How to run an EPICS Collaboration Meeting
This page is intended for "lessons learned" by sites who have run collaboration meetings, as hints to help future meetings run smoothly.
The EPICS Council now decides where meetings will be held, so . There are usually 2 meetings a year, circulating between the Americas, Europe and the Asia/Pacific region. Future meeting locations that have already been fixed are usually listed here.
Collaboration meetings are usually 3 days long from Tuesday to Thursday or Wednesday to Friday, allowing for training and smaller working groups on the other days of the week. You'll need a big room for the full meeting, and some smaller meeting rooms for any workshops and training sessions you host.
Also somewhere near the refreshment location a room for any exhibitions; past meetings have succeeded in attracting companies who will a small sum to put up a display table at these meetings. Providing large-screen TVs or projectors in the exhibition space allows EPICS-related projects to demonstrate their software.
Recent attendance has been between 80-130 people, but this depends on the number of users from the hosting site and nearby. It can be difficult for government-funded workers (especially from US Department of Energy labs) to get approval for travel to exotic locations though, so expect attendance to vary. Workshops can be around 30 people, but may vary depending on the topic. If someone wants to run a workshop you can ask them for estimates on numbers.
To include some hands-on training you may may provide PCs capable of running a virtual machine for students to use, or ask them to bring their own laptops (which some will do anyway). Training is still possible without these, but would consist of basic lectures and demo's only. You would need to decide what kind of training you want, and organize some people in the community to give it.
Topics for workshops should generally be aligned with interests of the hosts. It will take support on the host side to make sure there is sufficient interest and attendance. Subgroups of developers such as the EPICS Core, CS-Studio and AreaDetector groups may ask to hold a private developers meeting adjacent to the main meeting, which will usually require providing a 10-15 seat meeting room with WiFi for each group for the period of their meeting.
If possible, start creating a website for the meeting before it is first announced to on tech-talk; some people will want to be able to find out more about the location when they first hear about it, so the announcement should have a link to that website.
Attendees from some countries such as China may have to navigate a quite long approvals process (internal, government and visa) to be able to attend, and may need a letter of invitation from you to get those approvals. Provide enough information so they know who to ask well in advance (3-4 months or more is advisable).
Eventually you'll most probably need online registration of attendees and possibly speakers, as well as to provide information about local hotels, transportation to/from nearby airports, and local tourist agencies for attendees' partners. Arranging a "partner programme" is usually unnecessary.
For the main meeting, a hall with LCD projector(s) for computer connection and a PC to display the presentation files. Most people will bring talks in MS PowerPoint, Adobe PDF and/or LibreOffice Impress formats (installing LibreOffice on this machine is advised, but not essential if you give people notice). It saves time and confusion at these international meetings if the PC can be configured with English language settings (Windows menus etc.). Providing a remote control for the presentation program and a laser pointer is helpful.
Some presenters may want to use their own laptops for live demonstrations, or if they're using a less common presentation program (e.g. Apple's Keynote).
In a large hall speakers should use a microphone if a PA is available; a radio-microphone is preferred.
The main hall (and ideally the other meeting rooms too) should have reliable, high-bandwidth WiFi internet access since most people will bring a laptop or notebook PC and want to connect up during the meeting.
Laptop batteries don't last more than a few hours, so there will be demand for power sockets in the hall too. If these are not available at every seat, providing extension leads spread about the room is generally a good idea and is much appreciated by attendees.
Refreshments should be available at the breaks mid-morning and mid-afternoon. If your institution can't afford to fund these itself it is acceptable to charge attendees a fee at registration to pay for them (exhibitors funds are also helpful here). People will expect to pay for their own lunches, and also to pay to attend the conference dinner which is usually held on the evening before the last day.
Setting an initial program structure gives presenters an idea of what topics the hosting institution may be particularly interested in, but isn't necessary.
In recent years the hosting site has been responsible for soliciting and collecting speakers names and talk titles; an Indico website can perform much of the clerical work involved automatically, but the talks will still have to be manual scheduled into the Agenda. Individual talks are usually allotted 15 minutes plus 5 minutes for questions, but some topics may be given additional time. Recent meetings have also introduced "Lightning talks" which are 5 minutes long with no question time, and these have proven popular and a good way to cover many topics in a short time.
The community will usually submit a number of submissions of presentations, but the hosts should expect to have to do some additional solicitation to fill out the program. This can (should) be informed by topics the host institute is interested in. Communications to the whole community about submitting talks should be sent to tech-talk.
Please extend this note, I'm sure I have omitted many things...