As I’ve got older I’ve become a much better conference attendee. It’s taken quite a long time, and given how expensive it is to attend, and how many I’ve had the privilege of attending, I’m pretty sheepish that fact. But there it is.
But after enjoying the hospitality and stimulation of EAHIL 2016 this week, I got to thinking…..
what makes a good conference?
what makes a good conference attendee?
This is by no means a “how to do it” for conference organisers, and not in any way a reflection on the Seville event, but here goes…
what makes a good conference?
- The Bag
Now I know how trivial this makes me sound, but really, when you’re still using the bag that you got at a conference in 2008, you’re either super frugal (I’m not) or had conference organisers who really nailed it.
- Strong interactive component
Now this just comes down to me being an activist, so no apologies there…..
- strong theme that is adhered to
Sometimes it’s surprising what sessions are included in a conference that you think has a very clear theme. Note to those wanting to submit – please don’t shoehorn your session in even if the theme doesn’t fit – the audience will be disappointed, and that doesn’t reflect accurately on your (probably very interesting) session.
Note to organisers – don’t accept speakers who’ve not read your brief. Keep the theme!
- Enough time to talk
it’s all about the networking, really, and the opportunity to talk more with the speakers you’d not heard of/from before, and the people that you know well but don’t see that often.
it’s all about the networking, and if there’s not enough scheduled time, then some might just bunk off, which is a shame.
- Venue and Location
Now obviously there’s a cost to attending any conference: time, travel, accommodation, burden on colleagues left behind, opportunity costs etc.
But having a venue that’s really fit for purpose makes all the difference (good wifi is an obvious and absolute must), and having a good destination helps (she says from a lovely hotel in Seville…. ahem!)
such a hard one – it’s the people you didn’t expect to meet, or the session that you go to just to see the one after it, but turns out to be better than the one you’d originally intended to hear… Yeah, organisers, if you can bottle that, I applaud you!
ways to make it easier to spot the people you want to speak to, when you only know them by name not face; the connections you have when you only really know someone by Twitter name, and maybe not face. Any ways it’s possible to make it easier to make those connections the better.
and 2 last points….
- what makes a good conference is the organising team behind it – people who are doing this on top of their day job. They’re doing it with generosity of spirit because they want us to be stimulated and entertained. The time they devote, and the other things they sacrifice to achieve a good event (which might include family time sacrificed, particularly during the event itself). To these people we all owe a huge debt of gratitude – it’s not always their fault if things go wrong, but it’s certainly because of them that things will go well.
- the conference attendee…. more on this later….