I’m on the organizing committee for a science education conference that we’ll be hosting next July. We hosted the first one last summer, and it was a big success.
One of our goals is to be different from the typical scientific conference. For example, we have lots of time set aside for discussion within each session, we have workshops and 30 minute presentation times, all meals are provided and everyone eats together, and we try to bring fun and humor into the mix when we can.
There are a couple of regular conference events that we’d like to make a bit more interesting:
1. Welcome reception
Most conferences have a welcoming reception where people stand around eating finger foods and drinking wine. We’d like to have some sort of an ice-breaker activity in addition to this. Ideas that came up were things like geocaching or a building competition.
2. Banquet
Last time, we had a great speaker at the banquet. It was nice, but very “status quo”. We’re trying to think of some sort of entertainment we could bring in. Ideas for this that were thrown around were a stand-up comic (who talks about science, of course), a rock/jazz band, Cirque du Soleil (might be a bit over our budget, but an idea nonetheless).
Have you seen something cool done at another conference that might work, or do you have any ideas? Let me know in the comments!
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Comments on: "Unique Conference Experiences?" (9)

  1. 1. How many people are attending? You could combine the geocaching idea with a scavenger hunt of…people. Disclaimer: I've never done this, but I think it would be hilarious to be assigned a random person to hunt down during the reception for, say, their signature. Then you would have an excuse to introduce yourself to random groups of people asking “does anyone know so-and-so?”. The most difficult part of being the new kid at the opening mixer is having no one to talk to. Circumvent the issue by having at least one person you need to find/who is looking for you.

    2. I'd be psyched for any live music. Comedian notsomuch. Cirque du Soleil on a smaller budget…perhaps securing buskers? You could serve popcorn after the banquet, which was a huge hit at the last conference I went to (popcorn lines were longer than the beer lines).

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  2. I was once at an American Society of Human Genetics conference where they had a sketch comedy group that did all science-themed skits. I can't remember if that was the LA or the Toronto meeting, but I think it was Toronto.

    If you can't afford Cirque du Soleil, I wonder if there's a local circus school that would send final-year students for much cheaper?

    Eva Amsen had a post about a fun ice-breaker game a while back. She's organised a few similar events and would probably be a really good person to talk to!

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  3. One really large conference I went to had an event called “wines of the world” Everybody is supposed to bring a bottle of wine from their country, and you get a piece of paper on which 10 people have to score your wine. Great way to meet people, taste wines from the whole world and get slightly drunk.
    The winner wins something trivial. I kept my score-note back then because I had some big hotshots from my field taste my wine and I did not want to part with their remarks!

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  4. I really like it when conferences do something that highlights something unique about the local area. At a conference in Seattle this summer, they had the “catch the fish” guys from Pike's Place Market do a fish tossing demo and then bringing up some volunteers to give it a try. That was probably one of the most unique ideas I have seen. Local musicians or buskers might work well

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  5. Natalie – we expect about 130 or so people, so it's a relatively small conference. I like the “people hunt” kind of activity – I'll suggest that! Buskers are a great idea too, thanks!

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  6. Cath – did people enjoy the comedy group? Great idea about finding students to perform, and I'll definitely check out Eva's post!

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  7. Nina – Ooohh…what a great idea! It will be 95% Canadians at the conference, but maybe something to do with their province or city instead?

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  8. Liz – love that idea as well! I'll have to think about what we could do for that.

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  9. yeah, it went down pretty well for the most part. It might have helped that alcohol was being served before and during the event!

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