Conversation – Fully Hybrid Eastercon 2023

I rarely have the occasion to visit Eastercons in person. In fact I did it only in 2018 and 2019. Yet since convention went online (or hybrid) it became way easier for me to participate in this event. I was very satisfied with online offering last year, but Conversation went beyond my expectations.

Initial Concerns

I volunteered to be a programme participant. For quite some time I didn’t receive any detailed information. When I finally got the chance to chose items I am interested in I was a but surprised not to see which will be held online and which in person. When I was selected for four items I was concerned – how come that so many items will be online? Are they aware I am not able to participate in person? I made sure to mark this everywhere just in case. And then I realized that any items having remote participants will be hybrid. I am not sure if I missed this information earlier on the website but I learned it shortly before the con.

This was surprising and a bit concerning. As per my knowledge no one tried to do it before. Streaming items to and out of convention venue was something I got used to. Yet having in-person and remote participants in the same programme item? Not only that but repeat it multiple times in different rooms? I thought that was a recipe for a disaster!

How wrong I was! When the convention started I saw how smoothly everything worked. Later, during my programme items, I saw how it looked form the back end. I am still impressed how Conversation made it to look so easy and effortless. I know it was a crazy amount of work – yet they made it so smoothly that it looked easy. What amazes me is both the bravery of the decision and how well everything was executed!

Screenshot showing a frame on YouTube. In the center there is a picture of a robot and a dragon. Above is the name of the con 'Conversation' and below 'Eastercon 2023' and in a smaller font '7-10 April 2023'.
The Conversation 2023 placeholder on the YouTube stream.

Yes, there were some small issue. Some panels got delayed and at a few there were some sound quality problems. Yet overall everything went pretty well. Moreover fans who had to isolate during a con as they got covid were able to switch from in-person to online participation and it went well too.

Chapeaux bas!

Excellent Programme

Programme of Conversation 2023 was released rather late. Still it was worth to wait for it. The selection of panels and talks was great. Very often I had to choose between two or more items I REALLY wanted to see! Decision were not easy to make.

The item I enjoyed the most was Hay lecture given by Dr Colin Carlson. It was a bit terrifying talk presenting what may be the effect of global warming on infectious diseases. It also covered other topics related to warming of our planet, biodiversity, health and so much more. The presenter was a great speaker – I would treasure such lecturer in my uni times.

What else have I listened to? Definitely “Cults & Conspiracy theories” was a good panel! On top of that I watched some items related to fandom. They covered both historical and contemporary topics. Of course there were some good scientific and literary discussions too.

I will not judge how the panels I was in went. What I can say is that I was (again!) enchanted with the hybrid aspect of it. I was moderating one of the panels and was a panellist in three more. All of them were related to fandom. The hybrid green room was very cool. Maybe the quality of audio was not the best but it allowed me to feel a full fledged member. It also felt a bit like a social interaction I needed.

Picture shows a collage of three parts. Top left corner shows the convention logo and text about the programme item. Top right corner shows a mini feed from the empty conference room. Bottom is a close up at five chairs behind the speakers' table.
Before one of my panels I had the chance to catch the screenshot on how it looked for the remote participant. I had the view on both the audience and the panel.

Speaking of the social interactions – I didn’t participate in too many. The only thing I did was browsing Discord. Despite it I didn’t feel “left behind” because of the way how I participated in the con and this is the most important thing.

Looking Towards The Future

I suppose that what Conversation 2023 achieved will be copied by other conventions. It is possible to go hybrid so it is worth to do so. It makes me quite optimistic for the future. This Eastercon was a memorable one and I want to congratulate whole team of what they achieved!

Unfortunately, similarly to last year, there was a covid outbreak at the con. I don’t know the exact number of people who tested positive during or immediately after the con but it was large. This is an issue that future cons will have to look into. I hope everyone will get better without complications.

My overall experience from the convention is overwhelmingly positive. My biggest regret is I didn’t make to it in-person. What I can say is that as an online participant I was very satisfied. Conversation was the most hybrid con out of the all I visited so far. Remote participation was not merely an added functionality – it was a significant part of the event. And people were present in both spaces. The best example is one of the panels when a person from the audience offered to read the questions from Discord. What I heard was ‘-’The first is mine question as I forgot I am here and I typed it in Discord’-’. Well done Conversation!

My next post will treat about Lajconik and will appear within two weeks.

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