The Society for the Abolition of Boring Conference Panels

It’s that time of year when I find myself submitting papers and panels to conferences.

But because it’s not the time of year for conferences, I’ve not been thinking too much about what I dislike about how those conferences work.

Often on these pages we write about the shortcomings of conference panel formats: the long presentations, the reading-out of papers, the lack of time for Q&A, the ‘question’ that isn’t.

But this year, I’m resolved to actually try and pull my finger out and try to do something different.

With that in mind, and with the looming announcement of call for papers for my ‘home’ conference at UACES, I’m going to try a couple of things.

The first is a flipped format.

My panellists – as and when I find them – will record 15 minute presentations prior to the conference and upload them to YouTube. We’ll indicate this in the programme, using a hashtag to help find them.

Then, in the actual session, I’ll limit colleagues to a 3 minute presentation of the core message, so those few who’ve not seen the YouTube presentation know what’s going on, and so that we can have considerably more than an hour to discuss the content.

The second panel will be highly interactive, where each presenter starts off with 3 minutes, then the audience vote on whether to give them subsequent blocks of 3 minutes, up to a maximum of 12 minutes. I think we can do that via an app, so no-one has to feel they’re inhibited to ask the speaker to stop.

The logic of the first panel is to maximise the time for face-to-face discussion, which seems to be particularly useful for colleagues to develop their ideas and their papers. It also encourages them to prepare more before the conference itself.

The logic of the second is to incentivise presenters to foreground core messages and to ensure that audiences are engaged, rather than using their time to regurgitate their paper without thought to the format.

In both cases, I hope it will produce a more engaging environment for colleagues attending the session, not least as I intend to secure a small air-horn to drown out anyone who can’t ask a concise question, phrased as a question.

To be honest, I hope no idea if either format will work, but I want to try, because carrying on as we have isn’t a solution. We all know we can do better, so consider this a first step in trying to do better.

If it works, then I’ll see if I can get others to adopt the format, or to try out other formats. Maybe I can persuade those organising conferences to push the use of these different approaches, perhaps with a conference prize for the best online presentation or the like.

The only thing I need now is a small band of volunteers to help try this out.

Some of you might be getting an email, but others of you might just want to contact me via the comments section below: I’m thinking the second format might be particularly good for an L&T panel.

2 thoughts on “The Society for the Abolition of Boring Conference Panels

  1. Simon, this sounds like great fun! If there’s room for us in your new-style panels we would definitely be up for giving this a try.
    Karen Heard-Lauréote & Mark Field (University of Portsmouth).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.