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DCL Learning Series

The Future of Meetings: A Lunchtime Conversation with Mark Gross and Sol Rosenberg


[Marianne Calilhanna] Hello and welcome to the DCL Learning Series. Today's webinar is titled "The Future of Meetings." My name is Marianne Calilhanna. I'm the Vice President of Marketing at Data Conversion Laboratory and I will be your moderator today. Just a couple of quick things before we begin.

This webinar is being recorded, and it will be available in the on-demand section of our website at I encourage you to submit questions for our panelists at any time.

You can do that via the GoToWebinar control panel, the questions box, and before we begin, I would like to provide just a real quick intro to Data Conversion Laboratory, or DCL, as we're also known. Our mission is to structure the world's content.


Content can unlock new opportunities for innovation and monetization when it has a foundation of rich structure and metadata. And DCL's services and solutions are all about converting, structuring, and enriching content and data. We are one of the leading providers of XML conversion services, data conversion services, SPL and S1000D conversion. And while we're best known for our quality and our customer service for conversion projects, we also do a lot of work with semantic enrichment, entity extraction, data harvesting, third-party validation of previously converted content, content re-use analysis, and structured content delivery to industry platforms.


So we had a last-minute change to today's panelists. Darrell Gunter is unable to join us. However, I am thrilled that Sol Rosenberg could step in and take part. Mark Gross, President of DCL, and Sol Rosenberg, Chief Content Officer at Underline, are two gentlemen who have spent their careers working with digital content and helping customers profit from improved content structure and new technologies. Like you, I'm learning to navigate this new way of virtual meetings, and I'm really looking forward to hearing their insight.


So, Mark, Sol, thanks so much for spending your lunch hour with us.


[Sol Rosenberg] Thank you.


[Mark Gross] Yeah.


[Sol Rosenberg] I think this is where she wants to just do a quick intro on Underline. She did an intro on DCL so nicely. Thank you, everybody, for coming and joining. Really quickly, I'd been in scientific and publishing for a long time and scholarly publishing and what our founder, Alex Lazinica, who is a former robotic scientist, saw this sort of hole in the marketplace to really preserve the communication that goes on and scholarly conferences. And then when the pandemic happened, we split into sort of two sections.


One was where we do, and ALL we do, are these scientific technical academic meetings and secondly, we have a repository of scientific conference information, so that's really us in a nutshell. And it's what we believe is trailblazing a new form of scientific and scholarly publishing, and content, and as meetings change, and evolve, that's why we're so interested in this topic. Certainly, we've done a whole lot of events between April and today, and we have a lot more, and we're trying to get better at it, but it's a new evolving thing. So I enjoy us having the opportunity to talk about it. But one thing that's different about us, besides the fact that this is all we specialize in, scientific conferences, and we also have this white glove service for smooth workflow, is this repository of sort of a Netflix for scientists, for lack of a better term, for scientific content in all the different disciplines, a new form of scholarly publishing, that we believe will become ever more important. And certainly, that's what the marketplace has been telling us.


So thanks for that intro, for that opportunity, and for coming to say hello. [Mark Gross] OK, so thank you for that intro. And sorry, a little bit for the bait and switch. Darrell Gunter is a longtime veteran of scholarly publishing and scholarly meetings, and I'm sorry he couldn't make it. Last minute, we had to, he suggested that Sol join us. While I'm sorry Gunter isn't here, it's just a real treat to have Sol here. I know – I haven't seen Sol for a few years now, but I've known him for, for probably more decades than we care to discuss. Suffice to say, the first project we did together was at a time when data was distributed on CD-ROMs.


And I have no e-mail records of any of those meetings because we didn't have e-mail going back and forth in those days. But, but he's always been at forward leaning kinds of things and always at the leading edge of how do you disseminate information. And this is just one more way where, what they were doing before sort of led into, I mean that they didn't know about Covid. Nobody did, but they were doing this before that. So I'm really thrilled to have him here as an expert on something that's of great interest to me. To set the stage, scientific knowledge has been disseminated through conferences for hundreds of years. I mean, the way to disseminate was through journal articles, but earlier than that, was these conferences, which date back to the 1600s, near as I can tell.


It's not just conferences, but with that went conference proceedings, all kinds of papers that get delivered. More recently, there are poster sessions, and to me most important, is the hobnobbing that happens at the coffee breaks and at the bar, and I guess in the 1600s, the tavern down the block. And that's all been gone for seven months now, and it's amazing to me. I haven't traveled in seven months. I used to be traveling two, three times a month. So the big question, I guess the big, overall question I'll start with to Sol is, What happens to conferences now? Will they ever come back?


[Sol Rosenberg] Well, that's a great question. Thank you. And you know, the conferences are such an important part of the scholarly communications ecosystem. There are disciplines like in AI, where the organizers have told us, this is how they publish. So without having a real good way for them to continue in some form, they have to figure something out, that this was, this is the way people advance their careers. So to answer your question, will they ever come back? No, they won't. Because we're not going back in time. But they will evolve. See? So here's the good part. While in one, on one hand, of course, the pandemic is horrible, and in so many ways, from loss of life and income and hurt and all that, so we can't even go there. But one thing that has changed is our society in so many ways, and enabled us to evolve. So let's take another analogy that you and I have been through, right? We started life in the paper world then went to the digital world, then CDs, then Internet.

