Archive for June 2006


Most conferences have some kind of proceedings, a - in most cases - printed collection of papers for each presentation. This is especially important for scientific conferences, where the papers and their publication in prestigious proceedings help the career of their authors. But any conference can profit from having proceedings. They help the audience, because they don’t have to take as many notes. When they get home they can read about the stuff they have heard (or not, if they missed a talk). This is especially important when the conference has several parallel tracks.


Audio and Video from Conferences

With the Internet and especially blogging and podcasting getting more popular, we have seen a surge in audio and video recordings from many conferences on the Internet. While some organizers still see this as a threat (’Why would anyone come to our events if they can get the talks on the Internet for free?’), many see it as free advertising or simply do it to get their information out to many more people.

Vanguard in this has been the IT Conversations site (recently broadening its mission under the new name The Conversations Network). Amongst other things they offer for free download audio recordings from many conferences including the popular O’Reilly events. They portion out the recordings from any event over a long time, one talk a week. If you want to get them soon after the conference you can pay for premium access.

Many other conferences do the same for themselves. Not all of them as professional as the TED (Technologie Entertainment Design) event which recently published videos of some of their talks (which by the way are not only technically excellent videos, but also video of excellent talks, go see them). For many conferences those audio and video recordings still have a distinctly home-made touch, but they are getting better and better as people learn to work with the new medium.

So why are they not afraid of loosing customers? Because any good event is more about the contact to other people and the shared experience than for the content or talks alone. Instead of turning them away, possible attendees get a glimpse into what awaits them. And they want to be part of it. And anyway the conference business is different then the book or magazine business. While you can print as many copies of a book as you need, conferences always have a limited attendance.

btw: Have you watched the TED videos like I told you? Did you notice the cluttered look of the stage? Very interesting change from the normal huge and empty stage. It is very subtle, but I think it makes the setting more “comfortable” looking, less like stage and audience and more like a conversation in your living room. Maybe thats something to copy.

Speaker database

In her blog face2face Sue Pelletier talks with Mike May about speaker selection. His idea is it to have a speaker database used by all speakers in the world which includes as much background information about speakers as possible, including video clips, photos etc. Conference organizers use it then for finding and selecting speakers as well as for getting promotional material for their event.

I think this is an excellent idea and wish somebody would start this…

Session Chair

Many conferences have session chairs (sometimes called moderators). Their job differes from conference to conference and between types of sessions. In any case they are in a way the representatives of the conference organizers or the program committee in the room. They introduce the speaker, make sure he has everything he needs and that he ends on time. If the speakers doesn’t do it himself, they can also moderate the question and answer section at the end.