Creative Conferences – Experiences and Ideas
Flashlights come in different names and/or formats but they all address one key issue: a short paper/presentation about a status quo or some new insights rather than a detailed lecture about a topic including old and new research.
The Game Studies Division of the ICA included them in their call for papers for 2016. What we want here are short written papers about topics that deal with games, virtual environments and/or simulations. We do not want detailed studies or theories. So no numbers or analyses at all and also no framework – but an overview about a specific field such as ‘what are persuasive games’, ‘how do we relate to an avatar’, ‘how can we use virtual environments for health improvements’ etc. As you can see from these examples, the writing style is not meant for other scientists from the field but more for an interested audience outside the ivory tower. Actually we are talking about knowledge valorisation.
So, of course nice for the public but what is ‘in it’ for the scientist?
- We owe the public an explanation – this is part of our job, do not forget that. Your non-academic friends and family members will also be happy to know what you are doing all day long,
- These formats – if included in conferences and journals – are still peer-reviewed, thus, of value for your publication list.
- Summarizing what you are doing can help to remind a scientist why he/she ever started to work in a specific field. I saw this happening with highly frustrated PhD students. After writing and especially presenting a flashlight, they were motivated again. Because of a simple reason: They got nice feedback like ‘how interesting’ instead of ‘but you have to re-think your hypotheses, your studies are not clear, and btw everything is critical’. It is for all of us important that our work is valued and not only criticised.
- It is not that much work. You do not have to do an extra study, extra readings but you can ascend from all your deep knowledge and summarize it without doing anything in addition. Isn’t this a nice thought?
Some people may think that posters as conference presentations are ‘less’ in quality than conference talks – I actually thought the same but I completely changed my mind on this. Here are some reasons:
- Face to face communication while presenting and/or visiting a poster: you can talk to people who are actually really interested in your research and/or you are actually interested in their research. No people who are just waiting for ‘the other speaker’.
- Preparation before you leave: you have to prepare a poster. No chance on last minute changes on your slides possible. That seems stressful at first, but actually it is quite nice to go to a conference without the feeling that you should/must/have to work on your presentation until it is done. It might be more stressful before the conference but less at the conference – so you can actually enjoy your time there.
- Information reduction: there is just that much that can fit on a poster. Of course some people try to print in Arial 6 to get more information on a poster. But if you really follow the design rules (print it in A4, if you cannot read it anymore it is too small), you have to reduce your information. This is a good thing! After all, the best research can be summarized in 3 sentences.
- Reducing anxiety feelings: Fortunately, this is not a problem for me, but I know that it is for many others. In case you are nervous before a talk , standing next to your poster might be easier for you to handle. Again, only people who are really interested in your research will come and ask stuff and there will be no ‘mass’ you have to talk to.
- Creativity with the material: yes, I also had troubles getting my poster to a conference. ‘Where is the poster?’ Leaving it on the bus, in the cab, on the plane, in the toilet. A poster from a colleague even ‘hid’ in the roles of the hand luggage
control… just running along there. But there are solutions for this and these
solutions were highly appreciated and liked at the last ICA conference: print it on fabric! You can put it in your suitcase – problem solved. You can even recycle it – I had one printed as a towel and one printed as a flag and I am absolutely doing this again 🙂
Short talks and posters as combination
Also known as high density sessions (ICA) – a combination between a short talk and a poster presentation. This is my very favourite way of presenting research and having research presented. The talks are about 3-5 minutes and after all of them there is a poster presentation. Many people do not like that but I think it is a great way of summarizing your ideas and then going into detail for the ones who are interested.