And the digital expressions of things kept evolving. So, just like you don't take a picture of a book and that's not a digital publication, right? It's now evolved than the sophisticated databases and searches, and things that you are doing every single day, and as everybody else in this ecosystem. As far as the print world is concerned, well, meetings will also continue to evolve. And, you know, it's not very much different than what happened, let's, let's use another analogy: television, right? When television first came out or even when films and talkies first came out, they would just take a camera and mount it in front of a production, and say OK, let's just film that. But then they realized that there's so many other tools we can use, right? We can use close-ups and voiceovers and flashbacks. And now, and all these other things that we now take as second nature, because we're used to that, because it's been, you know, 50, 70, a hundred years. So, great, but in the early days, that was early days. Well, guess what? We are now in the early days of the evolution of the virtual meeting.


And the people who have done virtual meetings with us, because we specialize in this kind, really enjoyed the idea that now they can have people coming up, coming from all over the world, whereas before, a lot of people didn't come to meetings because they couldn't afford it, or their schedules didn't allow, didn't have the budget, or just couldn't take off a week to go to New Zealand or wherever the association was going this week, or personal reasons, or visa reasons, even. Now, people can go to parts of the meeting and they're getting 4, 5, 6, 7 times the attendance that they would normally have in a physical meeting, especially without the cost, without having to take off a week. They're also getting better presenters. Rather than trying to find some Nobel Laureate who will grace your stage and paying them whatever honorarium and figuring out when they can take off a week to come, you can find somebody that everyone wants to listen to that will maybe give you an hour or an hour and a half of a presentation with Q and A, and that will make your meeting a lot different. So these are just among the ideas, and there are many, many more of those details, of how we will continue to evolve over time into something that will become much better than what we had before.


[Mark Gross] Right. So you've packed a lot into that, so let's, let's, maybe take some of that apart. Meetings can get bigger, and I've seen that. And I've been able to join meetings that I normally would have not gone to, I could spend an hour or two at a meeting, rather than spend 2 or 3 days, but as they get, as they get bigger, what happens to the – well, first of all, let's talk about networking. I mean, my favorite part of meetings, is, there's a coffee bar, and the bar downstairs, and the chance meeting in the hallway. What happens to that? That seems like that's a hard one to replace.

[Sol Rosenberg] Agreed. Absolutely agreed. But we're working on it, and we're getting better every day. So, things like, well, it's things that we're doing within our platform are things like, you can see who else is in the room, sort of looking at all the other people's name tags, and see who they are, or who you recognize. With people's permissions, you can tap them on the shoulder and say, Hey, you know, let's, let's, can we go off after the session and have a conversation, and go to a virtual coffee bar and/or lounge and talk and hang out and whatever, or, and/or schedule time for that. Everyone interested in this-and-this discipline or this-and-this subject or this-and-this whatever, click here to go off to this room, or place, or lounge, or things.


So, it's going to continue to get better, over time. But these are the, the things we're doing to start replicating that, because you're right. The studies have shown that people are coming for two basic reasons: for the education, and for the networking. So, the networking is super important.


[Mark Gross] Yeah, social networking is, I mean, which I've seen, I mean, certainly, I've been in all Zoom meetings for all these months. But one thing you lose is the spontaneity of conversations. What you've pointed out is, you can, well, tapping people on the shoulder, I've got to see that happen. But, you set things up, you have to set meetings up in advance. People don't expect phone calls anymore. What – how do you do spontaneity when everybody's online?

[Sol Rosenberg] So, I'll invite you to come to some of our meetings and you'll see how we do it. You know, it does work. It's not "the same as," but then again, that's – people had the same complaint. Like, Oh, I'm watching the talking on a screen. I'd rather see the person in person. It's not the same. But then, they're still going to – well, they WERE going to the movies, or watching them on, at home, on their big screen, right, and, and TV and everything else. So, it's evolving to a new form.

Right. That's. So actually, I think watching concerts on Zoom is actually in some ways more enjoyable than watching them in person, because you can get live and close up kind of things going on. So, I can, I can see that happening. But– [Sol Rosenberg] The other part, if I may interject, it's important to realize, is that, and I say this over and over and over again, and we just, kind of, you know, we keep training our, our conference clients.

A conference is NOT a long Zoom meeting. OK? If you think a conference is a long Zoom meeting, it's just the wrong way of doing it, and we have the stats to prove it. Because people will not sit in their seats for eight hours at a time, or for hours and hours.


Everyone's one click away from, you know, Facebook, Instagram, the dog, the kids, whoever, work, and, and you can't do it that way. So the idea is, let's use some of these digital tools. And we have a whole array of them that we use in our conferences to make this a better and different experience. And that's why I like the analog going to movies and TV from stage shows. It's the same sorts of things. Just expressed slightly differently.


[Mark Gross] So what happens, well, I want to get back to that, but what happens just on the topic of these meetings getting bigger, what happens, one of the things with meetings is the collegiality, let us say, there's a group of people that you get to see every year, and when it's 20 or 30 people, that has, one level of, of, of meaning. But now it's hundreds of people. What happens with that? How do you, what do you do with that?


[Sol Rosenberg] What happens when you go to a conference, and you've been there, and you know 30 people, and yet there are 2,000 people there. You don't know the rest of them.

