No-Shows and PowerPoint Karaoke @ ACM SAC 2008

I’m currently at ACM SAC 2008, in beautiful Fortaleza (Brazil). The conference has a number of tracks; many of them are very interesting and they cover a very broad range of topics. I’ve jumped around through a few different sessions, including CISIA (Computational Logic and Computational Intelligence in Signal and Image Analysis), WT (Web Technologies), IAR (Information Access & Retrieval), SWA (The Semantic Web and Applications), and MMV (Multimedia and Visualisation). The TRECK track, where I am presenting, is on the last day of the conference.

Looking at the titles of the papers to be presented, each session promised to be very exciting; and even if I am no expert in the field I wanted to see what I could get out of it. Unfortunately, in a lot of the sessions I have attended as many as 3/5 of the presenters did not show up, leaving the session chairs in a very embarassing situation. In one case, a session ended early and so I went to the next room. I got there in time to hear the chair ending that session as well due to no-shows: very dissapointing. I’ve seen presenters leaving a session once their bit is done, and not contribute to discussions that they are supposed to be experts in, leaving only the session chairs to ask questions.

To make matters worse, some of the presentations I have seen have been quite poor. They all follow the same formula: title, outline, a bunch of slides where the presenter reads what is on the slide, conclusion where they repeat what they just presented, and future work: power point karaoke at its best. I understand that some may follow this method due to difficulties with English, but they do not even sound interested in their own work. They also immediately dive into the details or cite other papers without explaining why, forgetting that some (like me) may be there to learn something new and need the broad strokes of the picture first. (I’m no expert at presenting; however, there are lots of resources on presenting on Daniele’s page here). It makes attendance at the sessions even more difficult!

Overall, the conference has been organized well, and is running smoothly. The track chairs obviously put a lot of work into this, and it should be an ideal opportunity to mingle with a range of researchers… but the participants are not doing a very good job! I’ll write a separate post about the interesting presentations I have seen.

3 Responses to “No-Shows and PowerPoint Karaoke @ ACM SAC 2008”

  1. The plague of no-shows is starting to get truly disturbing – some people seem to be using conferences like a pay-to-publish journal and never even plan to show.

    Working in a multidisciplinary field has fascinating effects to presenting – most of the conference audience is always like you said, here to learn something new to them instead of discussing finesse of your particular solution. For a recent presentation at ARES, which wasn’t horrifyingly detailed to begin with, I listened to a day’s worth of other presentations and the keynotes, then decided to cut off a third of the slides I had and replaced them with more of the “first three slides” material instead – i.e. big picture, more big picture, and even more of the big picture. Why is this interesting, what’s the big idea, where’s the challenge.

    I mostly just wanted to compensate for presenting right after lunch to keep people awake, but it went in amazingly well – I’ve never seen as excellent follow-up discussion, dead-on and interesting. The audience was of course splendid to begin with; even though we hardly had anything more in common than work somehow related to “security” in a wide sense, everyone was willing to take the leap outside their familiarity zone to participate in the discussion. It definitely made my conference.


  2. Neal Lathia says:

    This was my first experience at a conference where this happens; some were saying that the fact that it was in Brazil only helped to discourage attendance? I wonder if the conference blacklists these people!

  3. [...] the speakers did not suffer from powerpoint karaoke syndrome, and their slides were generally  well-designed Рless text, more images. That is largely because [...]