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How To Do SIGGRAPH Conference Sessions
Audience: Full Conference and Conference Select Registrations
SIGGRAPH conference sessions are an essential part of the conference experience. Having some background about them can prepare you to get the most out of them.
Take every advantage of the time you spend. Go with a purpose to learn new ideas, meet new people, or simply answer questions you may have on a topic.
  • Time management. Allow yourself enough time to get to the presentation room and to find seating that's right for you. Look up the presentation room's location in advance to gauge your time appropriately. Some presentations like Sketches & Applications use smaller rooms, so it is first-come, first-seated in those locations.
  • Where to sit. Several factors come into play when choosing a seat. The first is your sight line to screens and presenters. Make certain that you are a comfortable distance from each. Also, choose a seat that fits your mobility needs. Sitting on the edges or near aisles allows for quick escapes if you have to run to another session while your current one is in progress or you need to stretch frequently. Avoid getting up and disturbing others if you can. (By the same token, if you know you are going to stay, sitting in the middle of a row may help you to avoid people having to leave before you do.)
  • Dress comfortably. Larger session rooms can often be well air conditioned. This means that you may want to carry a sweatshirt or other pullover if you get chilled easily. This may seem odd, since conferences are usually in places of intense summer heat, but nothing distracts more than your own chattering teeth.
  • Prepare ahead of time. Spend some time before the presentation to know what is covered in documentation and abstracts available to you. This will help you focus on parts of the presentation that are not contained in things you can take away from the conference.
  • Getting questions answered. There are several ways to get questions answered that can be beneficial to you, the presenter, and the audience. First, some sessions allow for a few, short questions from the floor (depending on schedule). Position yourself near an aisle to gain access to microphones set up for this purpose. Secondly, evaluate your question. If you think it can easily be answered and is of interest to the audience, don't hesitate to share it if Q&A is offered. If your question is very detailed and complex, you may want to seek out the presenter before or after the presentation.
  • Taking notes. Be prepared to take notes in a dark space without a desktop to write on. Room lighting is usually little to non-existent, so sit close to other sources if possible (such as near the stage where ambient light can be reflected back at you) or carry a pocket light with you, if necessary. Also, check ahead of time to determine if your conference documentation contains sufficient background information so that you can take only essential notes that clarify parts you have examined earlier. Note cards can be useful if you are a sparse note taker (and they can be tucked into books where appropriate).
  • Contacts. Many presenters have contact information published in the printed materials, although this does not guarantee things such as email addresses. If you are really interested in starting a dialogue, you may wish to ask for email addresses at the presentation. Carrying business cards with you may also be helpful.
  • Meeting new people. You can meet some pretty interesting people at a given session. One advantage you may have is that people around you are most likely very interested in the topic at hand. Striking up conversations before a presentation starts can lead to some of the most interesting contacts from the conference.

Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can I get copies of presenters' slides?
A: Some presentations, such as Courses, attempt to get presenter slide sets into their documentation. Other programs don't use their documentation space this way. If something was valuable to you, try to contact the presenter right after the session to find out where you can get copies.
Q: Can I eat and drink in session rooms?
A This may vary from location to location. If you decide to bring things with you, avoid items that will be disruptive to others around you and don't forget to take your refuse with you when the session is over.
  • Small pad of paper and pen or pencil.
  • Sweatshirt (if you get cold easily).
  • Pre-printed business cards.

This information was brought to you by SIGGRAPH Pathfinders, a volunteer group dedicated to mentoring of first-time conference visitors.
Please take a moment to help us help you. Share with us how this information improved (or could have improved) your conference experience. You can reach us at SIGGRAPH 2001 at the Pathfinder booth in main registration or via email: Thank you.