The future of meetings: an exploration of how to build conference community

Aidan Hotan1, Stefanie Kethers2, Rika Kobayashi3, Vanessa Moss1,4, Glen Rees5, Chenoa Tremblay1, Claire Trenham6

1CSIRO Space & Astronomy, Australia
3ANU, Canberra, Australia
4University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
5BEBR, Netherlands
6CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere, Australia

In the past, conferences were face-to-face events that people travelled to in person. Many proponents of a return to the traditional conference model cite the need to build social connections for collaboration and experience a sense of “community”. However, these conferences were typically not inclusive for people unable or unwilling to travel. The conceptual design of many of our pre-pandemic conferences, meetings, and workshops needed an overhaul. The COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity for the research world to become more accessible and connected by leveraging modern technology, even while our local workplace communities felt reduced.

In September 2020, CSIRO hosted “The Future of Meetings” (TFOM), a symposium in which we explored ways to improve virtual meetings and collaboration. Since then, we have continued to refine and improve the lessons learned from TFOM: that meetings should be architected to be digital first, consider accessibility, inclusivity and sustainability, experiment with tools to find appropriate solutions, maximise value, and be constantly evaluated for improvement.

In this hands-on BoF, we will introduce participants to the TFOM recommendations, and discuss good practice in designing and implementing virtual and hybrid meetings in terms of inclusion, interactivity and accessibility. While endeavouring to avoid an overload of tools and devices, we plan to demonstrate some alternative online platforms and how they can be used to build a true sense of community without in person presence. Attendees will be given the opportunity to share their favourite tools or conference successes, verbally or as a lightning talk/poster.


Aidan, a radio astronomer at CSIRO, is the project scientist for the Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope.

Stefanie, Research Data Alliance Director of Operations, has a long-standing interest in facilitating cooperation.

Rika, a computational chemist at NCI, is interested in virtual teaching practice.

Vanessa is a CSIRO astronomer with a keen interest in the future of meetings.

Glen a Data Scientist at BEBR is interested in virtual collaboration and work.

Chenoa, an astrobiology researcher, is interested in staying connected via new ways of interacting virtually.

Claire, a member of CSIRO’s Climate Science Centre, is interested in sustainable remote collaborations.


Oct 15 2021


2:00 pm - 3:20 pm

Local Time

  • Timezone: America/New_York
  • Date: Oct 14 - 15 2021
  • Time: 11:00 pm - 12:20 am