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TechEd Europe - Whiteboards, aren't they just BOF's with a different name?

9/22/2006

Birds of a feather sessions have a bit of a bad reputation for quality. I have had a lot of enquiries from both speakers and attendees about our whiteboard sessions at TechEd Europe. The question basically comes as "Hey, these Whiteboard sessions, aren't they just Bird of a Feather (BOF) sessions? No they are not - here is how they are different and why as an attendee if you prejudge our whiteboard sessions you will miss out on a lot of good presentations.

Whiteboard versus Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather sessions (BOF) are often scheduled before or during breakfast, or during an event activity such as an attendee party. BOF sessions are not in the normal published agenda. Attendees must look at announcement boards, online, or daily publications produced during conference. BOF speakers are whoever submitted an interesting topic, and the speaker may have little or no speaking experience.

Whiteboard sessions are assigned a normal time slot concurrent with other sessions. However whiteboards are generally scheduled later in the week as many whiteboard sessions are a follow up to a related breakout session Whiteboard sessions are listed in the normal schedule with other sessions. Whiteboard speakers are pre-qualified the same as any other speaker, and in many cases the same speaker will also deliver breakout sessions at TechEd Europe. In fact if you look at the whiteboard sessions, you will see well known speakers such as Anders Hejlsberg, Carl Franklin, Ingo Rammer, and more.

This is not to say that BOF sessions are a bad form of presentation. BOF sessions certainly have their merits as well, but its important to understand how we have targeted our whiteboard sessions to be different.

Whiteboard versus Breakout sessions

So how are our whiteboard sessions different from the breakout sessions at TechEd Europe then? Whiteboard session rooms have a different arrangement of chairs to allow the audience to be closer to the speaker instead of having the speaker up on a stage separated from the audience. Possible arrangements are circular, semi-circular, and other similar configurations with the speaker in the front or in the middle. The room still contains a projector and speakers are encouraged to make use of it with demos and/or basic slide presentations. The key difference with whiteboard sessions is that they are designed to involve the audience. Exactly how the audience is involved is up to the speaker. Most speakers will choose to allow questions, or lead discussions based on their content. Whiteboards also are in smaller rooms. The smaller rooms are not because the sessions are less important, but rather to limit attendance. If too many attendees enter a whiteboard session it will not be effective and will simply turn into a breakout, or chaos. Whiteboard rooms are designed to handle a maximum of 60 attendees. A smaller audience size allows attendees an organized way for an interactive yet led and controlled conversation with the speaker and other audience members.

Whiteboard Discussions Are

Whiteboard Discussions are NOT

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