Back in … I wrote a blog post about unconferences. As the formal conference season approaches (in UK and Canada at least), I wanted to bring back some of that post to encourage you to take control of your conference experience.
Maybe the particular conference you are going to has been organized in the typical fashion.
- There are panels where people are giving papers.
- There are plenary sessions.
- The timetable is all agreed in advance.
You don’t need permission to skip some (or all) of the organized sessions.
You don’t need permission to do real work in the restaurant, bar, coffee shop, or an empty room down the hall.
You don’t need permission to get a bunch of people together to talk about collaboration or even to start writing a book together during the conference.
Do your own advance organizing
Let the official conference organizers deal with the venue, hotels, publishers, etc.
You can organize the people you want to work with. Discuss in advance what you want to do and how this conference offers an opportunity to get together and do it.
Invite people you know and come up with ways of using the main conference to find more like-minded folks.
Give that paper in the regular stream
Present your material in a way that invites discussion and debate. Talk about your most interesting findings.
Worry less about impressing the big players and more about identifying potential collaborators.
Make it easy for people you’d like to work with to come up and talk to you at the end of the session.
Hell, invite them to meet you in the bar later. Tell them where you will be at lunchtime and invite them to join you.
You don’t need credit, you need good conferences
Talk about it afterwards. Give the main conference organizers credit for organizing such a fantastic opportunity for collaboration. Don’t worry if they deserve it, give them the credit anyway.
If the buzz about this year’s big important conference in your field is about how collaborative and interesting it was, then next year’s organizers are going to be motivated to make it collaborative and interesting.
Go on. Stop complaining about bad conferences.
Start constructing the reality you want to have.
P.S. This morning I came across a related article about audience attention and conferences (probably also applies to your teaching).