2016 Conference Management & Professional Development

Still Slacking Off (AIM8)

Conversations: All. Over. The. Place.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. In 2014, Lacy Paschal found her team of 12 at Vanderbilt University buried in email. To defeat this monster, her office implemented a new tool and process. Overwhelmed turned to organized. Scattered turned to streamlined.


At this year’s High Ed Web, Paschal revived and updated her previous, award-winning talk about how messaging app Slack can help teams communicate better. Her talk began by focusing on three areas in which Slack can be a saving grace:


Slack keeps conversations and all of their components together: links, images, code snippets, etc. Messages are archived and easily searchable; no longer does her team have to search through email, The Cloud, on local drives for information and files. It all lives in Slack.


“Slack is the number one thing we did to make our team a team,” she said of when a restructuring formed a new, expanded team, but whose members still worked in different buildings.


Because you can create new channels quickly, Slack is perfect for putting together a specific team for the duration of a project. She also noted that because other Vanderbilt teams use Slack, it also has become an cross-departmental communication tool.

Paschal then went into detail about her team uses Slack for work; for example, they set up channels for everything, from tools and projects, to areas for “outside work” team-building chatter (such as discussing TV shows, sports and, for the brave, politics). Integrations with webhooks and apps, such as Zapier, IFTTT and Google Hangouts, allow for expanded potential in the project management realm. She showed off the interface and displayed real interactions which gave those unfamiliar with Slack a peek into how versatile and powerful a tool it is. From managing help desk tickets to reviewing social media activity, Vanderbilt has realized that Slack is more than a messaging app. It’s, well, an everything app.

The key to making Slack work is to require it. “It’s not optional,” Paschal said, adding that employee on-boarding in her office includes Slack training, and an internal Wiki houses all of the documentation and channel directories.

Slack has free and premium versions, and most of what she shared can be done for zero budget.

View Lacy’s slide deck here. 

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons/DJ Waldow

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By Donna Talarico

Donna Talarico, a Red-Stapler-winning HighEdWeb presenter and volunteer editor for Link, is an independent writer and content strategist. She is the marketing columnist for Wiley's Recruiting and Retaining Adult Learners, and her work has also been published in CASE Currents, The Guardian Higher Education Network, and elsewhere. From 2010 to 2015, she told the Elizabethtown College story as part of an award-winning marketing and communications team. Always a storyteller, before higher ed she worked in print and broadcast media, and for a leading eCommerce company. She is the founder and publisher of Hippocampus Magazine, a bimonthly creative nonfiction journal and small press. She loves road trips, board games, greasy spoon diners, and words.