Thoughts on Green Conferences

I recently attended the PASS Summit conference and while I was there they announced that next year's Summit will be back in Seattle which I'm actually happy about it even though it is a long way for me to come. Yes, I know I am a big advocate of the virtual technology that reduces travel and enables remote access but there is something special about being here in person. The presenters seem to benefit from a live audience too, with live interactive questions and answers. And the presenters here are the best in the business. So what part do virtual technologies play in a conference like this? And how can we make these conferences more "green"? Let's think about that a little...

My immediate thought is, why not have a live conference for those that can attend in person, but allow live virtual access to the sessions for those who are not able to be there physically? The sessions are being recorded anyway; why not allow a live feed out to a remote audience. (Most sessions are actually recorded via the projector output and the audio feed which is perfect for internet distribution; we do the same for our virtual classes, no boring, blurry video where you cannot see the demos clearly. It's the content, demos and audio that is important and optimal too from a bandwidth point of view).

 If you think about it, that's what Monday night football is all about. The people who are lucky enough to have a ticket and able to attend the game in person are there, even though it's being broadcast on TV. The games are usually a sellout because it's a quality product. People want to be there. The rest of us tune in and watch the game remotely. We probably would not bother to tune in if the game was being played in an empty stadium. So events like this should be offered in a similar blended media model using the internet for remote access. The trick is producing such a high quality conference that people will want to attend in person, but if that's impossible, or impractical, at least you can be a fly in the wall. That's the future of blended media events.  The trick is making the product of the highest quality so people are compelled to attend one way or another.

And this conference certainly is of the highest quality. I started off the conference by checking out the Microsoft Lab room before the sessions started. Here you can use one of many computers with dual-flat screen monitors to test out a variety of SQL Server hands-on labs. Dell is a co-sponsor of the conference so provided the hardware. Microsoft provided the labs. You can use one monitor to read the lab instructions and the other to do the hands-on work itself. This works very well. The PASS conference has been trying in many ways this year to be more "green". This is one example. No printed lab manual. (You get a Resource Kit CD with all the labs to take home or you can download them from  Another example is that presentations are not printed out for everyone, but you can download the slides from the PASS website if you wish. Lightweight reusable cloth bags are handed out instead of yet another laptop bag. Also, water dispensers are present across the conference instead of single use disposable water bottles. All good ideas. Maybe next year we can get a reusable conference water bottle as a freebie then we can save the disposable cups too. Just a thought.



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