So, some you meet, and some you won't meet, it's the same sort of thing, right? So we try to provide opportunities for you to, A, meet the 30 or 40 people you know; B, network and find some other people you don't know, and connect with them. So when you come out, you know, you want the end result to be the same. At the end of the conference

I want to connect with people that I've met before and, and catch up with them, and then network and meet a whole bunch of new people that I have not seen before, either to advance my career if I'm job hunting, or business, or whatever my aims are. And that's why we go to both conferences and trade shows, and, but more so, especially in the scientific conference arena, which is, you know, we're discussing this scientific publishing ecosystem.


That's super important on, on, this is, they're publishing, and they're looking to advance their careers and/or find research collaborators, and we're funders, so, yeah, that's really, really important, and we're looking to facilitate those very same goals.

[Mark Gross] Right, and clearly, people want to do that, I mean, no conference in seven months, and yet we do a lot of conference proceeding conversions and printing and publishing and putting out. And that stayed, that stayed pretty steady over that whole period. So, at least so far, so, people do want to publish, people have to publish. [Sol Rosenberg] Well, they have to publish. There are two, look there are a couple of big reasons.

Number one, as I said before, in some disciplines, like in AI and others, this is their lifeblood. They must publish. This is what they do. They have to go to conferences. This is how they advance. This is how they publish. So that's, that's the first. Secondly, in, with many, many societies, their annual, or twice-a-year meetings that they have, are such a core part of, not just their communication to their members, but also of their funding. This is where they make a ton of money, often, and if those meetings are, are, are cut, almost a society may not exist. So. And by the way, then you had a little bit of a chicken and egg situation, which is that I have to do a meeting, because I have to get everyone together, so I have to present all this information. Then next year, it has to be bigger, and it gets bigger and bigger, and now, and the locations have to become nicer, and nicer, and, and so on, and so forth. And this starts one feeding on each other. Actually, rather than an annual, and certainly, in a lot of scientific fields, we have found that a number of organizers are opting for a little bit of a different approach, because they can now, spin up virtual conferences a lot easier than planning a massive gargantuan, you know, once a year Lollapalooza thing, right? They can think about spinning up conferences maybe every quarter or every 60 days, which gives them the added advantages, the scientific publishing field, of the science not being old.

So now I can really have fresh stuff, like the last 60 days worth of stuff. All I need to do, I need to, to, obviously accelerate my, my acceptance procedures, my submissions, and peer reviews, and all of that. But if I can figure out a way to do that, the rest of the mechanics are pretty quick. So I can, and we have a number of organizers that have now shifted their ideas to "Yeah, let's publish more often. There's no reason not to do that."


[Mark Gross] So, so, actually, that's a very important point. Because in, in science, certainly today, once a year, it doesn't really, it doesn't really give you a lot. [Sol Rosenberg] Not with the pace of the world we live in, right. [Mark Gross] The latest research. So this is a tremendous, a tremendous advantage. And I think you're right. I mean, even in conference proceedings, and all the way we're doing, I mean, whereas five years ago, even, if it was OK to take eight weeks, seven weeks to publish conference proceedings, today it's like, well, can you get it done in 5 or 6 days? Things are moving much quicker, and we can do it because of technology. But your started another point. This is a financial lifeblood for these organizations. How's finances play into this, because it's a whole different ballgame now.

Are people ready to pay the 800 or a thousand dollars to go to a conference? Well, you know, when someone pays 800 or a thousand dollars to go to a conference, OK, what are they paying for?


Right? They're paying for meals, they're paying for a lot of things that go into 800 dollars that maybe don't need to go there. So there are other ways they can pay for, and pay you a less amount of money so everyone comes ahead, comes out ahead. I mean, we had a situation with it with one of our clients, teachers, that they were really, and so they, but they were paying, they were paying something, and there was money coming in. And more importantly, a larger part of the budget is not just from the attendees. In most conferences, the largest contribution come from the sponsors.

And as long as we can continue to find ways to deliver value to the sponsors that's on par with or exceeds what they were expecting before, right, then, they're coming back, and we have found, certainly, using our platform, that a number of these conferences, they're selling as much or more as they did in person, dollar wise, and they're not selling physical booths, OK? There's no construction, it's all digital. [Mark Gross] But you really are finding people are willing to pay for these digital booths, in anything like the kind of numbers that have been there before, and, and you've been able to develop that kind of, I mean is that really the, is that your, what's the stat on that?


[Sol Rosenberg] That's a great question. In our experience, we've been very fortunate that that's what our clients are telling us. We have heard from many other people in other conferences that they're not seeing that. So it really depends a lot on how you program it and, and, and what, what, what tools they have to interact with people. We're, since we focus on these conferences, we help our organizers, figuring out, figure out that now that you're not selling, you know, croissants, and lunch and coffee, right, what CAN you sell to drive traffic to the sponsor? So we asked a bunch of ideas that we go into detail and show them. Here's an example from Conference A, B, and C, and here's how they did their bronze, gold, bronze, silver, gold, platinum levels, and what's included, and lots of other such ideas.

