The CEA Events Team recently ran EA Global: London 2021. You can read about some of our other events here. We want to make sure we’re exploring all the most promising options and aren’t limiting our plans to things we have done in the past.

The feedback we got after EA Global has been incredibly helpful, and we also wanted to open up a broader community discussion on what events would help us coordinate and have a significant positive impact.

Please give us your ideas!

We won’t be able to do everything you propose, but we’ll read and consider it all. This is the brainstorming phase; don’t limit your suggestions to things that you think are especially new, insightful, reasonable, or the like— have a low bar for submitting ideas. Feel free to comment on others’ proposals, too.

How can I suggest something?

  • You can comment on this post
  • You can submit using this form (with or without sharing your name)
  • You are also always welcome to email hello@eaglobal.org

What should I write about?

  • How could we improve EA Global?
  • Should we introduce new kinds of content? Should we have more content? Why or why not?
  • Are there events we should be running but aren’t?
  • Anything else you think we should hear.

This thread is mainly for events that CEA should run. Feel free to also suggest events that community members should run, but we might set up a separate channel for those ideas.

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16 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:24 AM

EAGs can turn into a long weekend of 1on1s for some people.

I think this is probably happening more to senior EAs.

See actual message:

 

Thoughts:

  • I guess that senior EAs (gatekeepers) tend to be more locked up in 1on1s. People not in these 1on1s—everyone else in the conference—is in a different pool of "leftovers". Maybe the "leftovers" are missing both senior people as well as ambitious, junior people. This (completely innocent) process might lead to some sort of "adverse selection"/"attractor state" story, as more people realize that the pool of people has changed.  As a result, “speed meetings” might not fix things.
  • It’s common to advise a new EA to prioritize meeting people over going to events (sometimes the senior people also mention that they don't attend events at all). This raises issues: if this advice is so dominant, we should signpost it for everyone—but then we need clarity about what the scheduled events are supposed to be.
  • A valid perspective is that a 1on1 fest is optimal. But if this is true, maybe we can lean into it and set up another format of conference?

You could write a lot about this, but a weekend of 30 minute 1on1s has different value than a  meetup. I think the openness, flexibility and dense concentration of people in a conference creates valuable interactions.

Overall, I’m not sure this is a defect, but there is probably something going on related to scaling. There is an opportunity to make things work better.

 

If you believed thought some of the above was happening and you wanted to edit EAG to address it, it would require care and moderate actions. Maybe we could nudge people into open events, or develop 1:2 or 1:3 formats.

This takes some coordination, so for next steps, we probably want to hear from others.

This closely matches my personal experience of EAG. I typically have back-to-back meetings throughout the entire conference, including throughout all talks. At the most recent EAG London, I and a more senior person in my field mutually wanted to meet, and exchanged many messages like the one in the screenshot above -- "I just had a spot open up in 15 minutes if you're free?", "Are you taking a lunch break tomorrow?", etc. (We ultimately were not able to find mutual availability, and met on zoom a couple of weeks later.)

Like Charles, I don't necessarily think that this is a bad thing. However, if this is the primary intent of the conference, it could be improved somewhat to make small meetings easier (and possibly to include more events like the speaker reception, where people who spend the rest of the conference in prearranged 1:1s can casually chat).

I personally would be very excited about a conference app that allowed people to book small group (1:2) or (1:3) meetings. I find that many people I speak to ask the same questions, and that I am frustratingly unable to accommodate everyone who wants to have a 1:1. I sometimes hold group zoom calls (1:3 or 1:5) afterward for people who I wasn't able to meet during the conference, and this format seems to work well.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I think your suggestions are excellent. We’re exploring ways to support group meetings and shorter meeting times at EA Global.

This is a great comment! EAG has really encouraged people to focus almost exclusively on 1:1s for several years now, but it's not set up for that

It would be nice to see a wider variety of ways to build connection and/or a different conference format that's really designed for 1:1s first

Thanks for this comment, and for boosting Charles’ message!

Thanks so much for taking the time to write up these thoughts. Lots of people seem to be having this experience, so I really appreciate that you brought it up.

We have in fact been prioritizing one-on-one meetings, as attendees have been reporting that they get a lot of value from them. And we’re always looking for ways to improve our approach, so we would love ideas on how to better support those meetings.

It sounds like you are pointing out the following things: 1) Some of the most engaged attendees are in one-on-one meetings for most of the conference, which makes attendees at other parts of the event (e.g. speed meetings) less able to share experiences— which in turn may even lead to some kind of feedback loop, where people stop going to anything but one-on-ones. 2) It’s not clear who and what the other sessions are meant for. 3) We should find more ways to support a meetings-first conference.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, because these points are super interesting and helpful to hear.

