miércoles, 11 de mayo de 2011

A Car Boot Conference?

Have you ever turned up at a conference, looked at the schedule, and thought...

Damn! At 11.00 I have to choose between four great-looking prezos: there's Shouting at Young Learners in room 9, Musical Farting for FCE in room 6, Twenty Pencil-Sharpening Strategies in room 3 and oh I REALLY wanted to see Spongebob for Business English in room 12. What am I to do?

Highly frustrating. Especially if, like me, you only get to conferences once in a blue moon.

In a discussion following this post, Willy Cardoso suggested one simple solution - twenty-minute prezos a la TED. Great. Only four or five simultaneously.

But here's another idea I've just heard...

Our school is right across the road from the University Medicine Research Faculty, and a fair number of our students are researchers. When a research team have finished a study, how do they share it? They make a poster. A real poster, about the same size as your standard bedroom pin-up. It includes diagrams, images, comments, statistics, whatever.

Then at the conference, lots of these teams turn up with their poster - just one copy. The poster session takes place in a big room. Each team gets a little patch and pins up. One team member stays with the poster to answer questions and the others circulate round the other posters asking questions. And then the team members swop over.

Like a car boot sale of information. 

Couldn't we take a leaf out of their book. Just imagine - you could have one big two-hour session at a conference, lay on a buffet lunch, and dozens, if not hundreds of people could 'present'. Of course, it need not be a poster. A laptop, some photos, props, handouts, whatever. And the only complication is that you'd need to present with a partner so you can both get round the room.

I don't mean to abolish proper talks or plenaries or workshops, of course. But a single poster session might well be worth it. Whaddja think?

8 comentarios:

  1. Great!

    Many ELT conferences already have poster sessions. But some of them (and their delegates), IATEFL included, are a long way from making posters a relevant part of the conference.

    Last year I had a poster at TESOL France. Half the posters were displayed in a large room where the opening cocktail was served, so a lot of people could see them, and I had a couple of interesting chats with some people. Then, there were I think two other coffee breaks in the same room. For me it was a good experience, but somehow weird to stand by the poster and have people see it and then not being interested or willing to talk too much. Another good point was that I could make the poster available on my blog, so I got some instant feedback from online 'visitors' as well. So, for me it was great.

    But... some other posters were displayed in the lobby where most of the exhibitors were, so it was not so easy to spot them because of all the banners and stuff. (it's worth saying I might be wrong here, my memory is not really helping me with this account)

    IATEFL: for me, If I had had a poster there (and almost did) it would've been frustrating. Both in Harrogate 2010 and Brighton 2011, the posters were in a hallway where people were 'just passing', I think they considered it a good idea that people would have to pass by these places so they'd see the posters, but not, people were passing to go see a proper talk and wouldn't stop to see the posters. As somone who cares about posters I did pay attention to that; moreover, the program didn't say when the poster presenters would be there to talk about their work; or maybe if it did say, it was not highlighted in any way.
    This was something good about TESOL France, they made sure poster speakers were given similar attention to workshop speakers.

    So, all in all, my opinion is:
    Posters are a good alternative to talks - make the presenters feel special about it and allocate them a decent place and a dedicated spot in the program.

    and finally, my advice for poster presenters:
    work hard on your graphic design.

  2. As Willy says, at IATEFL, posters were in no-man's land. They could become a really valuable addition to conferences, but they'd need their own room rather than a just-passing corridor. How much should you have to pay, Alan? Or free? I don't think many conference organisers would want that.

  3. Well I know you both go to way more conferences than I do, so I'm glad to hear from you both.

    Dave, why do you say organisers wouldn't want it? I mean I can't see any terrifying logistical problems, according to Willy above.

    Are EFL teachers or conference organisers so different from those in other fields?

  4. Really like this idea, Alan!

    I was also at TESOL France and IATEFL Brighton, and I agree with Willy & David's comments about the poster presentations.

    I attended the TESOL Spain conference this year too, and I thought the way they arranged the poster presentations worked really well, as they were in a space that was en-route to some of the rooms, but it was big enough for people to mingle and hang around to take a look. They also had performances in and around the space from time to time during the conference, which attracted an audience of people to come along and look at the posters.

  5. Well Willy and Dave and Sue,

    Since those nice people at Blogger had a Friday 13th moment, your eloquent and constructive comments seem to have disappeared. Mere footprints in the sands of time do we leave behind....

  6. I thought over a hundred had commented...

  7. Er, yes, that's right. 159 to be exact....