The idea of, but the goal is to drive, the goal is results, right, to drive traffic to the sponsors, where the sponsor comes out at the end of the day and says yes, this was worth it, and I'm wanting to do it again. So, that's where we're looking to get to. And like everything else, Mark, it's an evolving thing. [Mark Gross] Yeah. [Sol Rosenberg] We're constantly, we have a very aggressive roadmap. We're coming, we have these two-week sprints we're constantly coming out with not just features from the feature perspective, but feedback, because every time we do a conference, you know every week that we're doing conferences, we're doing not just see how it goes for ourselves and anecdotally, but we do surveys and formal debriefs and figure out, OK, what went wrong, what went right, and what can we do better?

And all of these serve to feed the engine, and try to do better for the next conference. [Mark Gross] Right. You know, I think it's, you know, I've said this before, that, that this Covid epidemic has probably not changed anyth– it's not changed anything that wouldn't have happened anyway.

It was a – but it made it go much faster. Things that would have taken 10 years to evolve are happening now in six months, seven months, over the, over a year. So it's a very rapid evolving, and that's exactly what you're saying over here, which is, which is, which is very interesting. You're evolving, I understand. So, so, and we'll see where we are, you know, six months from now. But, first of all, as far as sponsors. I could see sponsors, you plaster their names on the screens, and before and after. But the trade show booths, I mean, we did one recently, and I think there were 3 or 4 people who came to the virtual trade show booth, it's, how do you drive traffic over there? What is, what, is there a secret to that? Is there a method, a method?


[Sol Rosenberg] I don't know about secrets, and I don't know how other people do it, but we are always helping our organizers to figure out ways how they can tastefully drive results to sponsors. So, whether it's before, during, or after talks, sponsored messages, or value that the sponsors offer. Sometimes it's premiums and giveaways.

Sometimes it's white papers and other things, but to raise their profile in a very tasteful, dignified manner, and have their messages available, we find that people who are interested in what they have to say will come talk to them. And they're available, they engage, and they can engage in a video conversation just, just like this, so. Or, if they're not there in our platform, they can request a meeting, because, you know, they may not be there the entire time. So it's those kinds of things. There's no one magic silver bullet, but we try to layer a lot of it. You know, you made a point before, I'd like, I'd like just to amplify, which is because it's true all around us, right? We've seen so many business trends with this real estate in Manhattan. Or or, or lots of other different types of stores and kinds of businesses.

Some that have, maybe had been on some decline, which unfortunately this world situation has accelerated, and some which may be were on their way up and has totally changed. Like Whole Foods, for example, there was an article recently in the Journal, how Whole Foods, there's a number of their stores that are not open for customers, that have delivery only. Five years ago, if we had this conversation, You know, we would have never imagined that. You know, that, along with "Where do you think you'll be in five years?" were the two things we would have gotten wrong for sure.


[Mark Gross] Right, right. Yeah, they found by re-imagining the supermarket by closing it to customers and just having people picking, they were able to generate 10 or 20 times as many deliveries an hour per picker. So, that was a surprise. Totally not, totally not obvious. But, yes, so we're really, we're talking about re-imagining how, talking about conference, about how scientific information gets disseminated, and, and one, you know, thing you pointed out is people don't have to travel anymore. But now you've got to deal with 24 times zones. What, what happens on these conferences? When, what, how do you keep from somebody not having to be up at 3 AM? Or maybe you can't.


[Sol Rosenberg] Yeah, so, so you're a million percent right, and we talk about this all the time. It's really super important, because, as I said, a conference is not a long Zoom meeting. OK? It can't be. So, people won't sit there for that long. And as you said, the second problem is time zones, right, the being 3 o'clock. So, how do you do it? So, there is actually a sweet spot of time zones, Somewhere from, let's say, 9:30, 10 o'clock in the morning Eastern US time, for the next 3 or 4, 3-ish hours, is fine for the US, and even for west coast, fine for Europe, of course, and also fine for most of Asia.

So the question is, how do you keep your things that have to be synchronous in that time zone? So, we have developed some very interesting methods of what we call compressing time and allowing you to achieve your goals of publishing and disseminating the information, and the discourse, and having a fun, exciting production, because at the end of the day, people are used to watching TV. So it's gotta be a fun production. It can't be a bunch of, you know, boring talking heads, because they won't sit there for that either. It's like "Boring. Next!" Especially younger people. It's like, "Next!" So you can't do that. So we come up with lots of ways where we compress the time and show you, how do you produce your conference in three hours of synchronous activity, right? That's gotta be live, and that works for all the time zones. and everything else in a time-shifted manner.

So that's amongst the different tools that we use, but app– that accomplishes the dual benefit of: A, being able to be there for all the time zones, and B, not having to keep people in their seats forever and ever and ever.


[Mark Gross] Right. So, well, on that, I mean, do you have any statistics on how long people are willing to sit, and what the threshold for online attention is? I mean...  [Sol Rosenberg] It really depends on how a conference is programmed. But I gotta tell you, we see the statistics, because in talking to organizers, so we have many organizers who listen to what we have to say, and say, hmm, OK, this is new, we'll try it your way. It sounds good. Makes sense. Let's, let's try it your way. And they do it our way. And we're talking about large conferences with a thousand and fifteen hundred presentations, that, normally, if they were at a venue, would be a week, solid week, which if you go in Hawaii, maybe is a good thing. But a solid week, from eight in the morning till ten at night, because how else do you do the presentations of that content, where you're having, you know, presentation, Q and A, presentation, Q and A, presentation, Q and A in, like, 40 tracks wide, right? Those kinds of things. So we do those five- and ten-ring, ten-ring circuses all the time.

