.
The Fledgling class will remain on Friday and Saturday only.
Why: This class was set up to give those traveling with a participant in the general conference something to do, if they wished, during main conference hours. The price is incredibly low and we consider the money we lose on it every year as an advertising expenditure. We could not stretch the hours without raising the price and if we did that we would not be reaching the people we wish to reach. It may soon be time to reconsider this group, but at the moment it will remain as it is.
Name tags will remain as they are.
Why: Consistently keeping an eye on price, the present name tags are a compromise between inexpensive stick-on paper ones and the cost of the pocketed, zipper/velcro, pouches that then need paper printed inserts.
We will not be providing coffee for all day.
Why: For an eye opening break down of the cost of coffee at the 2016 conference please go to the FAQ link on our website. The price increased this year but even with last year’s prices the cost of one coffee break for one hour was slightly more than $1,030. If you were to multiply that by the 15 hours that would be required for a full day on Friday, that would be $15,450. Saturday is a 12 hour day which would come out to $12,360. Sunday is a 5 hour day; that would cost $5,150.
So, providing coffee all day for Friday, Saturday and Sunday would be $32,961. Dividing that by 450 participants, the registration price would go up by $75 apiece to cover coffee…and many people don’t drink coffee or tea at the conference.
A word of warning: We are discussing whether we need to forego having coffee/ tea in the future. People have begun to fill large mugs at the urns. This year we had to pay for more coffee just to get the original group, who lined up early, through the queue. The hot beverage is provided as a nicety, one that we will do without if that practice continues.
We will rely on the good will of attendees to observe the “silence” at Silent Weekend.
Why: We believe that most of our participants are respectful, intelligent and kind enough to understand that using voice during Silent Weekend may disturb another participant’s experience. Some years are quiet, some are not, but we have no intention of instituting a policing group to remind people of the importance of remaining voice off. This seemed to be a particularly “chatty” year. I ask that if you return in 2018 you remain ever vigilant, especially during presentations, to keep your voice off and to move into a hall away from the common areas if you must make a call.
We are, as always, delighted that you joined us and we look forward to seeing you in the future. Thank you for all the kind comments and accolades that you sent our way. They were uplifting indeed.