…the more they stay the same?

On the back of Chad’s post – which I take to be more in disappointment than in anger – it’s worth considering why we still get (and I paraphrase here) crappy conference presentations.

At one level, this is about the cues that organisers (don’t) put out to delegates. Yes, there’s a bunch of stuff on the website about ‘roles’ at conferences, but I’ll hazard a guess that most people don’t read this. So where’s the follow-up by organisers? Do they push out info direct to individuals? Do they provide extra instruction to chairs on management of panels?

More broadly, do they encourage variety in panel formats? Having lots of different ways you can run a panel (as a roundtable, workshop, activity-based session, etc.) partly allows people to find a structure that works for them, partly creates incentives for everyone to check on the format guidance.

At a second level, this is about colleagues being mindful. In Chad’s case, it looks like someone made an assumption and ran with it, without checking that assumption was correct (which it wasn’t). If we all took some time to consider what others are doing and what others (the audience especially) might want, then we’d probably be able to run things pretty smoothly and sensibly by ourselves. Which is rather the idea.

Of course, that we’re even having this discussion points up the problem: not everyone is mindful.

So maybe the third level is that we all might need to help colleagues be mindful. Calling out bad practice is something we should all be doing: people spend a lot of time and money to get to conferences, so we should respect the effort by making sure we’re giving everyone a fair crack.

In short, these kinds of things are on all of us to shift: if we all played our part then we’d hopefully find less and less of this, as colleagues started to see the benefits.

Looking forward to seeing you at the next panel!

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