On Tuesday of this week (time travel warning again) I attended a meeting at the University of Brunel as part of the “How DO We Direct Assembly?” meeting. Now this may come as a surprise to you, well it was a surprise to me, that in fact there were very few people wearing very tall hats. Like we all observed Abraham Lincoln wear at the 2012 UK Olympics. Yes in fact I would put forward the notion there were perhaps fewer people wearing that kind of head gear than there are currently in the room with me right now. And if not fewer definitely less and or equal - maybe?

Q & A Top Five:

Q: So what was the point of the meeting? A: It was a networking event. Q: Was it any good? A: Yes I thought so. Q: Was there enough tea breaks? A: No there never is enough of them. Q: You say it was a networking event Did you “network”? A: Yes I did, with people I knew, didn’t know and some I don’t like (that was a joke) Q: Would you go again? A: Yes

(Did you know that is 6 points? No it wasn’t, no it was after the did you know that was 6 points!)

Ok so we have established the meeting was good. We met our lost and dear friends and we networked but what did we get out of it really?

Do you now have a job because of it? No.

Now this is a good point. No not the “job” thing the whole “what did we get out of it thing”. You see often people don’t see the benefit of attending meetings or sending people to meetings. This I think is a mistake. The science being talked about did not directly involve the things I do. In fact I had seen one of the talks by one of the speakers only months ago. But that is not the point. I had missed some interesting points during that talk the first time. I also found that although I don’t directly do the science being presented to me I have links or it triggered sparks or memories about projects I had planned to do many years ago. In fact things I can now add to my proposals and none of which are stealing other peoples research (no honestly not). Nothing was direct it was all random connections. That is what talks and meetings like this do they expose you to external contacts which make your brain work. Good stuff. Brain network cool.

It also opened up my eyes to how things are presented. One speaker presented work from another group entirely. Clearly they collaborated together but oddly they were acting as if their method outclassed their collaborators. I say odd because yes their collaborator had presented the same results in a meeting in Liverpool a few months ago and well they did not mention the disparity of results.

But we must focus on the positive no? No we must discuss the breakout sessions - hmmmm.

And this is where things start to go wrong. The concept is good, discuss what you have learnt, thought of, established, generated the sparks from your little head after you have feasted your eyes on such sparkling wonders. But that is not what happened. What happened was that we started getting hung up on the whole order and disorder and it seemed as if it was all being driven to justify linking to another “Grand Challenge” project. I find this very odd.

Then there was a clear breakdown in driving the discussion whether it was a fear of silence or the goal of getting an answer that was needed there was no control. Some people were allowed to rant on and on and on and on and on at tedium about their own personal pet issue. There was no introductions for that matter. No 30 seconds name and sell yourselfness. Hmmmm. Shame because I think that lost the day a point.

Ok so be positive now please! Yes I will the speakers were good and they covered a whole range of topics and fields but the way the questions were done didn’t really work either. That is not positive now is it? Now you are limited how much you can do in a single day. But I listen to the radio I watch question time (I don’t I have but I don’t anymore) and they seem to work. Ok so you can’t ask questions beforehand because you don’t know what is being presented so that can’t be pre-formulated like that can it? No BUT you can if you are going to split “presentation” from “question” do it better perhaps even “more cleverly”. By also putting it into a separate section completely post coffee break. Then people are not thinking coffee, coffee, coffee they are have had time to digest briefly chat to each other and the speakers and now they can be a little question and answer session but one where the speakers can lead a group discussion rather than sit next to each other and look longingly at a coffee pot. If time is an issue then you make it an ally by using a structure that emphasises the timed aspect!

Final Thoughts

The meeting was good. The concept of the “Grand Challenges” is probably if I am being cynical another way to get money. That is not wrong at all though in these times. What would you change if you could? I would tinker with the structure where I could, I would investigate telepresence and the whole web viewing - google hangout live air things - cut travel costs. I would be smarter with the break out groups. I definitely would not ask for ideas for them and once given them some completely ignore the idea at the actual breakout group. I would also look at the people speaking and thing about how I would get those who aren’t to do so. Because it is likely they have probably more to say be don’t feel they have a voice to do so.

Meeting Score

4/6 - One is lost for the break out session and one is lost for the question and answer failure.