From the show floor: VALA2014

From the show floor: VALA2014

  1. Librarians are a social bunch: A lot of Twitter activity and separate hashtags for each session in which screens were set up to display tweets on screen.

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Having attended only one other Librarian’s conference in my short life as an #eventprof, I had minimal expectations of the social networking that would go on at VALA. How wrong can you be? Monitoring the official hashtag #vala2014 before the event I began to realise how social Librarians really are. At the venue there was a Twitter Wall in each room, on each keynote screen and within the exhibition hall. Tweets flew during sessions and I quickly realised Librarians simply love to share information.

Are the people in your Industry social networkers? If so, ensure you are set up so they can engage with one another and pass information on to others easily, both during the show and before and after it. 


2. Putting the questions differently: being able to message anonymous questions to the session chairs was a real winner.

A lot of VALA’s speakers were reporting on recently published papers and thus covering groundbreaking or new information resulting in a lot of questions from the audience. Microphones for questions were set up in the keynotes and a simple raise of the hand was sufficient to get attention in the smaller sessions. But most of us at one time or another have wanted to tap into the speaker’s expertise, but no way were we going to put our hand up and risk the potential embarrassment if others think we don’t know what we’re talking about. At VALA, by using the messaging functionality of the event app, delegates could anonymously post questions direct to the session chairs who channeled them to the speaker straight away or at the conclusion of their presentation. As an additional bonus, time was not a limiting factor as any unanswered questions could be followed up after the session meaning no-one missed out.

How are you thinking about taking questions from the audience at your next conference?


3. Great communications deliver: VALA exhibitor’s were well briefed and then great information was available for walkups on the day.

VALA2014 encompassed a 3-day conference and a well-structured exhibition. In addition to providing exhibitors with a thorough briefing about the event app by email, upon arrival at the event, the organisers made sure they were familiar with how to get the most out of the app. All exhibitors displayed QR codes at their booths so delegates could scan them and download documents, populating lead capture reports for exhibitors with their email addresses. For event organisers, gauging the number of likely walkups on the day is always problematic and second guessing the number of conference handbooks that will be needed can be a wasteful and expensive exercise. It was great to see VALA thinking about their app as a solution and promoting it via digital signage, through MCs mentioning the app and login details as a matter of course at the beginning of each day and by having an App Concierge booth at the entrance to the conference.

How are you getting the event information to your walkups and are your exhibitors fully briefed on all technologies in play at your next conference?


4. Waste reduction is back on the agenda: Digitalisation was a recurring  theme, if not a mantra signaling the appetite for the paperless conference.

One of ShowGizmo’s biggest selling points right from the beginning has been the ability to offer a digital handbook or programme instead of the standard page-heavy, glossy books we still see at too many shows. Digitalisation is obviously a burning issue for today’s librarians and was a common theme in presentations. Datacom IT offered live demonstrations of how to convert old books into a digital file format — their stand was one of the busiest stands during breaks. It was great to see the emphasis VALA is placing on going digital and reducing the use of paper over the next few years. We look forward to working with them to achieve this.

How much paper do you print for your conference? 


5. Great free coffee and lunch, strong wifi, good exhibition design and enticing content: A conference that ticked all the boxes — it’s easy to see why this biennial conference has lasted the distance since 1981.

I can’t write this piece without mentioning the efforts of Lesley Ryall, VALA’s executive officer, who was one of the calmest organisers I have encountered. Lesley was helped by the expert Waldron-Smith team and guided by VALA ‘overlord’ Alyson Kosina who has played a big part in almost every single one of VALA’s 17 conferences. This team clearly has a well-tested process that covers off every detail to ensure each successive event is up to the VALA standard. But they don’t rest on their laurels — they’re not scared of change, something that needs to be applauded in our conservative industry. They introduce new ideas and technologies each year and we were thrilled that ShowGizmo was one of these at this year’s event. We look forward to working with VALA for their 2016 conference.

What do your attendees expect at your conference? What innovations are you introducing this year?


“VALA2014 ventured into the world of the conference app with some trepidation and no experience.  Thank all the stars that we chose to go with the crew at ShowGizmo who held our hand every step of the way, including providing Josh Dry to support us onsite for the 3 critical days of our conference.  Not just affable, Josh (and all the team at ShowGizmo) have been hugely knowledgeable, professional and generous in educating VALA staff, delegates and exhibitors in the ways of the conference app. ” – Lesley Ryall, VALA Executive Officer


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