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Mike Whittle
01-03-1994, 01:48 AM
Dear BIOMCH-L Subscribers:

An Open Letter to Conference Organizers

Last year I attended two International Conferences that were
significantly marred by problems with the audiovisual aids. I will
not name the conferences, since I do not wish to detract from the
considerable efforts which the organizers put into running these
meetings, but rather would like to make a few suggestions for those
organizing conferences in the future.

1. Dual projection: In many cases dual projection is used without
good reason, simply because it is fashionable. However, the
organizers need to realize that many (perhaps most) presenters
nowadays will use dual projection, and that the projector/screen
arrangements must be adequate to show two slides at once, with any
mix of vertical and horizontal formats.

2. Projectionist: This is probably a more important job than the
Chairperson - an incompetent projectionist can really mess up a
session! Rather than assign this tedious task to the most junior
member or the team, it should be given to someone who is
technically extremely competent. They should have the necessary
eyesight, technical knowledge and interest in the proceedings to
monitor and if necessary focus the slides. If the projector is at
the back of a long room they should use binoculars for this
purpose. They also need to be able to remove jammed slides, and to
immediately and correctly replace any slides inserted backwards or
upside down - this is a skill which can be learned!

3. Language: Anyone involved in the "technical" aspects of the
meeting (projection, lights, microphones, etc.) should be fluent in
the official language(s) of the conference. Trying to sort out
problems with the addition of a language barrier is a real mess.
This may seem obvious, but it happened last summer!

4. Microphones: If microphones are used, they should be checked
to make sure they work all the time - intermittent breaks in
communication, crackles, hums and whistles are not acceptable. The
person in charge of the amplifier should be instructed not to
increase the gain above a pre-set limit, to avoid feedback howl.
There should also be a clear policy as to whether questioners from
the floor must use microphones - if they do, they should not be
permitted to start a question until they are speaking into a
working microphone, or to repeat the question, if the microphone
arrives late!

5. Chairpersons: The chair of a session has a number of
responsibilities. Most chairs are good at introducing speakers,
timekeeping and asking questions at the end if there is little
response from the audience. However, they should also take command
of the technical side of the session, giving appropriate directions
to the speaker ("please speak into the microphone"), the
projectionist ("could you focus that slide, please"), other staff
("please dim the lights and turn the amplifier gain down") and
questioners ("please wait for the microphone").

I hope this list doesn't sound too negative. Conferences are one
of the best parts of being a scientist, so let us all strive to
make them as good as we can!

Sincerely,

Mike Whittle, M.D., Ph.D.

Cline Chair of Rehabilitation Technology
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA