I am feeling left out.
The biggest international midwifery conference - International Confederation of Midwives - midwives are ever likely to go to is being held in Glasgow in a few weeks . This only comes around every three years. And the New Zealand College of Midwives' national conference (bi-annual) is coming up later in the year.
I am not going to either conference because I am broke and can't afford it. But I wish I was going because both conference programs look fabulous and I know they will be fantastic opportunities to network with key midwifery educators and researchers.
Making conferences accessible to the wider audience
How can conferences be made more accessible to people who cannot attend for whatever reason? How can we make sure that the benefits of conferences ie learning and networking opportunities are spread beyond the physical walls of the conference hall.
David Warlick has a few ideas including conference wikis, blogs, video and audio podcasts of sessions. However, Tony Karrer believes that technological issues may be a barrier. Tony also questions whether people would want to get involved with pre-and-post conference activities such as blogs and wikis because he believes all people want to do at conferences is blob out.
I suspect that conference funding may also be a barrier to online access. If conference sessions are being provided free on the Internet either in real-time format or as recordings, why would people want to pay to attend in a face-to-face context? I think people will because ultimately, if they can attend, nothing beats face-to-face interaction.
I suppose conference organisers could charge participants that attend online real-time sessions but if lack of funding is the reason participants did not attend in the first place, charging does not solve that problem. As for making recordings freely available, that is no different from making written conference proceedings available on the Internet.
I have said before that online open access to education and professional development is one way to sustain the midwifery profession and contribute to being global midwifery citizens. And one way of approaching financing issues is to involve sponsors in the online activities as suggested by David Warlick. Surely they would be pleased to extend their product advertising.
Food for thought
At the very least I would call on conference organisers to record key presentations and publish them on the Internet. Providing computers and free wifi would be fabulous to help conference attendees spread the word about the conference and keep in touch with those who are minding the fort at home.
To conference attendees I would say: don't forget your colleagues at home. Think of ways that you can share your learning and conference experiences. Start a conference blog or use instant messaging services such as Skype, MSN or Twitter to share events as they happen.
As for those of you who are going to the ICM conference, here's an idea for a conference extra-mural activity: to organise an online meeting (I can provide Elluminate as a meeting venue) to tell the rest of us about how the conference is going.
I would be really pleased to hear from anyone who is interested in discussing this further. And once the dust has settled from this up-coming ICM conference, I would love to join with anyone interested in lobbying for increased online access to midwifery conferences, especially the next ICM conference.
Image: 'Quick 9n9 dirty Mullenweg keynote panorama' penmachine