Art of the Post-Conference Digital Leave-Behind
By Shalin Hai-Jew, Kansas State University
There is a typical dynamic with professional conferences. Participants mark their calendars for the upcoming events and anticipate acquiring new knowledge and skills, meeting up with other professionals, learning about new technologies and practices, and maybe getting in a little shopping. If they happen to be presenting, they might build some digital slideshows or short videos to augment their presentations. After the conference, they may post their created digital objects as post-conference digital leave-behinds.
This practice of sharing digital leave-behinds has become much more common, as a way to expand the reach of the presenters (and to extend their online professional "calling cards") but also as a way to burnish the reputation of the organizations sponsoring the respective conferences.
Digital Poster Sessions
For conference organizers, leave-behinds may be formalized as part of their digital poster sessions. These help extend their conference agendas by including participants and works that were not selected for the coveted presenter slots. For presenters, their work may garner more than a glancing look during a brief event; digital leave-behinds extend their potential audiences, even if it’s a “straight to DVD” situation (e.g. an acceptance of a presentation proposal that is accepted only as a digital poster session).
Digital Content Hosting
These digital leave-behinds may be hosted on the conference website as videotaped events, podcast interviews, slideshows, and downloadables. The leave-behinds may be showcased on formal organization blogs or newsletters. Sometimes, these objects are hosted off third-party content-sharing sites (like Google's YouTube, Yahoo's Flickr, and LinkedIn's SlideShare). In these latter cases, the content may be hosted on particular channels or groups dedicated to the events, or the event labels may be part of the slideshow.
Figure 1: "SlideShare" Article Network on Wikipedia (1 deg.)
Some Features of Effective Digital Leave-Behinds
What sorts of digital poster sessions are most attention-getting and seem to have the most endurance as an artifact? Each of the following elements seem to play a role:
- Informativeness and insightfulness of the addressed topic
- Alignment of the digital leave-behind with audience knowledge and interests
- Aesthetic qualities
- Name recognition of the presenter(s)
- Name recognition of the event sponsors, and
- Accessibility of the contents
It helps if the digital leave-behind is sufficiently detailed to stand-alone as an information object. At least, it should be original and coherent, with some benefit to others. It is important that the object is not derivative of other works because with the efficient search-and-find capabilities of search engines, most emulative content is identifiable as such. Of course, no shared contents may contravene others' intellectual property rights--so what may work for a one-time use in a live presentation will not work for something that is "published" in the informal gray literature / gray spaces.
Pre-Event Design of Digital Leave-Behinds
Sometimes, for presenters and digital poster session sharers, it cannot hurt to build the objects prior to the event and to host them publicly on a shared site. The thinking goes like this: previewing presented contents with digital leave-behinds enables the presenter to garner some initial feedback, build an outside audience, and evolve the work up until the conference, at which point the contents are generally fixed and finalized. Having a work on a public site, but without pointing to it through Tweets or Facebook pages or event sites, enables a “soft launch” of the work.
This soft launch approach means that there are only a few eyes on the objects, so there is room to update and revise. Those who find their way to the digital leave-behinds tend to be those purposefully looking for certain contents. This audience can be helpful in providing feedback on the work. Also, the input of an audience may help control for negative learning or misunderstandings from the posted work.
It helps to think about digital left-behinds as not an after-thought or as left-overs. These can be an important part of planning for participation in a conference, to not only make the presentation as strong as possible, but to enhance the presenter skills at creating a work that is original, coherent, stand-alone, and informative.
About the Author
Shalin Hai-Jew works as an instructional designer at Kansas State University.
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