Friday, June 06, 2008

You know the conference you are at is too big when ....

Now - I confess I was really impressed with how ASM handled this enormous meeting I was just at. If you are going to have a big meeting, ASM does a smashing job. And I can see how such big meetings can have their appeal - the diversity of work and activities relating to Microbiology are amazing. However, big meetings are still not my cup of tea.

So here is my top 10 list of "You know the conference you are is too big when ...". All are based on experiences from this meeting.
  1. People communicate within the conference venue by email and cell phones
  2. They give you a foldout map showing the locations of all the different venues/activities/
  3. Colleagues contact you electronically after your talk rather than in person
  4. The lines for food are longer than the lines for security at the airport
  5. There are more:
    • counters at the registration booth than at the airport ticket area
    • meeting staff than scientists at the last conference you attended
    • promotional booths than active players in Major League Baseball (OK, we are not quite there with this meeting but we are close)
  6. The abstract book weighs more than your laptop computer
  7. People use GPS to find their way in the conference center (I wish I had pictures but I saw this happening)
  8. The bus/shuttle scheduling system is more complex than the travelling salesman problem
  9. You need to plan your own schedule by searching a database
  10. You do more walking inside the conference center than outside


  1. I'm going to add one more.
    11.You know the meeting is too big when, on the opening night of the meeting, a small crowd of attendees actually dances the electric slide with the hired DJ. Typically I would say the majority of microbiologists would not choose to dance, let alone try a line dance, at a conference. However, when you have 4,000 plus people, I guess the odds are some will participate. I believe there were around 4,300 attendees at the meeting and I saw at most 12 people dancing on opening night, so I think the take home message is to keep the meetings to around 358 people or less, if you want to reduce the odds of witnessing line dancing at your microbiology meeting.

  2. lo. that was hilarious.

    Were there just 4300? That isn't so bad :). Wait till you get to the 15000 ones. I like conferences between 200-600. Tends to be a sweet spot

  3. actually i heard there were 12000 people at the meeting

  4. My mistake, one in a thousand microbiologists will willingly perform the electric slide at a conference.