December 9, 2014

Time for the fall meeting… and is it time for a new conference format?

Posted by Laura Guertin

Since I started going to professional conferences, the format for presenters to share their information has not changed from oral and poster sessions.  Sure, the technology has evolved, from 15-to-20-minute talks utilizing overhead projectors to two slide projects to one MS PowerPoint.  But have we stagnated in terms of thinking of innovative, creative, and effective ways we can use new and emerging technologies to disseminate our work?  The good news is that organizations such as EGU and AGU are exploring different formats, and scientists are noticing.  


For the AGU 2014 conference, several virtual options are available for those that are unable to make the journey to San Francisco. Presenters have the option to upload posters to the ePoster portal, which has a discussion board for asynchronous interactions between the authors and viewers. There are numerous (more than 600!) live streaming and on-demand sessions listed here for people to view from the comfort of their own office. And then there are remote viewing sites, where AGU encourages us to, “gather your coworkers or fellow students to watch and discuss live and on-demand sessions from the Fall Meeting. Hold discussions among your attendees, participate via social media as you watch the sessions, and even have refreshment breaks!” This sounds like a great option for departments to organize, to bring faculty and students together to view and review the content of the talks.

Other organizations are exploring different presentation formats at their conferences.  The flipped conference format is gaining popularity, where speakers upload their talks ahead of time (or at least foundation material for the talks) for audience members to review.  Talbert (2014) speaks to this, from his own experience.

Giving this kind of talk through recorded video raises some interesting possibilities for “flipped conferences”. For example, what if each speaker at a conference posted their talk online (in video form) prior to the conference, and then at the conference they were required to present just the abstract and then allow 10–15 minutes just for Q&A? I think a lot more “conferring” might happen at conferences, rather than just sitting there and listening. — Talbert (2014)

The 2014 Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Conference included a series of flipped sessions in their program.  And although I think there is room for the “flipped” format at the discussion table, I’m not seeing discussions about making videos accessible to all audiences – a critical piece before we move too far along in this direction.

Certainly, individuals are giving virtual seminars outside of conferences, still adjusting to using online tools for presenting but open to the possibilities and realizing the benefits.

Conference attendees have some ideas for what they would like to see in the future…

Interestingly, this option is already available! (See How to: Auto-tweet during your keynote)

I’m not sure if we are ready for this final suggestion just yet, but maybe, someday…



Additional sources for exploration

Dunn, J. (2012, July 5). It’s time to flip the conference. Edudemic. (Article online)

Talbert, R. (2014, June 5). Four things I wish I’d known about the flipped classroom. Casting Out Nines, The Chronicle Blog Network. (Article online)