Help us efficiently schedule presenters for a conference.
April 18, 2012 4:32 PM   Subscribe

How can we efficiently schedule presenters for a conference?

Asking for a friend. She's hosting a conference and trying to schedule forty or so presenters. The catch is they all have specific needs:

- days they will/won't be attending

- times they prefer to present

- different space requirements

- people presenting more than one workshop / being involved in other workshops that can't be scheduled at the same time

Is there a program or some software that can help her juggle all this?

Any thoughts or directions would be hugely appreciated.

posted by vecchio to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe Doodle?
posted by radioamy at 5:58 PM on April 18, 2012

I don't think Doodle would work well for this. I have done this multiple times (once with 300 presenters!) and have always taken the low-tech approach. You get a huge piece of butchers paper, and draw up the conference program with empty slots marked on the paper.

Then you put each presenter's name on an index card, and pin them up onto the paper. Do it first thematically so that you get nice coherent sessions.

THEN go to your email or wherever you kept the list of stupid (uh, I mean, completely reasonable) requests everyone sent you, and go through each. For each one, decide if you will honour it (e.g. if the presenter will not be physically present at certain times, you have to work with that; if it's just that they don't want to be the last talk of the day, or the morning after the conference dinner, then tough luck). For the ones you want to honour, check your sheet and see if their current slot works. If not, swap them with someone. Repeat until done.

You'll probably find that most presenters automatically end up in slots that work for them anyway, and it's usually not TOO horrible to have to swap a couple around.
posted by lollusc at 7:09 PM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you DO have a lot of requests, put a mark on each card after you have swapped it, so that you know later that you can't swap someone ELSE with the person already moved ("person 1") without checking whether that screws up person 1's requirements.
posted by lollusc at 7:11 PM on April 18, 2012

I've found that the best solution for this kind of thing has been to make an excel sheet with the presenter's name, their talk, their theme and their conflicts in their own column and then organize it graphically.

If you end up getting frustrated with the interface, you can print it out and then slice it up with a paper cutter and move them around that way until you arrive at a solution.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:12 PM on April 18, 2012

lollusc has it, think low tech, it is harder to get confused into a giant mess you have to start over from.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:14 PM on April 18, 2012

Thanks all!
posted by vecchio at 3:48 PM on April 19, 2012

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