And we do smaller boutiquey ones as well, But yeah, how do you, how do you compress it so you're achieving your goals of all of that content? Now, what we find is there are a number of organizers who say, Nope. This is how a conference is, it must always be this way, and you must keep it to the traditional schedule. OK, you're the boss, we do it your way. And what we find is people come in the morning for the keynote or something, and then goodbye.

[Mark Gross] Yeah, what is a threshold? Isn't, I mean, I know, just doing Zoom meetings, I mean, I'm much more exhausted now than I was when I was working out of the office. So, so, I mean, what, is there a threshold? I mean...

[Sol Rosenberg] I don't have hours. I don't have hours, in terms of it. I'm trying to remember who did the famous, there's a famous quote, right? "The mind can only absorb what the seat of the pants can endure." It really depends on the conference and how it's programmed. You know, some conferences who have exciting things, some will stay up to watch it. Look, if you had an exciting TV show and it was on late at night, you, you'd probably watch it, as I would. But if it's boring stuff or things I'm not interested in, I won't be there. So everyone makes their own decision. And this is marketing to an audience of one and we have to remember that more and more we're able to do that and we must do that.


So even in conferences, we have to be able to, to have the same sorts of approaches. OK. What about costs? I mean, people assume that an online conference is going to cost less than doing it, because you don't have the venue and all these other things, but there are other, there's technology, there are other costs. I know we've done things, there's coordination cost, there's all kinds of things going on. Where are the costs going on over here, what are you seeing?


[Sol Rosenberg] Well, I can't speak for what other people charge because people charge in lots of different ways. The way we do it is, we charge with the, with the effort involved, usually geared by how big the conference is, expressed by the number of presentations or papers, is how we price it. And very interestingly, whereas a lot of other, most of everything else out there, that we know, are toolkits, where they have these wonderful platforms, and say, OK, here are the keys to the kingdom.

And to use the Princess Bride line, you know, Have fun storming the castle. You're on your own. Enjoy running your conference. Whereas, what we do, is, we do it all for you. So we have a team of 12 plus people that will sweat the details of your conference that are on your team. So we'll train all the presenters, and we'll gather all the recordings, and we'll build a schedule, and we'll run the software, and the day of, we're running all this, so you have nothing to do but to program your conference, get your people in, you know, you've programmed them and gotten them to do, to agree to do the presentations, and accept the papers. And, you know, and then we take over from there, in terms of both the mechanics and the coordination. So, that's where the costs are, but they are a fraction, of course, of, you know, you're not paying venue, you're not paying for big ballrooms. You're not paying for chicken or, or, or beef, or steak, or fancy, fancy veggies or that kind of thing. Viennese tables.

[Mark Gross] Right. So, you see, there's been talk about hybrid conferences in the future. Do you, where do you see that falling in?


[Sol Rosenberg] Yeah, so, absolutely, that's really where I think the next thing will happen. So, for the foreseeable future, we're all doing virtual, but people are starting to speak about how, hopefully, end of next year, God willing, things will open up. And we can have some sort of a hybrid conference. So, by a hybrid conference, look, we are human beings and we crave human contact. I would much rather, as much as I'm enjoying speaking to you like this, of course I'd rather speak to you in person, right? Because we're humans, that's the way we're built.

So, on the other hand, OK, people who've done conferences with us don't want to go back to the old ways, as I mentioned before. They want all the benefits of the virtual conference. They want the increased attendance, because they are publishing, and publishing is, you know, to make public. They want the biggest audience they could possibly get, so they want all of that. And they want the– and people who are attendees, would also love the opportunity of, as you said, in what you were doing, attending, cherry-picking sessions that they'd like to go through. I don't want to go for four days someplace, but I'd love to attend this guy's talk, and this guy's, and this one and this one, because it affects my research, both from a cost and knowledge perspective. So what we're going to have is these hybrid conferences where we have some people in a venue, either because they're able to, or, and/or it's safe, we hope, and all of that.

And everyone else, participating and even presenting remotely. I think, I mentioned before, You know, somebody may not, some heavyweight may not be able to give you a week at your, at your venue or 3 or 4 days with traveling and all that, but they'll give you an hour or an hour and a half to do a presentation and then you'll have a big name person headliner for your event. So, the benefits of both, OK, are so large, that this is where we believe it will continue to evolve. So, yes, the next big thing, in my view, hasn't happened yet. 

So, this is just, you know, Sol's prognosticating, but where I think it will be, will be, you know, some people local, and then everyone else remote, and you do the benefits of both, and we're already planning that, where we technically, we have it all worked out, how to do it, and it's pretty straightforward.


[Mark Gross] Right. Well, I think what we've been doing, presenters doing it remotely, I think we've already been doing for a few years, as, as large screens became normal in, in, in the hotel rooms for these meetings. I've already, I've been many times when the keynote would be doing it remotely or somebody would be coming in, they used to call it coming in by satellite, now it's coming in by, by, by phone line or by, by Internet. So, I guess people, I guess we're gradually getting to that point with technology. I just want to get one more point across and then I think we'll open up for questions. You were talking about compressing time. So, I mean, I assume you mean by that is that the reading material gets delivered in advance and then the quest– the QA gets there? I mean, what, what do you mean by that?


