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conflicts at conferences

A while back I whined a bit (I know, so unlike me) about conflicting sessions at conferences. Now that I am working towards creating my very first online conference* I understand the conflicts.

In order to manage the projected audience versus the size of the room, conference organizers may have to resort to creating conflicts. By conflict I am not talking about cataloger cage fights but instead I mean two or more ‘popular’ sessions running at the same time in different locations. This is true in both in-person conferences as well as online conferences.

Huh? Why would room size or audience matter in an online conference? That is just silly talk! Everyone knows the internets are free!

Technology and costs of technology affect the online conferences.  When a conference is online all sorts of technological issues erupt and cost is a huge factor. In order to host an online event, you must utilize some sort of meeting or classroom software. Several are available (both free and cost), examples include Cisco’s WebEx, Saba’s Centra, Adobe’s Connect, dim-dim, Blackboard…and the list goes on.  Each one has positives and negatives (I’ve used four of those listed and have some definite opinions).  Cost is often based on room size, that is how many individual logins (or “seats”) are allowed simultaneously per session. This means you can have a 50 seat room or 100 seat room or more but every increase in ‘seat’ increases cost.  There is also the issue of bandwidth – the faster the better.  The more people in the room, the more that hit the bandwidth, the slower the load becomes.  This can be a drag – ever been in an online conference or presentation in which the screen you are viewing in no way resembles whatever the speaker is describing? And that by the time the page being discusses loads to your machine, the presentation has moved on to another page or topic?

Point being I now understand why conference creators build in conflicting sessions.  This is happening to me now. As I build an online conference for my company I know I will have to build in conflict. I know I am going to have to have multiple popular sessions at the very same time in order to manage room size and costs. I am sad about this but resigned.  The one shining light is that online conferences can be recorded.  Participants can go back and listen to the session they could not attend. This makes me very happy since I am planning to listen to every session of the upcoming conference.

*This is an actual work-related event in which my employer has designated me as organizer. I am quite excited. I wrote a list of who I’d love to see in a conference, shuffled the names, and sent inquires out to the first 10 listed. To my utter amazement, almost all said yes. Some even suggested others (names that were not on my list because I never dreamed they’d accept). Before I knew it I had a long list of “dream” presenters. Not ALL my”‘dream” presenters, I still have a long list of  ones I wish I could include. There just isn’t the time to have everyone I want since I have committed myself into making this a balanced conference and including new-to-me presenters (via a call for speakers) to ensure a variety of voices are heard. If only I could make this a three day tour…

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