February 16, 2020

Before you play conference bingo…

Posted by Laura Guertin

This seems like an approprite post as Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020 is about to kick off…

I follow many scientists on Twitter, and year-round, there are tweets that appear around conference time that promote “conference bingo.” Yes, the game of bingo has spread beyond dedicated bingo halls and church gymnasiums. Some conferences or workshops use bingo as an ice breaker – Adam Nekola describes his bingo experience going around the room and trying to find fellow attendees that played in their high school band, or that made it past level 500 in Candy Crush.


And the tweets continue:

I’m not saying bingo should be out of our lives entirely – for example, National Park Bingo gets everyone’s eyes exploring their surroundings.



When it comes to conference bingo, it wouldn’t hurt for each of us to review a conference bingo card before we give our own presentations and reflect upon our materials. But it can hurt rookie presenters and those that work through presentation anxiety if they see us sitting there with the familiar grid of squares, marking it off as we disseminate our work.

Let’s instead create a supportive conference environment for all presenters without the bingo game. Monica Metzler has produced a Bad Presentation Bingo card, along with supporting material, ““to encourage scientists to be considerate of their audiences … by paying attention to their presentation’s style and format as much as to its content.” And Grishma Jena has designed a conference bingo card for organizers to review the inclusiveness and diversity of a conference.

I mean, we wouldn’t want to be serving as the Chair of our Faculty Senate, and have our colleagues playing Faculty Meeting Bingo right in front of us, correct? (please don’t get any ideas from this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education).

In all seriousness, when it comes to conference bingo, we can do better… by not playing at all, and calling attention to our colleagues we see engaging in this activity and explaining why it is not appropriate or supportive or inclusive for our science community.