Why in this day and age of social media and Web 2.0 are conferences such a singular experience? People move as individuals from space to space writing their own notes – some tweet, or blog their thoughts… but really, where is the interaction? Even with our peers, I would argue that it is quite like school: cliques develop among those you know!
So, here’s my thought, let’s collaborate on note taking, make conference pdf’s able to join to your calendar, and then, further, add a common tech experience to allow outsiders in. We’re going to work from the back forward.
A common tech experience that will allow outsiders in: have at least one common Twitter Wall by registration or some other central area and project the live tweets from the conference. On-line pages like Tweet Chat (www.tweetchat.com) will stream your #tag, live. Working with your conference site it may be possible to further run these tweet chats on monitors in the center. In so doing other participants will learn more about what is happening in the conference, may choose to participate in the twitter experience, and hopefully passersby will learn more about what you do.
Use the on-line PDF to not only communicate what is happening at the conference, but to also reserve space on your calendar. As I was planning where I wanted to be when it would have been highly convenient to click on a field of text and have it populate to my calendar. In my mind this is as simple as 1) creating a Google Calendar with Session Information, 2) Create PDF of sessions, and 3) select area of session text to place and tell the PDF the area is a hyperlink to the calendar’s public address, which then one can add to their own calendar. By doing this traffic will be coming to your page before the conference, organizers could even use metric information to know which presenter should be put where, not to mention the convenience given to participants would be highly welcome.
Finally, and what I think would be the biggest coup, make a common note taking experience. Using Google Drive one can create a common document that as many people can add to as you would like. I don’t know how dynamic this can be, but I think it would be easiest to have “Strand Documents,” i.e. Technology, Numeracy, Literacy, etc. Inside of these documents would be all sessions associated with the strand. Accessing the document people in the sessions could add what they think is of importance, after the conference the information could be switched to a non-editing document, and be accessible by all participants after the conference from the conference site.
Thinking back to the calendar, Strand Documents could be a link inside of the session reservation. In so doing when one looks at their calendar and opens the reminder they will be projected into a space where they can share and record their thoughts. Further, it would be highly convenient if the calendar could link not just to the strand document, but to the actual session.
From this level of participation I would expect silos to fall, a less cliquey experience, and more collaboration among peers – and really, isn’t this what we want from a convention?