Sunday, May 11, 2014

Random Useful thoughts on organizing a Lorentz Center Workshop

Now that I've finished my workshop "The Passage of Light through Spiral Disks" at the Lorentz center (well still need to wrap some small things up...), it's time to collate the random little things I learned for workshop organization:

1. Go over your participants list several times. With your co-organizers. I had to because the gender balance was considered off by the Lorentz center. It paid off. Several more names will come up. Not that is really did wonders for the gender balance (sometimes this cannot be helped...) but it may improve the junior/senior researcher ratio (also important).

2. If there are people that you really want to come, calling them rather than just email works surprisingly well (I do not like cold-calling people).

3. Start with a clear idea but be willing to change it. Workshops are a little organic...

4. Ask the Lorentz Center people early about additional finances. It would have been nice if I could have offered travel assistance to more people.

5. Save the date. My dates were ok but I learned from the PHISCC 2014 organization that it is even better to be close to a BIG conference. This is a bit of a two-edged sword. On the one hand, people from e.g., Australia or America can come more easily (one big trip) but on the other hand, some people would be reluctant to go on a 2 week trip...

6. plan for 30min talks in the morning in a strickt schedule with a discussion session in the afternoon. Everyone will therefore prepare 30 min talks. Allow discussion to stretch the time for each talk, running into the alloted discussion session. This way there is a clear length to each talk, people keep discussion short and on point BUT there is no stress that we'll run over so much we'll miss dinner.
The discussion time in the afternoon is eminently sacrificible. I rarely found that once someone says "let's have a discussion" a clear discussion happens. But you get much better back&forth when there is a topic introduced with a talk or two. I did this semi-intentionally and it made for a good informal workshop.

7. you cannot make junior people join in.

8. be agressive about getting people's talks (ppt, keynote, pdf). They will not give them after the workshop easily.

9. live-tweeting the workshop is a great way to make people wish they were there...

10. keep a list of follow-up todos. There will be many (can I have a look at that paper, send ppl an email about data etc etc).

11. As the organizer, conserve your energy. You'll be expected to pay attention, moderate and react to any new development. So no zoning out during talks.

The Lorentz Center only organizes workshops but PhD comics said it best:

"What to call your event":

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