How can we make an even better virtual conference?

NIME 2020 was a great success, and a fantastic example of how it is possible to create a true conference experience in an online format. Nobody knows what the future will look like, but we may quite certainly continue with some kind of virtual conference format even if we would also go back to hosting a physical conference again.

How can we create even better virtual conferences in the future? How can we handle the challenges with different time zones, accessibility issues, etc.? How can new-comers be introduced and included at the conference?

It would be great to hear from NIME 2020 participants, but also very interesting to hear from people that did not participate this year.

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HI!
For me, it was the first NIME, and I felt quite included and welcomed in the discussion. So thank you everyone for making myself feeling included.
In my personal NIME 2020 experience, the workshops and the poster sessions were specifically important to get to know people and to introduce myself. In these moments, I could really get to talk with people.

To create other possibilities to allow newcomers (like I am) to get to know the community and introduce themselves more, I would sugget having some discussion moments. These could be one or two slots during the conference just for discussion that may be organized around specific topics. I think that in this way, it could be possible to create subgroups of discussion where it is easier to get to know people.
This is just an idea based on my personal experience as a newcomer, but I hope this could help to develop the discussion about a virtual NIME.

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A couple of practical suggestions:

  • The poster sessions were weird and there was not a real surrogates of the coffee break where you just walk up to somebody and bother them when they munch on their doughnut, and that’s no good. It can be a good idea to try Mozilla Hubs or Yorb

  • Time-zone: if we need to have another remote conference, its should probably not be tailored on one specific time zone. There is just no rationale for that, except that the organising team and student volunteers in this occasions were all based in the UK. For the next conference we might diversity the geographical location of the technical team to democratise the access. Please don’t take this as a criticism to the amazing team behind NIME 2020 - you guys did an incredible job considering everything that was going on and that we didn’t have a protocol to follow. There it is - we probably need to work on a protocol that we would revert to if the conference needs to be moved fully online again.

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Thanks for a great (and the first) virtual NIME! I thought it worked quite well and many thanks to all the organizers and the Steering Committee. For me, one aspect that worked REALLY well and that we should keep, moving forward, especially in virtual contexts is the prepared oral presentations in the form of pre-recorded videos followed by live Q&A. The resulted in clear and concise presentations within the time limit—and afterwards there is an online video of the presentation that could be usable in many ways. It would be great to keep this format largely as is for future NIME conferences (virtual or even otherwise), and also possibly link the final presentation video from the NIME paper archive (should gather consent from the presenter, ideally ahead of time, e.g., when they submit their paper or video—it could be a standard checkbox on the submission form). This would offer multiple ways to engage with each paper.

One additional suggestion would be a clearer program listing/linking the various papers, posters, and performance on the conference website, especially for virtual conferences. I had trouble finding on the website which papers were in any given session. The organizers must have put in a great deal of effort to pivot this conference online this year, so I wouldn’t fault them. But having a clear program online would be critical for future conferences (especially virtual ones) .

Thanks again to everyone!

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So as a fellow oceanian, I guess I should echo @fabio’s call about timezones. In our part of the world, there have been a lot of very frazzled looking academics lately trying to stay up late for their conferences in the US and Europe—and then go to work as well!

One specific idea is that music sessions could be programmed at various times of the day rather than just evening. So even if some of us can only mange to stay awake for a few sessions, then we could see both papers and music.

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I enjoyed the first online NIME conference! I thank you for the organizers for the great experience and add that it was the best online conference I’ve attended so far.

Now my 2 cents:

I can’t think of a strong reason to have poster presentations in an online conference, except for the presenter’s personal choice (e.g., maybe there are not enough results for a talk) or to have quick access to the paper content (which can be useful even if we have a recorded presentation). Since the used format of recorded presentations (with I strongly approve) provides room for unlimited content, all papers could have presentations and posters. The individual presentation’s time limit would apply to keep consistency and work within the human attention span.

Echoing the previous comments, I think managing timezones are one of the main challenges in online conferences. I missed some Q&A for papers that I was interested in because they happened too early in the morning in Montreal. My suggestion: maybe we can also record the Q&A sessions and extend the discussion using Slack or forums (not sure about how crazy the logistic of per paper channels would be). It would be easier for people to jump into conversations later if desired.

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It looks like the Audio Developers Conference is using this for their next conference: https://remo.co/conference/ I don’t know much about it, but that team has run good conferences in the past and I take their judgement seriously.

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Interesting. Would be great to hear from people that have tried the platform!

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@fabio remarked that the poster sessions were weird and I agree that it sometimes felt surreal, but my discussions with two or three poster presenters are going to be my most lasting memories of NIME-20. The individual Zoom format worked quite well, I thought, for supporting detailed discussion. I found myself spending a lot of time once entering a certain room, so that it would be impossible to really explore the poster session. On the other hand the discussions were satisfying and memorable.

I found it somewhat difficult to navigate the poster session as a whole, having to jump between two pages to find the links, videos, and documents I wanted to look at and perhaps some careful design could improve the poster session experience.

Every year I say it, and I’ll say it again: the poster/demo session needs to be twice as long. One hour is really not enough!

A few people have noted the need for a coffee break room. And that’s something that should not be too hard to add: a virtual space people can jump in and out of any time and engage in informal discussions. Adding a way to breakout on the fly into a separate unplanned discussions would make this even better.

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