Thursday, March 28, 2013

Final thoughts on Rootstech 2013

Rootstech has become a victim of its own success.  The number of attendees was well out of kilter with the sizes of the rooms available. Several times the sessions I wanted to go to were full, with standing room only.  On one occasion I managed to get into a popular session by arriving 15 minutes before it was due to start.  Already the room was nearly full.  I had to climb over many people to get to a seat, as they really packed the seats into the room. This is a real problem with the people who are bringing along trundle bags with their coats, packed lunches and whatever else they feel they can’t do without.  Organisers please note: we need more leg room between the rows of seats.

Trying to leave sessions that were in one of the 155 or 255 rooms was a nightmare, as people were queuing to get into the next session, so no one could get through the foyer area to either join another queue or go somewhere else.  There also seemed to be an issue that some sessions overran slightly, delaying the exodus from that room and the subsequent filling of it for the next session. Organisers please note:  Having attendees pre-register a preference for which sessions they wish to attend can help you work out whether to schedule that talk in a 50-seat room, a 200-seat room, the main hall, or whatever.  This has worked well at other conferences I have attended.  It doesn't mean people have to attend the sessions they originally put their names down for, but it helps gauge the level of attendance likely at each talk.  The other option some conferences use it to schedule some of the popular talks to run more than once.

On the first day, the Thursday, the main hall and the smaller rooms were so overheated (especially with all the bodies in them) that on one occasion it made me feel quite ill and faint, and I had to leave half way through the session – not easy to do when I had to clamber over many people to get out of my seat – a go back to my room for a break.  Thankfully it was better the other two days, so the problem had obviously been reported and addressed.  Organisers please note: Thank you for lowering the temperature for days two and three.

Enough has already been said about the problems with the Wi-Fi internet access, so I will not comment further.

This all sounds rather negative, and I don't feel that way about the conference at all.  I merely see these things I have raised as areas where improvement is possible.  I think that the organization was superb, and almost everything went very smoothly – a big achievement with 6700 pre-registered attendees and another 1900 students on the Saturday.  I also thought the variety of exhibitors in the Expo hall was really good.  Some of them were of more interest to me than others, but that's as you'd expect.

But far and away the most valuable aspect of Rootstech for me was the networking – getting to meet new people, and getting to catch up with some of those I don't see too often.

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