Running Tutorials At Conferences

This post was born out of some of my frustrations as both an attendee of tutorials at conferences, and as a presenter. I'd like to say, no conference that I've been to gets everything wrong... but neither do they get everything right. Tutorials != presentations, so even if a conference has an amazing presentation set-up (European conferences do a lot of things incredibly well, for example, including live transcription and translation), that doesn't mean they pull off tutorials in the same way.

  1. Alert attendees to technical requirements 1 week in advance
  2. Provide on site server for rsyncing large files or applications required (i.e., ISOs, VirtualBox installers, existing VMs)
  3. Provide that rsync info to attendees in advance, and make it available as soon as people are on site (i.e., people can grab files the night before without straining the hotel's external network resources)
  4. Provide adequate seating to attendees, with tables and adequate power resources
  5. If a tutorial is more than 1.5 hours, schedule 10 minute breaks every hour... this allows people to catch up, use the bathroom, get a drink, etc., as needed, and keeps people refreshed.
  6. Always plan a table and chairs for tutorial presenters... some of them many only need to rely on slides, but more likely, they will need to interact with the terminal or virtual machine live, and they need a table and chair
  7. Plan for 2 presenters - while many tutorials may be presented by a single individual, for those that have two presenters, conferences are never prepared adequately. Two presenters can provide a more dynamic, clear, and efficient tutorial, but often there is only seating for a single presenter which presents a strange dynamic. If seating for a second presenter is added, then they might be cut off from potential webcasts, recordings, etc. because they weren't planned for
  8. Provide dual-screens that can be driven from two different systems for both the presenters (and allow this to work for presenters sitting or standing) AND the audience - this is important for a couple of reasons. In a tutorial, the audience should be able to see both the slide deck and the terminal/vm/etc. at all times. This is important for people that want the reference material, people that fall behind, and people who learn better from reading vs. doing. For the presenters, it's important for them to have a timer visible, to have their speaker notes visible (VERY IMPORTANT), and to have at least a thumbnail of the slide deck visible for reference... if they are using their terminal/vm/etc., then they will have it visible from the computer in front of them.

Again, no one gets all of these wrong... but it'd be awesome if a conference got them all right.