[Sol Rosenberg] You mean, how do we go about compressing time?

[Mark Gross] Well, what do you mean by compressing time?  I'll divulge the big secret, even though you're not a paying customer, but I'll divulge the big secret. No, whoa, whoa, I'll tell you. Here's the situation: since all of these presentations are being recorded, right, why force people to sit through them on YOUR schedule? Like, let's take a lesson from Netflix and let them do it on THEIR schedule.

Let them just participate in the Q and A, in a, that's the one thing that you, is difficult to do time-shifted. Yes, we have, in our platform, where you can post questions ahead of time, and because of our repository, the conference lives after the conference as well. And you can continue asking questions, and the presenter can continue answering. But the way we did it, is suggesting the following: instead of where you have an entire afternoon, maybe, you know, 10 rooms wide, and in every room, 10 people, you know, presentation, Q and A, presentation, Q and A, presentation, Q and A, for an entire afternoon, which you would do in a physical venue, how about we just pull out, pull out the Q and A?

And then, put the five, or six, or two, or eight people in a room that are presenting on a theme, because that's pretty much how you're programming it anyway, right? You have these breakout tracks and even within the tracks, three or four or five presentations on similar themes.

And then you have a discussion with those three, five, seven people in a 30-to-60-minute block, on, talking about their papers, answering questions. So, you have a session chair-slash-moderator come in and talk, having seen all the videos, having seen questions that have been previously posted. Because remember, what we do is take those videos, and post them a week or two before the so-called start of your event. So, people started looking at those, The event was open, people were watching them, people were even typing and posting questions on their own schedule. Session chair comes in with all of those questions, and they're in the field, and they have their own questions, so they're armed, and they start the discussion. So you've got three to five people having a, a fun discussion, along with the moderator. You know, it's like, I call it a cerebral slugfest, you know, it's a lot of fun. And that is something people will want to watch, and then people can participate, they can raise their hands and participate via video, so, and be recognized, or just type things into the chat box, and type in questions, that is an exciting thing.


That's something they'll stay up even late at night to see, OK? 

[Mark Gross] Yeah, I think this is happening, I mean, actually, I've heard of this happening in education also. Some schools have been flipping whole, their whole model. The traditional model has been exactly that. You go and you listen to a teacher talk for a while, then you go home and do your homework. Instead, why not listen to a video of that, and do your homework in class, so that you're there with a teacher in place.

[Sol Rosenberg] And actually, we co-opted, we co-opted that term, that they call that the "flipped classroom," so as homage to them we call it the "flipped conference," OK? In our, in our...

[Mark Gross] The issue I see is, how do you get people do their homework in advance, to do all that in preparation?

[Sol Rosenberg] So it's really this kind of thing where they're, you're communicating with your attendees, and you're telling them, OK, this is how we're going to do the virtual conference. So three weeks before, they're getting a screencast with the entire schedule, and this is how you should do it, and this is how it's going to work. But they choose not to, so, during that event, during that 30 minutes, they can go and mouse over to the presentation and watch it or skim it or something, and then come back.

I mean, I'm not there with a gun to their head telling them when they should watch it, but they certainly have the opportunity. And by and large, by the way, people enjoy that a lot more, is the, is the feedback we get from conferences we do, when they opt for the flipped conference type of format, and you can do it in compressed time, where it's good for all the time zones. So, that's interesting.


[Mark Gross] So, that all sounds like really interesting ideas. I think we probably should go to the questions and see, Marianne, do you want to come on, and...?  [Marianne Calilhanna] Yeah, we have some good questions. Many that I wanted to ask too.

So, when recording a virtual conference, capturing the audio and video is straightforward, but how, or can you, capture the associated chat record? Because that is just as important. And this just happened to me last week. I was chatting at a conference, but the chat was so, going so fast and furious, I couldn't get back to my thread, it was hard, I wasn't able to continue my conversation. So, I think that's going to become more important.

[Sol Rosenberg] It's too bad I can't share my screen or I'd show you, in our conferences, and on our platform, it doesn't, you know, it, they are, they are together. So the entire chat record, and, and questions are all, and answers and everything are all part, they live with the publication. So we've pioneered this new kind of video publication. One of the things, we can certainly say it in this audience, because you'll all understand, we turn each, each talk and each session into, into its own video publication with its own DOI, and the chat record becomes part of that, along with the video, along with its own metadata and MARC records that go out to discovery services. So this is a new form of publishing, if you will.

And, so, yeah, so we are definitely preserving the chat records. You call them chat records. To us they're just part and parcel of the conference preservation. [Mark Gross] Right, I think there is, there is, it goes, goes to the whole concept of, there's a lot of other things going on at a conference other than just the presentation. There's a Q and A, there's chat records, which we don't preserve normally. The questions that come up – [Sol Rosenberg] Which is, funny, how we all started, and that's how Underline started: to preserve what was going on at conferences and to create a repository for authentic, scientific conference information. So that's going to our longer term goal.


[Mark Gross] OK.

[Marianne Calilhanna] So, Sol, a question specific for you, what's your impression of the changes to conferences such as Frankfurt Book Fair? You know, the, the beautiful thing of a trade show like that is you have everyone in one place and, you know, you could have 20 meetings in one day with people who, it would just be impossible to do that.


