September 19, 2012
I’m sitting on a flight home from St. Louis and reflecting on the past two days at the Touch Technology Applications for Children with Special Needs Conference. I first became aware of this event when a Facebook friend Debra Bryant told me about it. Debra is a BCaBA, LBA, and President of ABA Consulting Services, LLC in St. Louis. She is also the mastermind behind the event. Debra had been watching all of the amazing developments in technology and all of the fantastic and dedicated developers that were creating products for special needs children. She was also aware that many parents and professionals are overwhelmed with the number and variety of solutions out there. How many of us have heard someone say to us “I finally got an iPad for my school/child – now how do I find the right apps to put on it?” It doesn’t help that many are intimidated by the same technologies that their kids seem have an instinctual understanding of. How often do adults ask children to show them how to use technology?
So Debra decided to create an event where developers like Brain Parade could get together and share our products and insights with the people who were searching for solutions. Instead of relying solely on the iTunes App store, social media sites and app review sites, this conference would allow them to see the products up close, try the products before buying them, ask questions, and offer their suggestions for improvements. What a concept – face to face conversations between vendors and their customers!
Stephanie O’Brien and I traveled to St. Louis for the event with high hopes, and a little concern. This was the first time this conference had been held and we all know that things don’t always go smoothly the first time. What if the turnout was really light, or the attendees were not the right people we were hoping to connect with? What if the venue was poor or the support lacking? Would it be worth our investment in time and money?
The good news is that Debra and the folks at St. Louis Main Events exceeded our expectations. The venue was great, the turnout was great, and the staff and support were awesome. The usual technical glitches showed up here and there, but that’s to be expected. The important thing is that the team handled them quickly and efficiently.
But the real gem of the event was the people that we met. People dropped by our booth throughout the day to learn about See.Touch.Learn.® and to share their unique situation or needs with us and ask for solutions. Often we had the solution right there and we showed it to them. Other times we directed them to other vendors that were present like Eric and Kristen Ferguson at Close 2 Home Apps whose AAC app So Much 2 Say was a better fit. It was a friendly and cooperative environment with all of us pursuing the same goal – to help those with special needs.
One of the unexpected benefits for Stephanie and I was the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received from people who were familiar with See.Touch.Learn. People stopped by just to say, “I LOVE your app, I use it all the time! I tell everyone about it!”. Others brought their colleagues over and said “This is the app I was telling you about!” See.Touch.Learn. has been downloaded almost a quarter million times, but getting feedback like that face-to-face and unsolicited was incredibly rewarding. You just don’t get that same boost from reading customer reviews of your product on iTunes.
On Tuesday we led a session titled “Teaching Language, Concepts, and Daily Living Skills (using picture cards) in the 21st Century”. In the morning before our session, we were told that there was a waiting list to get in – We had a sold out show! The St. Louis Main Events team quickly scrambled and added more seats to the room to accommodate the high demand. Based on my personal opinion and supported by feedback I received from some of the attendees, the presentation went great. As Stephanie and I delivered our prepared slides and demonstration, we were peppered with 20-30 questions from the audience – this was a very engaged group and we loved it. They all had their iPads out and we could hear the “dings” and “buzzes” as they followed along using See.Touch.Learn. on their iPads. We covered all of our material and we answered all the questions that were asked, but I got the feeling we could have gone on quite a bit longer. Stephanie said to me afterwards, “That was great. We need to do this more often”. She is right. And we will.
I want to thank Debra for creating this great venue for vendors like Brain Parade to connect with our customers and prospect face to face, one on one. It was an incredibly rewarding experience for us. I can’t wait to do it again.