As of the end of this week I completed chairing the 30th annual international conference of the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and Life Sciences, with 54 participants from around the world. It basically went well, and it was kind of cool to make introductory remarks at 8 AM during EDT, with somebody on at 6 AM their time in Montana and someone else on at 10 PM their time in Sydney, Australia. It can be done, and even with parallel sessions happening.
Of course there were the usual snafus of people getting bad internet connections and disappearing or becoming mute while presenting, which does not happen in live sessions. There were also some people who failed to present due to not being able to properly load or manage their slides or videos, although I have seen problems with this sort of thing even in live conferences.
Something I throw out there for anybody managing one of these involves how we managed the parallel sessions. So we had both a co-host/moderator, who managed entry to a session, as well as a session chair who managed timing by speakers, with on this following the old incentive compatible strategy of usually having that be the final speaker in the session, giving them incentive to keep the earlier presenter in line on timing. Indeed, in our wrapup session someone noted, accurately near as I could tell, that there may have been better adherence by speakers to time limits in this format than is often the case in live sessions.
We also had it that each parallel session had its own Zoom link so that when somebody wanted to go from one to another, they would need to leave the whole conference and reenter. But that seemed to work, and it beat having breakout rooms because with those in Zoom if one goes into a breakout room, one cannot go back to the original space.
Of course we missed the direct personal interaction, no schmoozing in the hallways or over food and drink at reception or dinner. We did have a social hour at end of first day, simply a wide-open joint session with people saying whatever, and some waved beer bottles around. But not the same thing as live. Oh well.
There was one time slot where there were some more serious problems and confusion with the sessions, but otherwise the problems were mostly garden variety. We had our max attendance of 32 for our keynote speaker, Simon Levin, a mathematical ecologist at Princeton, with that going very well. And indeed, in general things went better than I was worried they might, and I am glad to have it over and behind me.
"Of course we missed the direct personal interaction, no schmoozing in the hallways or over food and drink at reception or dinner."
Friday nights are for Zoom cocktail parties! I've been a participant on a few Zoom presentations but never the leader, which make things easier for me.
I am afraid this will be the new normal, but glad it was not completely chaotic. What was the thrust of Professor Levin's presentation?
Cooperation among animals and among humans. This eventually got to current events, cooperating or failing to do so in dealing with climate change and the pandemic.
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