[Sol Rosenberg] Right, OK. So what's the question?


[Marianne Calilhanna] You know, how to balance the virtual world with what we're missing from the real world, of having so many people at once. Well, is it possible to get those same numbers and have those same kinds of meetings?


[Sol Rosenberg] With all due respect, I don't see the question. I mean, Frankfurt works because everyone clears their schedule for those X days. And they're going to be physically there so that I can easily go from one to the other. Well, if I can do the same thing virtually, where everyone is clearing their schedule and they say they'll be available and I can pre-schedule times with them, why can't I do the exact same thing I do at Frankfurt, just, I'm doing it on a screen. And the only problem is they don't get to offer me a coffee or some water, but other than that... [Mark Gross] All right.

And we, and we did find, I mean, last year, well, Frankfurt got cancelled this year. [Sol Rosenberg] I believe they're running something new.


[Mark Gross] I'm not sure what. [Sol Rosenberg] They are running some sort of affair. [Marianne Calilhanna] It's just digital.


[Mark Gross] Even last year, we, there were a lot of meetings we couldn't fit in while we were there and got fit in afterwards as, as a follow on to that. But the nice thing about a place like Frankfurt is, they've cleared our schedule, you can stuff, putting everybody on their dance card. And now there's, there's no dance card. So, so...

[Sol Rosenberg] You know, we were doing, Frankfurt's a different kind of meeting than, than the most of the scientific conferences we're doing, because it's really a networking-only meeting. But if you ran it, we would run it the same way, right? The people have dance cards that you fill up, and find better tools to fill up the dance cards, and then easy ways to go from one to the other. Except we need to build in bio breaks. One of the things that we found actually, a mistake we made in early conferences, is we didn't build in any bio breaks, and we got such bad feedback! Because, like, come on, give us a few minutes! Because we don't want to miss anything.


[Mark Gross] Well, the same thing happens with the Zoom meetings that people schedule. You're going from 11 to 12, 12 to 1, 1 to 2. So, so, you've got to build those in some way. You've gotta do a psychiatrist's hour: it's only 50 minutes.

[Sol Rosenberg] Yeah. But, to your point before, about, about the, you know, the video publication, I just wanted to also add that, especially in the world of scientific meetings, the presenters really like it, for two reasons. For, for cutting-edge research, that maybe they haven't yet published, it's their first time, they're putting their digital stake in the ground, where they're getting a DOI for something new. It might even be a poster.

But now, nobody can scoop them, and no one can say, Oh, that was really my research. No, they published it first. It's on record, they have a DOI. You know, this concept is attributed to them. That's point one, and point two gives them yet one more line to put on their CV, so not only did they present in the conference, and it's published by so and so, and here's the proceeding under one DOI, but a second DOI is the video presentation, along with the chat and other transcripts.


[Mark Gross] Yeah, I suppose poster sessions could also have DOIs.

[Sol Rosenberg] Absolutely. Absolutely. Of course, of course.


[Marianne Calilhanna] So we have two questions that are very near and dear to my heart, as, you know, an exhibitor, and a sponsor of events, you know, the experience of the exhibit hall.

I find that very challenging to be replicated in the virtual setting. I think we're going to get better at it, but maybe we can just speak to maybe some visions that you have moving forward. I certainly had my own idea.


[Sol Rosenberg] We just touched on this earlier in the conversation and if you unpack the components of an exhibit hall, you know, we're all not enamored with paying a fortune of money to union labor to set up our booths. We're all not enamored with being in some hotel ballroom and whatever. But what we do want are the results. We'd like to meet the people for whatever our business aims are, right, like, to network with them, and that's where we're going, and support the conference. So, if we unpack that and give people a way to meet people, give them the tools so they can interact via video and chat and make appointments, and all of that, and, and fill up their dance card.

And then we have spaces within the conference where we're effectively driving traffic to the various exhibitors, raising their profile, raising their awareness, making sure that our attendees understand that yes, you're in a robotics confidence, well, here are 10 people that are doing this, this, this, this, and this. So, if this is your area of interest, you may be interested in speaking with them, so that they will get the traffic that they're interested in. And by that, I mean the results. So, that's what we're after, as you said, Marianne, of course we're gonna get better at it. But we're not doing too badly so far, but we're, we certainly know that we're not where we'd love to be, so, it's an ongoing evolving thing, along with the entire field of the future of virtual meetings.


[Marianne Calilhanna] So, a follow-up to that, and I'm wondering if this person has experienced this. I wish I experienced this, but can you speak to other sponsors/exhibitors? Do they need more staff involved in the meeting? So, the idea of, you know, you tap on someone's shoulder, but if we have multiple attendees, simultaneously, you know, trying to speak to, to people, staff, you know, it's clear at the, at the real-life event: you see a line, and people wait, or they come back.

Virtual world, you know, you could be bombarded with ten people trying to get your attention, so, any, any thoughts on how to negotiate that?


