Speedplugging

A problem: at events like the Firefox Summit, there is so much going on that it’s not possible to get to even a fifth of it. And if you have a particular focus (e.g. Thunderbird, or QA) it’s hard therefore to get a view of what else is going on across the project. Secondly, it’s hard to know what a session is going to be like from a written description.

An observation: there has been a rise in “speed presenting” – lightning talks are now well established, and we have Pecha Kucha (20 slides, 20 seconds each), and Conference Speed Dating.

An idea: At events like the Firefox Summit, why not have a “speedplugging” session first thing each morning, with no conflicting sessions, where every presenter for that day gets (plugging-session-length / number-of-sessions-that-day) minutes to both plug and summarise their presentation? The day with the most sessions at the Summit was Thursday, with 41 – which would be 1.5 minutes each in a 1 hour speedplugging session. Tuesday only had 20 sessions, so you could either speedplug for 1.5 minutes in 30 minutes, or give everyone twice as long that day.

There must be no messing with laptops and screen resolutions and Mac video adapter dongles, so either you have no slides – just stand up and talk – or you get to submit e.g. a maximum of three slides to a moderator who combines them all into one presentation (vital for speed) and runs it from their laptop, responding to cries of “Next!”.

It would make it more likely that people would go to the most appropriate sessions, and give everyone at least a taste of what’s going on across the project even if they are spending all their time in e.g. the Thunderbird room because that’s their main focus.

What do people think? Would this be useful?

8 thoughts on “Speedplugging

  1. Yes, that would be really helpful and prevent people from visiting sessions which are more general like they thought, where the main focus is on a point which don’t interest them etc.

  2. I would have kind of liked this, yes. There were a number of sessions where I wasn’t interested in the details but wanted to know what was generally going on.

  3. Great Idea. I love lightning talks, they force the speakers to concentrate their talk to just the most important part, without boring everyone but a few. This speedplugging thing sounds even better. We should definitely try that. Maybe at the next FOSDEM or in Barcelona?

  4. They did this at CHI in 2006, and it was really helpful and successful. Each presenter for the day had 30 seconds, I believe, and they all had to have sent their slides to the session coordinator beforehand so that he could stitch them all together.

    I found that it really altered my conference planning; interesting session abstracts were replaced by interesting speakers as what made my final decisions about what to attend (in part because, with CHI, you can always read the papers instead).

  5. That sounds like a great idea. I recently attended the VMWare forum in my area and I really would have appreciated something like what you are talking about.

    Good thinking!

  6. Now that you mention it, I think the lightning talks at the summit would have more successful if there had been (1) a dedicated timeslot no competing with other sessions and (2) clearer scheduling for their existence [maybe I missed it, but I didn’t know we were doing lightning talks until the week of the summit.]

    I’m a bit wary of a couple things:

    * Not sure if having ultra-short talks offers a whole lot of value above an agenda with _good_ abstracts for each full talk.

    * Could be a lot of cumulative time spent rehashing (prehashing?) things that will be covered during the day. I think that, for me, _most_ of the summit could be grouped into “definitely attending”, “not interested”, or “interested, but have a conflict”. Short talks for those wouldn’t be useful to me.

    But I think short talks in some format is definitely something we should do more of!

    Semi-related note: a common request was for recording video of the talks… If we did that and standardized on having each presenter give a ~30 second overview at the top of their talk, some of your idea could be accomplished without requiring everyone to sit in a big room for every talk. Presenters could even record these ahead of time, althoguh I don’t know how well that would work.

  7. The barcamp I went to last summer did this, and I thought it was quite useful (not least because I think my talk would have had far fewer attendees if I hadn’t been able to pitch it.) It also gives you the opportunity to know the faces of speakers, so that if you’re conflicted between two presentations, you can track down the other presenter later with less pain.

  8. This is actually a great idea. It’s a BarCamp-esque idea, and it helps a captive audience with their decision tree. Of course, there are some things that are just irreconcilably cross-booked (you and I were booked against each other at the summit this year :-\), but when you have a choice, hearing an elevator pitch from someone about their session does influence what you might want to go to.