The fourth Self-Publishers Online Conference is May 8-10, 2012. Many people have asked us what it's like to attend a virtual conference, so in this post, we'll share the experience of a typical "day in the life" at SPOC.
Obviously, as the organizers, during the three days of SPOC, we are bit busier than an attendee, but here are a few the things you can expect at SPOC. (Note that all times are Pacific time.)
Last year, we opted to start SPOC a bit later, which gave people more time to stop by the site, log-in and download handouts before the first session starts. So, on day one (May 8) for example, about 10 minutes before the hour, you'll be settling in for the first session at 9:00 AM
On the days of the conference, you see a Log In button in the upper right corner of the Web site. Click button and enter the user name and password you requested when you registered. The site takes you to the member welcome page, which has tips for using the member area of the site. (If you want a look at the pages we'll be talking about, please check out the Behind the Login page on the SPOC Web site.)
You then click the Seminar link on the member menu near the top of the page. The site displays the Seminars home page, which includes a grid of the conference days and seminar times. It also has links to the individual seminars.
Now you click the link for the appropriate seminar. The site displays the seminar page with a description of the seminar and the speaker's biographical information. If the seminar has a handout, you'll see a link just below the seminar description. To download a handout, you just click the link, and your browser will try to open or save the file. You can save the file directly to your hard disk by right-clicking the link and choosing "Save Link As" or "Save Target As," depending upon which browser you are using.
You also see the phone number and conference ID you'll need if you want to hear the seminar via telephone. Or, if you prefer, you can listen on the Web through an audio player on your computer. Just click the Play button on the player (and make sure your speakers are turned up!) to join the seminar.
When the seminar starts you'll hear one of us (Susan Daffron or James Byrd) introduce the speaker, and then the seminar will begin. In some cases, the seminar is a question-and-answer format, where the host interviews the speaker. In other cases, the speaker takes off and runs through a prepared presentation.
During the seminar, you can use the Seminar Discussion area at the bottom of the page to post your comments or questions. One of the hosts will be monitoring these posts, and if we can work a question into the seminar, we will do so. You can also engage with other attendees before and after the presentation using the discussion area. Some speakers will take questions at the end of their presentation, which is yet another opportunity for you to get the answers you need. During the seminar, the phone lines will be muted to protect the quality of the recording, so the discussion area is your best means of communicating with us. In some cases, we may open the phone lines for questions after the seminar is over.
While you are listening to the seminar, you click the "Refresh Discussion" button once in a while to see what other people are saying. The most recent posts appear first in the discussion list, so it is easy to keep up.
The first seminar ends and you catch your breath as you try to assimilate all the great information you just received. The seminar may go on for a few more minutes as we wrap up and potentially get a few more questions answered. We are usually signed off within 15 minutes of the top of the hour.
You now have about 45 minutes before the next seminar starts. If you need to get some more coffee or visit the bathroom, here's your big chance.
You can also use this time to take a look around the Exhibit Hall, which has information about products and services specifically oriented around helping self-publishers produce books. Just click the Exhibit Hall link in the member menu and walk the virtual aisles of booths. Click the links in the shortcut bar on the left side of the page to display the corresponding exhibit on the right side. If you want more information about a specific product or service, just click the Request More Information link at the bottom of the page to take advantage of our "Virtual Badge Swipe" feature, which lets you request information without having to fill out any contact forms.
Before the 11:00 seminar begins, you log back on to the SPOC Web site and go to the appropriate seminar page. Once again, you download the handout if there is one, and get yourself set up on the phone or Web audio player. You'll be all set for another hour-long seminar packed with information you can use to put your knowledge and passion into words, and get your message to your audience.
Whew! So much great information in such a short time! After we wrap up the second morning session, you'll can take a break before the Q & A Roundtable discussion, so if you want to grab something to eat, now is the time!
The Roundtable discussion is an hour-long, open forum for questions and answers. We had an impromptu roundtable at SPOC 2009 when a speaker had an emergency and was unable to present her scheduled session. The Q&A session went over so well that many participants suggested we turn it into a regular part of the conference. We did in 2010 and 2011 people loved them, so yes, Roundtables are back in 2012 as well.
Each day has a Roundtable discussion at mid-day for one-on-one attention from the SPOC hosts. This is your chance to discuss what you've learned or get answers to questions about YOUR books.
After the Roundtable discussion, you'll have another hour-long break before the afternoon sessions begin. It's another chance to grab something to eat or just stretch your legs. (Here at SPOC World Headquarters, we take our dogs out for a walk.)
The afternoon sessions go a lot like the morning sessions. Each seminar goes for about an hour, and then you have about an hour before the next one begins. (See the SPOC Agenda page for details.)
Don't forget that you'll also be able to download the seminar audio files as they become available. The files are usually ready some time before the next session begins, or within an hour or so after the last session of the day is over.
I hope you enjoyed that little journey through a day of SPOC.
It is hard to describe the energy and excitement of learning so much valuable information and sharing the experience with your peers, but if you check out some of the testimonials sprinkled around the SPOC site from the last three years, you'll get a feel for it.
If you haven't registered, please do so right now!
We hope to "see" you at the conference. In the meantime, live long and publish!