[Sol Rosenberg] Yeah. I mean, a little common sense never hurts, right? If I'm going to a meeting with a couple of hundred of attendees, maybe one or two staff will more than be fine. But if I'm going to, maybe, you know, the annual AI meeting with 10,000, 15,000 attendees, I may want to bring some extra people along just in case, so, that, that would be a good way. It's hard to gauge because this is so new, these are such early days, so I can't– better metrics than that are hard. But, you know, we live in a virtual world. You can have people on your staff that are on call, and then you can easily chat into them, say, Hey, I need help here, and then have them, if they keep their calendar somewhat clear, then if they have to, they can take a break from what they're doing and assist you. So that's one of the benefits that you can do in virtual, whereas physical, if there's a line, there's a line. You're not flying the person to Hawaii because you have, all of a sudden you have a line at your booth, right?


[Marianne Calilhanna] Mm-hm. How about the concept of the virtual swag?


[Sol Rosenberg] Mark? He's muted.


[Marianne Calilhanna] Mark, we've lost your –

[Mark Gross] I was saying Hawaii sounds like a good idea, generally. [Sol Rosenberg] I know, but you're not going to get them there while the line is still waiting. It'll take a few.


[Mark Gross] Right. Yep.


[Marianne Calilhanna] How about, you know, the virtual swag, you know, the, the, the items that we that we, love to give out to our customers and prospects, you know. Have you seen any creative virtual swag items?

[Sol Rosenberg] Yeah, lots of them! I mean, people are always– it's another evolving thing, you know, what, what can we give out that's of value to our attendees? Sometimes it's books, sometimes it's paper, sometimes it's, sometimes it's just fun stuff, you know, things that they're interested in. And you know, if you've got a bunch of geeky people, they're into geeky type of entertainment. So people do different sorts of things for virtual swag that I think would be of interest. Sometimes, it's people giving them a choice of, you know, pick one of these five things. Yes. So, that will, with everything else, that will continue to evolve.

[Mark Gross] How do you, I mean, then you're shipping things all over the world?

[Sol Rosenberg] No, no, no. Digital, digital, digital, digital, digital.

[Mark Gross] Digital, digital.

[Sol Rosenberg] Yeah, I saw, it came across my desk: there was this one company that offered you to do this, some digital swag, right? So with shipping and everything, their lowest cost per attendee was like $47. What are you, out of your mind? I don't think I've ever done a $47 giveaway even at a physical show, as my cheapest thing I'd give away, you know, with shipping and overhead. No, it's all digital, of course. I mean, think about it: you can give away movies, and books, and TV, and audio, and, and courses, and, and, and other things, and, and, and entertainment! You know, if everyone in my community is interested in such and such, I can give them the choice of music, audio, video, or other things, that, that, that they'll find, at the end of the day, anything you give away as swag is something they'll find valuable, right? If you've given them a glasses thing, or, or, or a charger, or a USB stick in the old days, that's because, they only took it because they thought it was valuable. Even a pen, because their kid would use it, right?

[Mark Gross] You know, we're talking about really re-imagining a conference. Really, that's what we're talking, re-imagined conferences.


But a lot of the metaphors we're using are really, you know, what we do with live conferences. Any, any other creative, anything on your mind here about new creative things that are not a metaphor, what, what's, what's happening that will be different and better?

[Sol Rosenberg] OK, so I'll answer that with another question that's been bothering me recently and I think I gotta go up and talk to Mister Merriam and Mister Webster, who are, well, you know, long not with us, but the lexicographers up there to help, help me with some of these answers. What do you call, what, how do you describe the verb for going to a Zoom meeting, or to a GotToMeeting, or whatever, or to Google or Teams...

[Mark Gross] Gone Zooming!

[Sol Rosenberg] You're "dialing in," you're "calling in," you're... right? These are all verbs that have nothing to do with what– you're "clicking in"? So, all I'm saying is yes, you know, we need, we need better metaphors for a lot of this. And as we re-imagine things, you know, people will come up with, with new ways of doing things, and new ideas, and then the younger generation that maybe have never experienced face-to-face meetings, they'll have the kinds of interesting responses, like, once they handed a little kid a, an actual, you remember the three-and-a-half-inch floppy disk? He goes "Oh, look, somebody 3D-printed the 'save' icon!"

[Mark Gross] I mean, my, my kindergarten-age grandson, they had, at their graduation, had face masks that were printed with "Zooming into first grade," so.

[Sol Rosenberg] Cute.


[Mark Gross] OK.

[Marianne Calilhanna] Yeah, I scream every morning "Log on! You've got five minutes to log on!" instead of "Catch the bus! The bus is here!"


[Mark Gross] OK, any other questions?

[Sol Rosenberg] We're all going through it, but it's fun, it's like, you know, we, we have to make it fun, because you know what else are you gonna do, right? So, find the fun in it.


[Marianne Calilhanna] Yeah. Well, we're coming to the top of the hour, and I want to thank you both very much for taking, taking time out of your day to join us, and thank you, everyone, for attending this webinar. The DCL Learning Series comprises webinars, a monthly newsletter, blogs. And you can access all of these from our website. You can also check out our on-demand webinars section, and that's all available at

We do hope to see you at future webinars, and if you ever have an idea for a topic you'd love to partake in our lunch and learns, I invite you to reach out. I would love to hear from you. Have a great day. This concludes today's broadcast.

[Mark Gross] OK, good to see you, Sol.

[Sol Rosenberg] Good seeing you.

[Mark Gross]  Thank you for showing up, for tending us. Bye-bye.

[Sol Rosenberg] Thank you.

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