The Conference Conundrum

I’m here at the Teradata Partners conference in Dallas (one of my favourite conferences (full disclosure, I’m employed by Teradata)), and enjoying myself immensely.

Of course there are always a few problems with these big conferences:

  1. The air-con is set to arctic
  2. The coffee in breakfast is terrible
  3. I always want to go to sessions that clash

I’ve long since given up on the air-con and the coffee.  It seems these are pretty much immutable laws of conferences.  But what about the scheduling?  Surely there is a (and I hesitate to say it) big data approach to making the scheduling better?

I have no* evidence, but I suspect that current scheduling approaches essentially revolve around avoiding having the same person speak in two places at the same time, making sure that your ‘big’ speakers are in the biggest halls.

But we’ve all been to presentations in aircraft hangers with three people in the audience, and we’ve all been to the broom-closet with a thousand people straining to hear the presenter.

And above all. we’ve all been hanging around in the corridor trying to decide which of the three clashing sessions we should go to next.

The long walk

The long walk

So maybe, just maybe, there is a better way.

How? Well this year’s Partners Conference gave us the ability to use an app or an online tool to choose which sessions we wanted to see.  So I did it.  Two minutes in BZZZZZZZ – you have a clash!  But I wanted to see both of those sessions!  Tough.  Choose one.

But.  What if they had asked me what I wanted to see before they had allocated sessions to time slots and rooms?

They would have ended up with a dataset that would allow someone to optimise the sessions for every attendee.  This would really change the game, we’re moving from an organiser designed system to a user designed system.

But wait! There’s more!

Are you tired from having to walk 500m between sessions?  We could also optimise for distances walked.  And we could make a better guess at which sessions need the aircraft hanger, and which would be just fine in the broom closet. And we could do collaborative filtering and suggest sessions that other people were interested in…

And guess what?  We have the technology to do this.

Next year, Partners?