One of the things that you do, as a conference organizer, is have a debrief after the event. It’s easy to talk about what went right because so much does, when you have great people. Nothing is perfect, though, and it leads to a good discussion and planning for what you might do the next time around to avoid any of the gotchas that gotcha.
As you can imagine, a technology conference has many possible points of failure and just when you think you’ve seen them all or that you’ve patched what went wrong last time, something new comes along! With the proliferation of personal wireless devices, you’ve just got to know that connectivity is a big concern.
On the heels of this year’s Symposium conference, it’s time to think about these things. Certainly, we had a good discussion immediately after the event and it will continue as plans get underway to do it all again a year from now. The venue is a conference centre but that’s also attached to a hotel. So, any connections that the conference might use is also shared with everyone else staying there. Last year, bandwidth was determined to be an issue and so we actually paid extra to bump up the bandwidth for the day this year.
But, it’s a technology conference. Virtually everyone has some sort of technology with them. As you walk around, you do notice the things that people are doing.
- Tweeting using the hashtag #rcac11 – actually encouraged that because not everyone could join us that day. The badge of honour when you’re tweeting is to be "trending". It was momentous when we found out that we were trending in Canada. It was cool to be trending with #pujols;
- Posting updates to Facebook – I had a friend "check me in" to the Lamplighter Inn;
- Check into Fourquare;
- Download the presenter’s slidedeck to follow along and see what’s coming next;
- Access videos for your presentation;
- Ask everyone in your session to create a Twitter account if they haven’t done so already;
- Demonstrate live streaming;
- Conduct a presentation using Skype and Adobe Connect to bring the outside in to your session;
- Live blog the event using Evernote;
- Check your email;
- Do an internet search for a term that you don’t understand;
- Show your web page to your elbow partner;
- Use a voting website to get preferences from the audience;
- Send a big file to Dropbox to share it with some of your friends;
- Send text messages to other folks in the rooms and back home;
- Follow the presenters on Facebook and Twitter while you’re thinking about it – after all they give you their credentials. Oh, and while you’re at it, check out their website;
- Check out your new followers right away;
- Practice your own presentation because you’re up next;
- Send a big movie file to a friend using AirDrop;
- and goodness knows what else!
Now, with a few hundred people in the audience for an event like that, it wouldn’t be a surprise to have a few hundred devices all connected at the same time. (thankfully, not everyone using the conference wireless) To compound the problem, nobody goes to these things with just one device anymore. It’s not uncommon to see a cell phone sitting on the table right next to a tablet that you’re using to take notes.
It makes you wonder just how many IP addresses are available to share and what the lease life is! It’s amazing and yet impressive at the same time that this would all work.
You do have to make sure that the presenters will be connected and successful. To that end, you make sure that they’re using a wired connection and not fighting for contention with everyone else! Even that’s not good enough for all and some presenters come prepared to tether their laptops to their computers to use their own bandwidth.
Such is the electronic life at a conference. Just another day in the life.
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