In addition to his abstract, Hesam has also written an account of his experience in this virtual conference space.
What was the experience like, compared to regular conference presentation?
- In general, it was a good experience, but it was not a real conference.
Positive things: It is always difficult and expensive to travel to conferences. As an Iranian, it is sometimes impossible. The online conferences make it possible for us to attend conferences amidst all our duties.
Negative things: I had a lot to do in the routine of my life when I was attending the conference. In this sense, the conference seemed like an extra activity, devoid of any special weight. Remember the days that we emptied our program for one week when we had a presentation at a conference. We used to travel to new places, experiencing new weather, new foods, and new people, which could re-energize us for the next months. It didn't happen at this conference. I had to wake up at 4 am to attend the conference, which meant I was too sleepy to listen to most of the talks. After my own presentation, I had to run to a tutorial session (i.e. my job as the TA at SFU), which means that I couldn't even hear some of the comments about my own work.
How did you present your work:
- It was very interesting. They asked for a recording of a presentation. On the day of the presentation, they just played the video, and the presenter was there to answer the questions that the audience asked.
What I did for the presentation was just sitting behind the laptop and talking, as if I was in a real presentation. I thought it was the most natural way to handle it, and I thought that that is what everybody would do. It wasn't the case! Most talks (like 90 percent of them) were much like paper-reading than a normal presentation. I think people took their time to make sure their presentation has a uniform tone and that it doesn't include pauses, which I'm not sure is the best thing to happen in a presentation, but anyway, it caused my presentation to seem a little bit off-beat on the day. So, I recommend people to prepare the exact text of their presentation and practice it a couple of times so that their recording doesn't have unnecessary pauses or corrections.
Was any networking on the platform available, and generally how did it differ from being there in person? For example, did you make use of the Mozilla Hubs social space?
- The networking opportunities were substantially less than what I expected. Mozilla Hubs was cool but was not very useful for the purpose of networking. In the breaks, you could find fewer than 10 to 20 people - in total - in the different rooms that they had prepared for discussions (while apparently more than 400 people were registered for the conference). It was quite easy to dominate the discussions of the rooms - people did it a lot. So you could see that more than half of the people in the room left the room without saying even a word.