Dear conference organiser…

Like all of you I’m sure, I receive an almost constant stream of invitations to academic events and conferences by email.

I rely on mailing lists to keep me informed about what is happening, but lately I have started to get irritated about how difficult event organisers make it for me to share information. I have even  started replying with ideas for how they might improve their communications strategy.

These replies were, of course, politely worded suggestions. This is the sarcastic letter I wrote in my head.

Sunny Locale: wish you were here

Dear conference organiser,

Thanks so much for sending me the notification of your upcoming event “Exploring the multi-dimensional dimensionality of performance based social network theory” organised by the Society for Serious Thinkers – it sounds fascinating.

I particularly like the fact that you have chosen to hold the conference in Sunny Locale
this year. That’s nice for our northern hemisphere colleagues, who will be suffering through winter.

I’m not sure I can afford the outrageous $2500 registration fee, especially since I will have to prepare a paper if I have a hope of getting my university to pay for it. Nevertheless I do hope I will see you there because I so enjoy the conference dinner. What can be finer than discovering the joys of line dancing after a few too many red wines?

I’m not sure how long it is since you have looked at the profile of the people on your mailing lists. You might not have noticed that quite a few of us academics have blogs and many more are active on social media. I have upwards of 4000 followers on Twitter now myself and I would love to spread your message to my network. I’m sure some of them will be interested in a conference in Sunny Locale on the multi-dimensional dimensionality of performance based social network theory.

You know, those people who follow my work on social media are connected to many others – have you read that interesting book “Connection: the surprising power of social networks and how they shape our lives?”. You might want to pick up a copy. According to these authors, we can ‘catch’ all sorts of things, like being fat, smoking or alcoholoism – even happiness – through our social networks. I’m sure you want to leverage the power of those networks to promote your conference.

Unfortunately, you are not making it easy for me to share the news of your event.

Let’s start with email – I get a lot of it. Luckily I didn’t set up an auto re-direct on your mail. I never open some of those folders. I read your email on the train on my new iPhone and it did that neat thing of making an ical event straight from the date you put in the text. Wonderful. But what about all those other people I talk to on social media? How am I going to tell them?

What a pity you didn’t include a ‘tweetable” form of the text in the email with a hashtag for the event. A hashtag is the difference between a Thick and a Thin Tweet and the key to making an information rich ‘tweet package’. A hashtag helps me talk to the other people who areinterested in your conference and even do some ‘pre-networking’. A hashtag is a boon for all those PhD students of mine who are interested, but will not be able to afford to fly to Sunny Locale.

I could, perhaps compose a tweet myself. I prefer to use Twitter to talk to my network – I have Buffer app which will send the tweet straight to Linkedin and Facebook for me, which saves me time in maintaining an active presence everywhere (that’s exhausting!). Thanks for providing that 1500 word description of the conference theme and the 20 or so sub streams (surely my work will fit into one of them), however I only have 140 characters to play with on Twitter. It’s going to take me 20 minutes or so to understand the theme enough to condense it. You are lucky I really want other people to come so I will spend the time, here’s what I came up with:

@thesiswhisperer: Hey! Check out this: “”Exploring the multi-dimensional dimensionality of performance based network theory” sounds great! Who’s coming with?

Oops – that’s 139 characters already. Pity your conference title is so long! I haven’t even told my followers that it’s put on by the Society of Serious Thinkers yet. Let’s try that again:

@thesiswhisperer: call for papers on social performance theory for conference in sunny locale from the Society of Serious Thinkers: ….

Oh. Wait.

You didn’t provide me with the link to a landing page on the web. I can’t possibly give my followers all the details in tweets.


Just a minute? What have you attached to this email? A PDF? Brilliant. Goodness look at the lovely picture that you have put on there (did you take that yourself? Aren’t those smart phones great). Look at all the work you have put into centring that text over the image and the 5 different fonts you have used. I’m not sure that ‘comic sans’ really says “Society of Serious Thinkers”, but I’m sure you had heaps of fun doing it. Still no hashtag, but at least I have a webpage now.

Unfortunately you didn’t make that text on the PDF available for me to copy, you must have missed that setting when you were making it from your word file. Not to worry. I’m sure I can copy that link and get all those curly thingies – tildas aren’t they? – in the right spots. Probably.

People can always Google search you right?

Good luck with the conference! See you in Sunny Locale in November.



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27 thoughts on “Dear conference organiser…

  1. Anonymous says:

    Love it! At least you get access to some funding Inger… not all RMIT schools provide this luxury anymore! I’m self-funding an international conference (presenting a paper) and getting nothing back since I do not have any research funds being a staff member doing a PhD… And the funding for PhD students is also drying up quickly.

  2. experimental error (@significance) says:

    Much bigger problems, for me, are conferences about subjects that have nothing to do with me, which repeatedly spam me with bot-generated personalised invitations. I don’t even open most of the conference-related email I get because of the conference-spam problem.

  3. M-H says:

    Conference spam has become much worse lately, for conferences I have never heard of, in subjects I have no interest in: delete delete delete. I love this response though.

  4. Chris Leonard (@hooHar) says:

    Let’s not forget that there needs to be a decent wifi service at the conference venue itself. This is one of the most infuriating things for attendees to be offline at a conference when they could be tweeting, writing, or just killing time through a boring talk.

  5. swanseascrutiny says:

    Ha yes! I’d love, just for once, to see a conference speaker advertised alongside their twitter name – It would be great to get to know them before the event (I have often never heard of them) and I might be more likely to participate from afar. Who knows, they may even want to crowd source the writing of their presentation….

  6. Pamela Fruechting says:

    Wonderfully creative post! On a related topic, the conference brochures that come to me via postal mail are usually ones I have never heard of, would never attend, and 8 of 10 times they are not even my in my practice or interest area. Just yesterday, the United States government announced their new move to keep business percolating through the slowly dying US Postal Service: Steeply discounted postal rates for businesses and organizations (Read: Federally funded junk mail, personally delivered on a daily basis by my kind mailman).

  7. Jacquelyn Gill says:

    This is awesome, and I would like to add that job postings are also really frustrating for the same reason. I’d love to get the word out about postdoc positions, faculty jobs, etc. but they often don’t have links!

  8. creativewriterphd says:

    For those of us just starting our PhD journeys, with no publications or paper presentations under our belts, how do we find conferences that are relevant to our research areas? I have been googling, but it is very hit and miss. The only conference I found in my field happened 3 years ago.

  9. Kat says:

    YES. I run a website about art history and these sorts of things are the absolute bane of my life. Even worse than just a pdf is a jpeg where the text isn’t even readable so I can’t copy and paste. I also love it when they say ‘we have attached a jpeg of a poster for your noticeboard’. Well guess what buddy, there is this thing called the internet and it’s like an ENORMOUS noticeboard that people actually look at and and see wherever they are in the world. As one of my academic friends said ‘these days if it isn’t on the internet it’s like it doesn’t exist.’

    Also with the expensive conference regos I have been thinking recently that student concessions (when they exist) ought to be extended to un-attached academics. Suddenly I’m meant to pay full price after graduating despite having no proper income or any university willing to cover it.

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  11. lianecolwell2013l says:

    Hi, Typo here; “According to these authors, we can ‘catch’ all sorts of things, like being fat, smoking or alcoholoism – even happiness – through our social networks.” Should be ‘alcoholism.’ Pls delete my post after correcting. Liane

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