I find myself in the Redlands today. I am not down here for anything special. TH is giving a talk at a meeting and I tagged along to get some sunshine. Please note that the picture above was taken when I landed. Ontario was 2 degrees F warmer than Seattle this afternoon.
It seems weird not to be going to this specific meeting this year. I presented two years in a row, but I'm sitting it out this year and I'll tell you why.
I sometimes think we have meetings for the sake of having meetings.
I've been working at building programs and meetings for the last ten years. I strategized over time tables and room sizes and what topics will draw a good crowd. I spent a goodly three years working with an amazing group of program managers, scientists, industry folks to develop a great conference highlighting emerging technologies in weather and climate.
Here's the rub - What is the use of talking to the same people year after year? Are the same folks who lead the plenary session, sit on panels and are considered the big draws the right people to be up on the stage? I understand inspiring a crowd and hitting key points in policy or new directions, but sometimes I wonder if we should change the way we approach conferences.
--I've been involved in lightning talks - that is one way to change things up.
-- I've been on panels and that is another way to do things - but the mix of panelists and an engaged moderator are key.
--I've stood in front of a research poster and prayed that someone would talk to me at the same time prayed that no one would talk to me.
--I've wondered if anyone would come to my talk - the last one of the day on the last day of the conference usually placed in a session that has nothing to do with my topic.
--I've questioned if parallel tracks are effective.
I think about ways to get people to come back at the end of the day and try and wrap up what happened. As our attention spans get shorter and shorter and we spend more of our time disseminating information during the sessions via social channels, I wonder if we're really engaging in the conference. Sometimes I wish we could turn off the wireless (which we all begged and pleaded for in the past) in the conference rooms just to get people to pay attention to the speaker.
I know it sounds crazy, but I think it might be time that we rethink the conference/meeting framework and start thinking of new ways to engage with our peers.