Attending a conference in 2012 is no longer the big unknown it used to be.
The conference scenario in 1997? You would travel by yourself to an unfamiliar destination, to meet a group of strangers with whom you would be locked into conference rooms for several days, listening to the same speakers. If socially adept, you might have broken the ice with the person sitting next to you, with a nod. Or by talking to the person accidentally seated next to you over lunch, or at the conference dinner. If you happened to have enough in common, you might have exchanged business cards, and post-conference you might email. If very geeky, you might have joined the same email list.
Fast-forward 15 years and it is a totally different experience. Connecting now happens up front! Many conferences set up their own sites to enable connections, or use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media. And if the conference organisers don’t set this up, then a small group of active participants will! You actively search out those people who share your interests and ensure you meet up on arrival. And once these connections have been made, on Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, Facebook and more, people immediately become lasting nodes in each other’s networks.
Of course the PLE Conference has always begun this process early. This year the #pleconf hashtag was coined back in December. And participants can now log on to SAPO Campus and create their social hub there (as easy as logging in with your Twitter account), and begin collecting the all-important badges! So we will all get to know each other well before arriving in Aveiro or Melbourne.
Transitioning from digital to face-to-face!
However, although we know each other’s digital identities, a little work will still need to be done to transition from the digital to face-to-face. Even if someone’s profile picture is a picture of themselves, it can sometimes still be difficult to put a name to that picture.
So, it will be up to you to help people recognise you, at the conference, by making a name badge. Be constructive, be creative, be clever. A pun on your avatar picture? A play on your Twitter name? This is a great tradition set at the first PLE Conference in Barcelona in 2010, and previous contestants have set a very high standard! Take inspiration from the images on this page. And yes, of course there will be virtual badges to be won for the most creative or outrageous name badges! After all, what is more personal than how you introduce yourself?
PLE Conference Badges, a gallery on Flickr.