Online Access at the Annual Meeting: We Weigh In...We Hope You Will, Too!
January 17, 2013
The Online Access Subgroup of the Annual Meeting Task Force is continuing its work to identify and recommend ways to improve online access to SAA's annual meeting. We've heard a lot of ideas (and concerns) from members, both at this past year's annual meeting and through other channels. We'd like to take this opportunity to share the areas that we've prioritized based on your feedback and on our research to date. Please keep the feedback coming! We need your contributions to improve and shape our remaining work ahead.
1. Wi-Fi in meeting rooms. (Note that this is an area that's also being addressed by the Meeting Model Subgroup. But we'd like to hear your thoughts in the context of online access to the meeting as well.) We’ve heard, loud and clear, that this is a high priority for many SAA members. A considerable amount of feedback even indicates a willingness to pay a modest amount for this benefit. Being able to "live-tweet" a session is just one benefit of Wi-Fi that many of us have come to expect. Too, it has the added value of allowing those not at the conference to follow along and even chime in on things. If the Annual Meeting were to move in a paperless (or less-paper) direction, Wi-Fi also becomes important for access to conference information—schedules, locations, updates, etc. And, of course, wireless access would help members who are not present participate or follow along via attendees' social media postings, to name just one positive side-effect. These are just some of the justifications for making Wi-Fi access a priority. Would you say that this is the number one priority for improving online access at SAA? Would you pay for it, and if so, what would you consider a reasonable amount? Do you have other thoughts about Wi-Fi?
2. Virtual conferencing. Based on recent feedback on other posts and from the SAA 2012 conference, this issue crosses the boundaries of the Online Access charge and into other Task Force areas such as Social Responsibility. Chiefly, a virtual conference would allow greater member participation, including archivists unable to afford travel to annual meetings. It would also potentially reduce the conference's environmental footprint. This point obviously affects the Meeting Model charge as well. Clearly, some virtual conferencing component must be added. Now, we are investigating how best to do this.
Options range from the very simple and relatively inexpensive to the very complex and expensive. The level of interactivity (i.e., level of participation for remote attendees, including participation between remote and in-person conference attendees) also varies, generally in direct proportion to complexity and price. We want to get into more details on virtual conferencing in an upcoming post, but meanwhile, we'd be very glad to hear your opinions on what this means to you, especially in terms of specific features you would like to see implemented and successful experiences you’ve had with other organizations’ virtual conferences, as well as how much you can and will pay for the features that matter to you most.
3. Recordings of meeting content. Faster and cheaper (not to mention online) access to conference recordings is what you want! Well, a lot of you do. Now how soon, how much of the meeting content, using what technology, and are recordings something you’d be willing to pay for are the questions. Thoughts? Preferences? SAA will be trying a pilot program this year in New Orleans, where a sampling of sessions will be recorded and made available for sale online. What would you like to see as part of this pilot, or as part of a mature program? How would you rank recordings in your list of online access must-haves? What would you pay for them? Furthermore, what do we record: everything, or just select sessions? If we go with select sessions, how should these selections be made?
4. Conference app. A significant amount of feedback, including in another recent AMTF blog post, indicated a strong preference for a conference app for annual meeting scheduling, particularly one that could be used offline. The desired complexity (or range of complexity) for such an app, including how "interactive" it is, must be determined. A baseline would be a simple, offline app to access the conference schedule. What are some useful conference apps you've used at other meetings? How important is such a feature to you at SAA?
5. Other meeting content. This would be for materials besides conference recordings: session slides, papers, etc. This option seems to be of less concern to you than the other issues listed. However, there is a potentially low barrier to implement a repository of this kind of material. Indeed, it could simply be an expansion of what SAA is already doing. Would you find this useful? Is there specific meeting content (besides conference recordings) that you would want to see collected?
To Wrap Up
This is what we've focused on, but it is still a lot to consider. What, to you, are the most important components of improved online access to SAA's annual meeting and its content (realizing that much of what's important to you is access to the people, not just the "content")? What are some things you've experienced at other conferences that you think would be good to try? We're exploring the whole gamut of ideas in terms of scale, from a small, easy-to-implement idea, to a few things begun as pilot projects that could be gradually phased in, to a big, shiny, pull-out-all-the-stops extravaganza of an overhaul/vendor package to live-stream and record for future access the entire annual meeting. Obviously, the cheaper and easier options will have less effect on the bottom line—for SAA and for your wallet. How much of a concern is this to you?
We are keeping in mind the relation of all of the above to sustainability, social media, and technological change (the only constant!). We'll talk a little more about this in a future post—stay tuned…
If you have questions or responses to anything in this post, or other ideas, please comment on this post, or contact any member of the Online Access Subgroup: Beverly Allen, Rebecca Bizonet (chair), Lisa Carter, Erin Lawrimore, and Wade Wyckoff.