Monday, June 30, 2008

NECC- The Mega-Conference Syndrome

Three days into my San Antonio stay I am trying to get my head around the pros and cons of this kind of mega conference. I have attended Eubloggercon, gone to some formal and informal sessions, had some conversations, visited the exhibit and completed our poster session in the Global Gallery.

Everybody in the Bloggers Cafe this morning told stories about sessions over run with people or closed. The members of the faculty here with me have talked about having to run from one session to the next in hopes of getting a seat. My question about the conference scene in general is whether the more intimate conferences are more effective. Certainly I know the more intimate format of the BLC last year fostered some great conversations for me.

At the end of the day a few of us talked a little bit about the conference audience and conference spaces. Jeff Utecht shared about the organization of the conference in Shanghai and the ability to create both formal and un-confernce sessions that were open to the flow of the conversation they generated. Formal conference sessions all had a back up physical space where the session/conversation could be continued if warrented for a full 45 minutes after the completion of the session. The un-conference sessions ebbed and flowed and were assigned spaces as requests were made for conversations.

A conference the size of NECC has a very diverse audience. For many ( maybe most) it is a fairly new experience.They are looking to figure technology out and they are looking for cool tools, examples or ideas. If you visit the exhibit floor alot of people seem to be looking for software and gadgets too. There are others who are looking for the conversation, the pedagogy and the chance to converse on a different level. And of course there are many others with many other goals . The point is that there has to be way to meet these diverse needs and I think it has a lot to do with providing dedicated spaces and not filling every corner ( let alone every minute) with scheduled events.

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