Event software by Expectnation

Case study: XTech 2007

XTech is a medium-sized conference for internet professionals, organized by IDEAlliance. It features four parallel tracks of presentations, with opening and closing plenaries. The tracks are preceded by a day of tutorials and workshops.

This case study demonstrates how XTech used Expectnation’s features in their 2007 conference. You may also be interested in reading about some of our other customers.

Overview: key benefits

By using Expectnation, XTech was able to reap the following benefits over its previous operations:

  • clear and regular communication with speakers and reviewers
  • improved quality and accuracy of information available to organizers
  • faster scheduling and speaker notification
  • massive reduction in the amount of diverse emails and documents to collate
  • maintenance of a lively and accurate web site

The story

Proposals and review

Activity started for XTech in September 2006, when the event web site was created inside Expectnation, giving the date and location of XTech.

The next stage involved the issuing of the call for participation. XTech created three calls inside Expectnation: one to receive presentations, one for tutorials, and a “hidden” CFP to accept last-minute or invited proposals.

While the call was underway, the XTech program chair recruited reviewers using Expectnation’s recruitment facility. Out of 91 experts invited, 69 accepted the invitation, each indicating their area of expertise. As people are often busy, the resend facility was used to remind potential reviewers to respond.

With over 200 proposals received by the end of the call for participation, four or five reviewers were allocated to each paper based on its content and their expertise. The mailroom was used to send instructions to the reviewers and let them know the review could start.

During the review, the program chair was able to track the progress of the review, and of each reviewer. Near the end of the review, the mailroom was again used to alert reviewers with unfinished reviews that they had work outstanding.

Review results

Scheduling and selection

With four rooms over four days, Expectnation’s scheduling module was used to put together an empty grid for the event. Once the review process had finished, the chair shortlisted the best reviewed proposals, plus several invited or overlooked ones.

From this palette of shortlisted proposals, the grid was populated, and a draft schedule circulated among the organizing committee. Once the timetable was agreed, it was a matter of a couple of mouse clicks to mass-mark the scheduled proposals as accepted.

The grid complete with assigned proposals

Accepted speakers automatically received a notice, which also requested their confirmation of their availability. This confirmation was tracked automatically inside Expectnation, and non-respondents pursued by the conference chair.

Rather than rejecting all the other proposals, some were marked as “waitlisted”. The mailroom was used to notify these, and rejected proposers, of the status of their proposal. During the run-up to the conference, a couple of waitlisted proposals were commuted into scheduled presentations.

All proposers, successful or otherwise, were able to check on the status of their submission at any time by logging into the web site.

The run-up

With the speakers recruited, the focus turned once again to the public side of the conference. Expectnation’s web site facilities were used to create a rolling news page of updates about the event, as well as flesh out the important details for attendees and speakers.

As sponsors were recruited, their logos were uploaded into Expectnation and added to the web site sidebar. An export of users who had indicated their willingness to be on the mailing list was exported from Expectnation and used in the third-party application Campaign Monitor to send pre-conference promotional emails.

XTech uses session chairs to moderate questions and introduce the speakers. As the conference neared, these were recruited in a fashion similar to reviewers. Session chairs were allocated as per their indicated preferences. What used to be a complicated juggling act of spreadsheets, emails and pieces of paper was reduced to a fairly straightforward pass through the conference schedule.

Participant information is easily accessible

Various changes were required to speakers’ biographies. Most of these the speakers were able to make themselves using the web site, without causing extra work for the organizers.

The deadline for paper submission was about a month before the event. Speakers uploaded their papers directly on to the web site, where a custom formatting process was used to take them and format them into HTML for online display. Mailroom facilities allowed the chair to identify speakers who had not yet submitted papers and encourage them to do so.

At the event

With a few days to go, the mailroom was used again by the chair to send email schedules of responsibilities to speakers and session chairs, letting them know when and where they should be present. A master list of sessions was exported into an spreadsheet from Expectnation for circulation among staff.

The public web site schedule allowed any user to sign up for a (free) account and create their own personal schedule for the event, whether they were coming or not. As well as providing a handy tool for potential attendees, this gave organizers a heads-up as to the relative popularity of sessions. Speakers and session chairs automatically saw their responsibilities in their personal schedule.

Popularity from the personal scheduler overlaid on the schedule

XTech’s registration was handled outside of Expectnation, but resulted in an export of names and email addresses. Using this, attendees were also logged in Expectnation. This allowed attendees access to the online evaluation forms for each session: the mailroom was used to inform them of this, and bring their attention to the personal scheduler.

With the inevitable clutch of last-minute cancelations and replacements, all changes made to the schedule were reflected immediately on the web site, including the swapping of speakers, and the addition of an entirely new session.

Finally, head counts for each session were taking during the conference, and entered back into Expectnation on-site, enabling comparison of attendance between reality and the personal scheduler’s predictions.

After the event

As usual, an event isn’t over when everybody’s packed up. With many thank-yous to be said, the mailroom was used to send personalized messages to the speakers, session chairs and reviewers.

Presentation slide files were required from each presenter. Reminder emails were sent from the mailroom, and presenters uploaded their files directly into Expectnation. After a check that each file opened successfully, these were published straight onto the web site.

Finally, news and reportage from the conference was posted on the web site to keep readers up to date on what happened during the week.

Conclusion

As well as reaping many internal benefits, using Expectnation helped deepen the relationships between XTech and its participants. The improvement in communication was very well-received, with much positive feedback about the standard of organization of the conference.