And another note on conference planning

Meredith Farkus, over at Information Wants to be Free, also commented on the conference space at CIL:

Crystal City seems to be just one big concrete jungle and with the weather being horrible for most of the conference, it was difficult to get to the restaurants (most of which are at least 1/2 a mile away). The hotel rooms are really nice, but the restaurant facilities are not really set up well for a conference. Also, the conference rooms were not great. One was way too small and one had big pillars that made it nearly impossible to see both the speaker and the slides. I also think that there were certain tracks that maybe aren’t as hugely popular as they once were (search engines) and others that are now hugely popular (anything involving Web Design, Community, Social Tools, etc.). Probably it would have made sense for the Web Design track to be in the big room and for the search engine track to be in the smaller room. Pretty much every talk for the Web Design track required an overflow room, and sometimes even that filled up beyond capacity.

Now I’m not picking on Meredith and David (see my previous post). I’m just pointing out problems with ANY conference venue as a precursor to NASIG’s conference in Louisville.  Every year we get complaints from conference attendees – the rooms are too cold/too hot, there’s no more coffee, there’s not enough chairs, the chairs are uncomfortable, the room is too small, the food is too hot/too cold, too much carb, not enough veggies/fruit, the elevators take for – e – ver…

Bottom line: Until you’ve lived/walked in the shoes of someone on a conference planning committee, don’t be a whiner. Definitely do not yell.  Find the good things and tell the CPC how great things are!   If you can do better, we’d love to have you volunteer to be on CPC in the future!


3 thoughts on “And another note on conference planning

  1. So are you saying is that people shouldn’t offer constructive criticism, just praise?

    I have planned a conference, and I know that constructive criticism is how you learn to do it better the next time. You can’t be everywhere and others may notice things that you didn’t. While things like elevators can’t really be changed, you could next time provide more veggies and fruit if people complain about that this time. It’s valuable to know what your users want and need. And if you are changing venues the next year, maybe you even could look at the number of elevators and how fast they are (though obviously, you can’t plan a conference around it).

    Jane Dysart does a brilliant job with Computers in Libraries and did a brilliant job this time under less than ideal circumstances (given the location). But I think there is value in pointing out the bad and the good, because she can’t be everywhere at once and may not be aware of everything.

    I just find that “you can’t complain unless you’ve done it” attitude ridiculous from a customer service standpoint. Are these people not paying to attend your conference?

  2. Oh heck no!! Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated. We always ask attendees for feedback formally through our conference evaluation and informally during a conference.

    NASIG does respond to comments we receive. We do as much as we can to meet attendees’ needs – everything, that is, that we can afford to do or are able to do. At one of our first all-hotel conferences we learned the hard way not to schedule a session right next to the area where breakfast had just been served and the dishes were being carted away. That is on our site selection checklist now! We heard our attendees wanted protein at breakfast rather than just a continental selection – we worked it into our budget. Our site selection checklist includes “sufficient women’s bathroom stalls in meeting rooms area”. (The hotel reps get a kick out of this.) And we actually were impressed by the elevators at one hotel that were programmed in such a way to deal with calls from various floor. Unfortunately, that venue didn’t meet other needs.

    The one reason I was interested in linking to your post and David’s was to point out that no matter where you go you will see the same issues cropping up. We do everything we can to ensure that folks who attend our conferences have a great experience. As you noted, we can’t be everywhere and know everything that might be happening. We do point out problems to the hotel staff we work with and they have been good about responding to our requests.

    I just want attendees to be aware that the volunteers who serve on our CPCs are not getting paid to get yelled at. So complain or offer constructive comments via the evaluation process or to a member of the board.

    I have been to many conferences during my career and I have great respect and admiration for the individuals and committees who pull it all together. It’s a huge job and we don’t thank them often enough.

  3. Ah…. sorry for the misunderstanding then. Yes, getting yelled at is definitely annoying and frustrating, especially when you have worked hard to make something like that happen. Then again, even constructive criticism can sometimes be annoying when it comes to something you put your blood, sweat and tears into (believe me, I’ve been there). But the criticism is SO necessary. You’d think librarians would know better than to yell at people. 😦

    “sufficient women’s bathroom stalls in meeting rooms area”

    I always feel sorry for the men, because at every Information Today conference I go to, they end up making both bathrooms in the conference area Women’s and make the men go somewhere far, far away. Then again, there are STILL major lines for the women’s bathrooms.

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