Diary of a conference attendee – day four, pico talks and bowties

As I wrote yesterday I had nothing planned for my evening and I enjoyed a very nice Spar bagel in my room while watching Netflix. I’m not going to lie, it was amazing! But that was my one relaxing day in the middle of EGU conference madness.

07:45 – I woke up this morning to a very nice range of birdsong. Yesterday while feeling all relaxed and with plenty of evening left I finally remembered to change my alarm clock. Unfortunately as it turns out BEEP BEEP BEEP is very effective at waking me up and trilling birds is much less effective and something I can sleep through for an extra hour. Starting back at with a busy conference schedule is ALWAYS better by having to hastily get dressed and skipping breakfast.

08:15 – It’s going great. I managed to crack my head on the soap dispenser in my rush to have a shower before leaving the hotel. Give that I apparently get worse at showering every day, tomorrow I fully expect to slip and break my hip. My day is looking up a little though as instead of a quite relaxed hotel breakfast I managed to buy a giant sausage off a vendor at the metro station. Healthy be damned, I need some calories. And for that matter caffeine, which I’ll try and get at the next metro station.

08:30 – Espresso in hand I have found a nice warm seat at the back of a session on Communication and Education in Geoscience: Practice, Research and Reflection. I’d love to claim that I attended this session because I’m currently finishing my PGCAP and I really wanted to spend the morning listening to talks about education practice… but much to the disappointment of my PGCAP tutor, that’s not it. I’m here because someone (Sam Illingworth) on Twitter said it would be interesting and he wears a bow tie which automatically makes whatever he says sound very reasonable.

10:30 – At a conference with parallel sessions there are always times when you want to go to several things at once. Firstly I’d quite like to stay in the session run by the convincing man in a bow tie, the next lecture is on the EGU blogs and if there’s something I love hearing about it’s blogs, but secondly there’s a session on the effectiveness and state of the art of soil moisture sensors. As my whole scientific reason for being here is because I built a soil moisture sensor, it kind of seems like I should maybe go. Lastly, my coffee has worn off, so I quite fancy another break. If only there was a flow diagram to help me decide…

13:30 – On Tuesday I attended one of these pico lecture series where everyone gets 2 minutes and then there’s a sort of more involved poster session immediately afterwards. Last time I missed most of the talks but this time I’m determined to get the full pico experience, bring on the 20 mins of 2 min talks.

13:50 – Talks done and everyone has retreated to the outer limits of the room to stand next to large touch screen displays. The 2 min formula is certainly an ‘interesting’ concept. Some speakers really took to it and managed to present just enough to be interesting and I now want to go talk to them. Some had taken a few too many cues from marketing – “Did it work? Well come to post Pico 5b.22 and find out!” – which perversely made me want to never find out. The last category of talks were where people had clearly prepared a 15 min talks and then pushed the whole thing through in 2 minutes. One speaker I was genuinely worried that they wouldn’t make the whole 2 minutes as they never breathed!

15:00 – The second meet-and-greet part of the pico talks was a lot better. Everyone I talked to was really enthusiastic and having a big touch screen full of graphs made that kind of one-to-one chat/presentation really easy. I’m not very sold on the idea of the 2 min presentations but the poster session based on giant interactive touchscreen I can totally get behind, although every presenter needed their own giant 30″ touch screen to stand in front of. I’m guessing the cost of this is a little more than just asking academics to print out a high res PowerPoint slide.

17:00 – I’m started to get poster blindness. I’ve seen so many now that they are all blending into one. I have flagged six to look at today and they are spread liberally throughout three floors and five poster halls. I’ll get lots of exercise at least.

18:00 – Tonight is my last full night in Vienna so I’m making the most of it. Normally at conferences there’ll be a swanky conference dinner but given that there are 14,000 attendees at EGU that would only be possible if we all went to a local stadium and had hotdogs. So to replace it tonight instead of randomly eating in a cafe I’m going to go out and treat myself to some fancy Austrian food and maybe some famed Austrian wine. Flying is better when you’re hungover right?

Click to read day five here

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