Machine Learning (Theory)


Workshops are not Conferences

Tags: General jl@ 9:09 am

… and you should use that fact.

A workshop differs from a conference in that it is about a focused group of people worrying about a focused topic. It also differs in that a workshop is typically a “one-time affair” rather than a series. (The Snowbird learning workshop counts as a conference in this respect.)

A common failure mode of both organizers and speakers at a workshop is to treat it as a conference. This is “ok”, but it is not really taking advantage of the situation. Here are some things I’ve learned:

  1. For speakers: A smaller audience means it can be more interactive. Interactive means a better chance to avoid losing your audience and a more interesting presentation (because you can adapt to your audience). Greater focus amongst the participants means you can get to the heart of the matter more easily, and discuss tradeoffs more carefully. Unlike conferences, relevance is more valued than newness.
  2. For organizers: Not everything needs to be in a conference style presentation format (i.e. regularly spaced talks of 20-30 minute duration). Significant (and variable) question time, different talk durations, flexible rescheduling, and panel discussions can all work well.

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