Extended Access Adds Value, Reduces Regrets

Ever leave a conference wishing you had done more—attended more sessions, spent more time networking and connecting, or asked more questions?

If so, you aren’t alone. Conference regret comes in many forms, and it can afflict speakers and organizers as well as attendees (see Xuemeng Cao’s reflections for more insights). And in many if not most cases of regret, the primary cause is time—or lack thereof.

For example, SLA Annual Conferences are mother lodes of content, typically offering 100-plus education sessions. Add two or three keynote speakers, dozens of business meetings, an exhibit hall with dedicated visiting hours, networking receptions, social events, and awards and poster presentations to the mix, schedule them over a three-day period, and the inevitable result is overlap—four or five education sessions or events taking place simultaneously, forcing attendees to choose among several desirable options.

SLA2020 addressed this problem by taking advantage of its virtual format to expand its schedule. The conference ran two weeks, with three “live” days at the end of that period. Dozens of pre-recorded education sessions were available for viewing throughout the two weeks; the booths in the Exhibit Hall were open throughout as well. When the live sessions aired, they were also recorded, enabling conference attendees with scheduling conflicts to view them later at their convenience.

“Later,” in the case of SLA2020, means November 13, because conference attendees will have access to the conference site through that day. In essence, SLA2020 is not a two-week event but a six-week event, giving attendees more time to learn—and adding more value to their conference experience.

SLA2021, like SLA2020, will be entirely virtual. What lessons will it learn from SLA2020? Surely one will be that more time = more learning = more value.

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