I recently received a survey asking what we thought was important for a conference venue and that set me off to wondering whether our conferences are different to other conferences – or is just us that’s different?
My three major requirements are:
- High ceiling in the conference room.
- No pillars.
- Break and lunch locations to be close to the conference room.
After that, my requirement is classroom format for the setup.
The reason for my high ceiling requirement is so that the screen showing the presenters material is high enough to be seen from the back of the room. Why is it then, that so many venues, in Sydney particularly, offer low ceilings (that’s the newer buildings) or pillars and seem to think this is acceptable? I’m not sure how they could otherwise use the space but they must get bookings for other conferences.
The solution offered is to have multiple screens around the room. They, of course, add to the cost but they can give some relief to the other problem of peering around pillars.
This brings me to my next requirement, classroom setup, which is tables and chairs in rows. The most common setup, these days, is to offer, or almost insist on cabaret layout – circular tables.
I’ve only just realised that this is the solution to the multi-screen layout. The seating with round tables is only around half of the table so it can be arranged to view the closest screen.
Why do I find that an uncomfortable idea?
Unless you have split screens and a video recorder (more cost), you can see only the presenter’s slides or PC activity. I think we need to see both.
Are our conferences different to others?
I attend a conference to learn. A conference gives me the opportunity to absorb as much as I possibly can in the shortest amount of time. This is different to watching a webinar, where, despite my best attempts, there are often outside distractions, such as what else I could be doing with my time. When I’m at a conference, I’ve committed the time and I aim to make the most of it.
That is how I approach the presentations we have at our conference. We may have an amusing or thought-provoking presentation at the end of the day when concentration is lapsing and our real life starts encroaching. During the day, it’s meant to be one ‘lesson’ after another. I try to find a presentation that introduces us to a less usual type of work than we usually do. In 2016 that was Ian McGregor’s presentation about developing call centre content. Have any of you considered investigating that? It sounded a fascinating challenge to me.
I also try to find presentations that will either spark a new idea, or give you a helping hand in the technologies that we currently need to grapple with. Dave Gash is always reliable when it comes to that subject. And this year, I’ve been coming across so many articles about how we handle the huge amount of documentation that companies are accumulating. So much is lost but we can be instrumental in saving it. This may not be technical communication in the currently accepted definition but a new direction, as Joe Gelb pointed out in his foreword in the February 2016 issue of Southern Communicator. At the conference, Margaret Hassall will be explaining how the volume and variety of information at Computershare is changing the work she and her team do – and how they are managing the transition.
I’ve strayed a long way from my introduction, which was about the size and shape of conference rooms and setups. It just shows what musing on a Sunday morning can do to you. Having done my musing, I don’t think I’ll be changing my conference venue requirements, because I hope you all think the same:
- Our time is precious so we don’t want to waste a minute of it.
- We are all interested in learning to be better at the job we do.
- We want to learn new techniques or software so that we’re able to suggest it to solve a problem that may arise.
That brings me to my last requirement, break and lunch proximity to the conference room. Moving a long way between the conference room and the break locations is time-consuming and I try to keep it to a minimum because it affects another very important aspect of conference attendance: chatting to other delegates. This very often gives you the opportunity to learn about software or techniques that they are using, thus giving you a contact to ask advice from in the future. I can’t overestimate how useful I’ve found that over the years.