As conference season approaches once again, I find myself wondering how I can get the most out of each meeting. From presenting, to networking, to exhibiting, each conference allows me to reconnect with colleagues, meet new people in my field, and gather valuable information. But, why do I get the feeling that I’m starting over with each new meeting? Why isn’t there any continuity? How can the lessons learned from one meeting build naturally into the next?
As with any question, there is always a personal and a systems level answer. I think that personally, I can bring my experiences with me and share them. I can also follow up with contacts, invite people to future meetings, and send them updates using the tools of the Genomics Forum and Genetic Alliance.
I am also interested in what we can do to stop being separate organizations and start being one community. How do we systemically maximize the effort that we are each expending every year? Here are a few ideas I’ve heard about or have been pondering lately. I invite you to post some of your own.
1) Open space technologies
Most meetings I attend have an abstract process that requires presenters to determine relevant topics a year before the meeting. What if we injected some openness into the meetings that let people self-aggregate around topics they think are important? We can use open space technologies to allow participants to choose in the moment, when they’re surrounded by the information and their neurons are firing.
2) Repeating themes
We all attend multiple meetings every year where we hear the same topics over and over again. There must be a better way to combine all of those presentations into a more productive format. It would be interesting to look at each season’s meetings, and then invite the speakers to give their presentations in a webinar format. Think of them as multi-disciplinary informational webinars that devote significant time to the question, “What do we do next?”
3) Two places at one time
There have been some interesting forays into virtual meetings in the past few years. In addition, we have seen numerous organizations blog, tweet, and stream updates about their meetings as they are in progress. It is time to take these efforts to the next level. How can we look at creating a seamless platform between meetings? How can we link up concurrent meetings so that participants can interact with each other? How can we truly involve participants that cannot attend due to travel, disability, or conflicts? A reality is that many organizations make money off of their meetings, but we can be more efficient and creative with how we look at participation.