This was a very thoughtful response, yes, I am saying 1, 2 and 3. 

I also think Kirsten and Rachel's experiences are valuable (maybe they have distinct ideas that are less directly expressed).

 

For next steps (?) I don't know if or how these points should be addressed. I guess this requires involvement by the event organizers at a high level, and is interwoven with other considerations that might be difficult for a user like myself to be aware of. 

While taking into account the above, maybe we could brainstorm some more lower-level systems (e.g. to facilitate for 1:2 or 1:3 matching) if CEA decides this is useful?

On my wishlist is more nooks with couches for small groups to have a quiet chat

Agree. If possible, also, lots of private rooms people can grab for sensitive conversations, and/or places outside they can easily and pleasantly walk together, side-by-side, for same. 

Thanks for these comments! I agree: more nooks and quiet spaces would be great.

First, I'm really thankful for EAG events and for the responsible teams.

I think the main difference of opinion I have around EA Global is around the fact that they seem to really put forward an optimistic and unified picture of things. The opening/closing presentations and introductions to presenters all have really positive and deferential spins.

They feel a bit (to me) like they're sending the message:

"Things are going great in EA right now. We've sort of figured out how the world works, and we know what to do about it. All of these speakers have super esteemed backgrounds and deserve to be listened to. Each one is really smart and is making a great point."

I think this is basically the same message as other popular conferences in other disciplines. And there are a lot of nice things about this sort of positivity.

In comparison, to me, my picture is more like,

"We've barely done some incremental steps, and we're very likely to be highly mistaken about some crucial steps, we just can't figure out which ones. We have a bunch of people who seem pretty good, but it's really hard to tell. It's not clear at all how many of the world's problems we could actually conquer, or if things are really hopeless. We need to try out best, but be really humble, and we should constantly be questioning ourselves."

I imagine this would be a far worse sales pitch for new EAs.

It's quite possible that a very positive picture is good for the larger events, with more newcomers, but that we'd want more of the "angrier, debate-friendly" structures for either more strategic/senior people, or for select smaller groups.

I really appreciate this feedback. Communicating uncertainty in reasonable ways and getting the “message of EAG” right is super difficult, so I think there’s probably a lot of room for brainstorming on this front.

For some reason, I just saw this post. Hopefully it's still being monitored. I've shared some of this feedback in the past but thought it was worth sharing here:

 

  • More small group (3-5 person) discussions and workshops - especially cause / affiliation / career meetups. Those are mostly 1-1 networking, which is useful, but I'd rather meet the same people in 3 small 20 min group discussions than in 5 or 7-minute 1-1s. 
    • Especially for affiliation groups
    • I think this will give more of a sense of community than 1-1s alone can do.
    • It's also easier to coordinate a 1-1 after a conference than a multi-person meeting, and you lose a lot more with >2 people virtually (e.g. due to lags and time zones being complicated etc.)
    • Maybe find an event app that could schedule >2 person meetings 
  • Make it easier for participants to spontaneously meet-up
    • E.g. "I want to discuss the recent Forum post discussing XYZ at lunch on Sunday, join me at 1pm if you're interested!"
  • More emphasis on office hours over talks: I think everyone agrees that talks are not the most valuable part of EAG (they are probably more useful at EAGx's). I'd happily have 50% less talks to have more office hours or workshops from EA speakers. 
    • You could promote recent work by those speakers online / on the Forum before the conference for interested people
  • Consistently open the conference app at least 2 weeks / 10 days before the event (something fixed that people can expect) and publicize this clearly on the website / slacks / email / etc. 
    • I would say even releasing the agenda >= 3 weeks before the conference so that people can read up on the speakers and take time to choose what events they want to go to. I understand that speakers sometimes change their plans, but it seems fine to me to update the schedule. 
    • Especially for new people, it can be useful to see even a rough agenda to get a sense of what kinds of events there are 
  • Post the full agenda and talks of every past EAG on eaglobal.org website. I sometimes want to share "that talk Neil Buddy Shah gave at EAG SF 2019" and then spend 10 minutes googling it. 
     
  • (Also I love the illustration!)


     

A Careers Fair

Not just lots of orgs inviting people to come work for them but lots of workshops. 

Thanks for this idea! This sounds interesting, so I’m curious if you have more thoughts on how this would work, and whether you feel it should be integrated into an “EA Global” conference, or if you are picturing it as a separate event.

I have many thoughts and always keen for a call.
calendly.com/jj-hepboin/