I guess I should know better. I’m living proof of what happens when you complain. First, your complaints are completely ignored. Eventually, someone pays attention. Ultimately, you’re on a planning committee to “make things better”.
Currently, I’m sitting on steering committees for 2 educational conferences for Summer 2010.
In our planning for a Call for Presentations, I’ve been pushing to expand the scope of potential presentation formats and lengths, but have been met with responses that “logistically, this would be a nightmare”. I think we have to embrace the nightmare. Equal 50 minute (30 minute PPT with 20 minute discussion, or whatever), user-led session formats don’t work anymore. Never did, if you ask me. If we want a conference to “rock”, we should think about this. Gladly, I think I might be getting somewhere.
My main point is this: traditional format of user breakout sessions is generally not good design for learning, it promotes and almost entrenches a certain type of presentation. Most folks I talk to will agree that technology should not lead learning design. Why then, are we allowing scheduling technology guide conference design?
I say encourage people submit ideas for what they want to do, and let the planning committee sort it out. Twice in the past year, I’ve submitted proposals in one format and been accepted, but challenged to present my ideas in a different way (once as a poster, once as part of a panel discussion). In both situations, these ended up being my best conference presentations to date.