I was at the annual ALT conference in Edinburgh last week. I’m often slow to appreciate things, so I accept this is not a revelation to many, but one of the aspects of ALTC that has struck me over the years is the informality of it as an event. I go to many conferences which have very formal opening ceremonies, dignitaries speaking and a carefully represented hierarchy. This is often what people want, so I don’t knock it, but I appreciate the contrast that ALTC offers.
This informality is manifest in many ways. The keynotes included one of our own in Sue Beckingham, Jesse Stommel sitting casually on the stage and Ollie Bray getting participants to make lego ducks. The Gasta sessions were fast and fun with Tom Farrelly MCing. The catering, ceilidh session and networking were all relaxed. ALT’s CEO Maren Deepwell and the team are approachable, and very much in the conference.
All of these are signifiers, that the participants are the important element here and not merely vessels for the messages to be delivered. It makes it a friendly, inclusive, democratic conference, in my view and one that is not concerned with hierarchies and position.
This informality should not be mistaken for a laissez faire attitude. It is the result of meticulous planning by Maren, the ALT team, the co-chairs and committees. All of the things you want to run well, do so – sessions, AV, catering, rooms, timing, support, etc. But above this military planning there is the culture of informality, and this is itself a deliberate and carefully cultivated outcome. As ALT’s President I am also delighted that this meticulous informality provides a cover for my own shambolic chairing of AGM.