Mapping out a Conference Itinerary

As one of the designated ‘distinguished’ bloggers (a.k.a old timer) for the One Health Conference I have been asked to look back at how things have changed at the annual Medical Library Association Conference over the years. Since one of my areas of interest is technology my postings will focus on the impact that technology has had on the annual conference.

The days ahead of us will be filled with plenary sessions, section programs, poster presentations, roundtable lunches, open forums, and committee meetings. Chances are, however, that most attendees have already figured out which sessions they plan to attend before even arriving in Boston. Other than a few last minute changes, most attendees probably have their conference schedule already mapped out  – and loaded into their mobile devices.

Not too many years ago, attendees had to wait until they got to the conference site to map out their conference plans. Although potential attendees received a copy of the preliminary program, it only outlined the content but not the timing of events. The usual conference pattern was for attendees to get to the registration booth as soon as possible upon arrival at the conference site to get one’s hands on their conference bag.

Attendees would then grab space, where ever they could find it, to hunt through their conference bag looking for the printed program. With the program in hand, each attendee would go through each day’s events and circle those which they were interested in. Attendees would essentially be lost during the conference without their printed programs. A presenter could gauge how interested people were in their specific topic based on how quickly the printed programs were pulled out of the bags.

This year, MLA rolled out a new scheduling tool. This tool is very cool. It allows attendees to view the entire conference schedule and then build out their personal itineraries. With the tool, attendees can not only build out their itineraries, they can export or subscribe to their itinerary. This allows attendees to have a dynamic calendar that could be synced between their mobile devices. Plus, users of the scheduling system even get an email in the morning containing their daily itinerary. Attendees can use the system to connect with other attendees to see what they were planning to attend and those interested in specific exhibitors can seek them out.

Now, instead of having to fumble through their conference bags for their printed program to see what other events are going on, attendees can just pull out out their phones. This will also keep the presenters guessing. When attendees start pulling out their phones are they finding a presentation uninteresting, or are they simply getting ready to send out a tweet?