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Conferences – my definition of a “great” one

Terry Freedman wrote a very comprehensive list of “what I look for in a Conference”.

I have to confess that while this is a good list, I’m actually still looking for more now. In large part because we have the tech tools to realize it.

I’m thinking about

  • pre conference introductions / presentations / discussion threads
  • conference Q/A
  • post conference discussion threads / learning communities

.. all of which can complement or even strengthen the traditional conference program by promoting greater “context“, “inclusion“, and “continuity“.


To me the perfect conference is one where the hassles of getting dressed, driving to the conference center, finding parking, navigating the conference site, finding a chair, etc. are well rewarded. By that I mean, make sure that whatever I select to attend is “well targeted” to my interests and needs. There’s nothing more frustrating than being “held captive” through a presentation that bills itself as one thing.. only to be really about something else that I already know .. and thus leaving me to feel like a “hostage”. pre-conference materials (i.e. narrated PowerPoint presentations, podcasts, etc.) from presenters would allow us to actually see the general topic from a presenter first, engage with the topic AND speaker via online discussion. As a result, it would help identify themes / topics specific to the interests of those who took the time to prepare for the conference. Thus giving the presenter (expert?) a chance to understand the context of the potential audience. Thus the face to face component of a conference opens itself up to being more “contextually accurate” and “relevant”.


To me the perfect conference is wired and enabled to support the open networking that Terry mentions .. but perhaps facilitating it further via social¬† media tech tools such as Twitter and the use of pre-assigned#hashtags. It may also encourage “back channelling” to again invite more “networking” and participant engagement. Such additions should be aimed at promoting more inclusivity, and more activity by participants. The alternative is to continue to promote a great deal more passivity from them instead.


Ultimately the perfect conference, is not a one off or something that works in isolation. By that I mean, it is hopefully part of a broader picture… namely supporting a “community of practice” and is clearly seen to be doing so. This means allowing presentation materials from the conference to be archived and accessible to others afterwards (whenever possible). This in turn, supports something that has largely been absent in the past – namely “continuity” . This archiving promotes continued discussion and debate on issues / concerns / opportunities that are relevant to the region / it’s practitioners. Over time, progress can be realized more “collectively” by practitioners.

In essence, a conference is working as part of an overall strategy to promote best practices, to promote professional development in as effective, as inclusive and as efficient a manner as possible for everyone interested.

Arina, T. (2009). Using Social Technologies to Run Better Events. Retrieved from

Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. (2009, February 18). Spaces of Interaction: Rethinking Traditional Conferences. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. Retrieved June 22, 2009, from

Collis, B. (2009, February 20). Conferences and Learning. Presented at the Spaces for Interaction Conversation:, Online. Retrieved from

Freedman, T. (2010, March 21). What I Look For in a Conference. The Educational Technology Site: ICT in Education. Retrieved March 21, 2010, from

Posted in Conferences, Professional-development.

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