“Attending” conferences without being there
Gordon McLean’s excellent One Man Writes blog got me thinking. Can you “attend” a conference without actually being at the conference venue? I’d say you can, but there are provisos and I’d certainly say it is second best.
The general theme of this post is how the rise of social media, particularly Twitter, has enabled people at a conference to let people know elsewhere what is going on. It is common these days to find several people tweeting quotes from speakers or general news about a conference’s events. Add to that the online reports, blog posts and the like and you can have a pretty good summary.
Why is this important?
I work in a medium sized company in a relatively small documentation team. Even as the senior member I am unable to get funding or time off to attend conferences. If I do, I have to fund them myself and take leave to attend. I could ask the powers above to rethink but I choose to pick my battles wisely. I’m realistic on what I can achieve.
So if I want some idea of what is going on, I set up searches on Twitter hash tags, Google alerts and the like. Obviously this needs some people willing and able to tweet and blog but that is becoming the norm so isn’t a problem. Mind you it also needs agood wi-fi connection at the venue, not a certainty even in this day and age. For example the dearth of tweets from the current UA Europe in Brighton, UK is suffering from just this fate.
So is it that simple?
Well no! As anyone who has attended a conference in the flesh will testify, most of what you get out is from the informal networking opportunities. Whether it is those little conversations whilst queuing for lunch or the informal chats in the hotel bar, this is the sort of priceless information that just can not be achieved online. Physically attendance is always the best way. If you can’t, the arrival of social media makes it possible to get a good flavor of what is going on.