I am currently helping to organize a couple of conferences and am trying to think about what I have enjoyed about conferences in the past. I don’t typically remember the talks at a conference as much as the un-planned stuff. I met Ben Scragg over dinner at OLC and have considered him my food guru ever since. I remember watching Keegan lure people into playing a Switch game where they milk cows. At InstructureCon, Keegan and I attended a board game night that filled an entirebuilding. My fondest memories are of exploring Washington DC with my future wife and Prague with my friend John Perkins.
With all that in mind here are a couple of ideas I’m pitching for the upcoming conference season. Let me know if these sound good and also what other things you would include in an ideal conference.
1. Healthier food and activities
I feel like conferences are usually sort of gluttonous with buffet lines and eating out every night and all. Having healthy snacks and lunch options would be good and I remember there being some healthy options last year. Similarly, morning group activities like yoga and runs could be informally organized or we could work with the conference center. Outdoor activities like lawn games could be fun too and give people a way to get moving midday. If they already have an area like this at the conference center, we could flag it in handbooks and encourage people to hang out there.
2. Breakout room type activities
I feel like breakout rooms aren’t quite over yet and might be a good group activity. There are things you can do with boxes rather than actually locking people in a room that make it possible to set this up in any conference space, and there are also digital break out activities that we could run across the conference center.
3. Game night
I’d like to use one of the conference spaces to have a game night with board games and video games. We could also include some online games for the virtual attendees. I think this might help people meet others at the conference and just be a fun thing to do.
4. Craft maker space
A place with rocking chairs and work tables where you can sit and knit or make bracelets or paint or whatever would be a nice relaxation and meeting thing. We could probably even provide some supplies for fairly cheap.
5. Unconference space for hands-on computer coding and tool workshops
I’m envisioning a small space where 10-12 people could meet at a time. On the outside of the space people could stick up post it notes or write on a glass wall or whiteboards or whatever as to the types of hands on workshops that they want. We could poll people ahead of time using social media to plan the events for the first day. Every hour or so a volunteer would lead people through WordPress, Omeka, Drupal, HTML Coding, Slack, or Canvas LMS training or whatever else they ask for. During the first day as people throw up new ideas, we also try to encourage people to sign up to lead those events and then recruit to fill whatever events need to be filled.
I’ve got a couple of people in mind who have live streaming / life streaming experience who might be willing to stream their whole conference experience. If they could also do a workshop on the first day on how to do this and how to do light-weight versions of this (taking photos and sharing them on Instagram, Twitter streaming, etc) , we might be able to get other people to join in. This will take up a large amount of bandwidth, so we may need to either find someone willing to use their data, or figure out someway to pay for data.