The future of meetings: how we can do better than “a return to normal”
Claire Trenham1, Stefanie Kethers2, Aidan Hotan3, Rika Kobayashi4, Vanessa Moss3, 6, Glen Rees5, Chenoa Tremblay3
1CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere, Canberra, Australia
3CSIRO Space & Astronomy, Australia
4ANU, Canberra, Australia
5BEBR, , Netherlands
6University of Sydney, Australia
Conferences have traditionally been face-to-face events with people travelling to attend, stemming from a time when communication was slow. While some modern conferences enabled limited remote participation, they have typically been far from inclusive of people unable to travel for personal, ethical, financial, or practical reasons. The conceptual design of many of our pre-pandemic conferences, meetings, and workshops needed an overhaul, even before the impact of COVID-19 was felt.
In September 2020, CSIRO hosted “The Future of Meetings” symposium (TFOM), in which we explored ways to improve virtual meetings and collaboration. We have continued to refine and improve the lessons learned from TFOM. In this talk, we reflect on the core recommendations of TFOM, particularly the concepts that meetings should be architected to be digital first, consider accessibility, inclusivity and sustainability, and experiment and evaluate to find appropriate solutions.
Focusing on the design phase of conference planning, we identify features and characteristics (both technical and non-technical) that a digital-first conference should provide to address the lack of physical interaction at virtual conferences and make participants feel that they:
- are part of a coherent event,
- are part of a community, and
- can make and re-establish connections.
Rather than rushing back to traditional in-person formats, we argue that it is worth investing time to improve virtual meetings. TFOM’s core principles provide a foundation for evolution towards a better normal, and we close by presenting a few starting points to consider.
Claire is a senior experimental scientist in CSIRO’s Climate Science Centre specialising in numerical modelling and data publication. A personal commitment to sustainability and years of remote collaborations lead Claire to involvement in The Future of Meetings.
Stefanie is the Director of Operations of the Research Data Alliance. She has a long-standing interest in facilitating cooperation within and between groups of people.