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Technical conferences are a great opportunity to meet with your peers from other mills or companies; discuss the issues of the day; learn how others are coping with problems similar to your own.Though...

July 1, 2003  By Pulp & Paper Canada

Technical conferences are a great opportunity to meet with your peers from other mills or companies; discuss the issues of the day; learn how others are coping with problems similar to your own.

Though always technically-based, conferences are themselves becoming increasingly computer-driven. No longer are presentations prepared on overheads or even on slides; they are almost all computer-based. This allows many more options for graphics, animation and control of the presentation.

However, changing computers between presentations is much more time-consuming than changing a slide carousel. And a slide projector never needs to be re-booted…. One way around these problems is to load all the presentations for one session on a single computer (perhaps the moderator’s). This way computers do not need to be changed between papers and problems are much less likely.


But this is only one aspect of the conferences — most of the conferences are spent watching other people’s presentations. This, too, has been changed by technology. Pre-prints used to be large volumes, often one per day of the conference. Now participants are often given the choice of paper or plastic — in this case, either the paper pre-prints or a CD. This can be a difficult choice, as the paper pre-prints are not as convenient to transport (for either organisers or participants), but the CD does not allow convenient review during the sessions.

I prefer the CD as I am usually far from home and it is much easier to fit in my luggage. The real advantage to the size is once home, storing all those bulky pre-print books takes up a great deal of room if office space is limited. The CD is not only small to store but also lends itself to very easy searching — the primary advantage of the electronic medium.

Paper Reference

I found the choice between CD and paper easy to make, but I missed the convenience of the paper reference during the sessions. The recent PAPTAC Annual Meeting solved this problem in an elegant fashion. The main body of the pre-prints came on CD, but the full set of abstracts was in a convenient booklet. I found this to be the best of both formats: size and ‘searchability’ of the electronic, with the convenience of paper during the sessions. I heard many people comment favourably, with few negatives. The CD format for pre-prints is here to stay, as with so many other documents.

Keeping track

There are so many conferences and papers presented every year, it is difficult to keep track of them and impossible to attend every one. It helps to share experiences with colleagues within your mill, and keep the pre-prints in your company library. A technique I use to keep track of the papers from the various conferences is to keep a file folder to hold the ‘Table of Content’ pages from the paper pre-prints, along with the program guide. I cut the contents pages from the books, and print them from the CD’s to store them in the file folder. I also keep a file folder on my computer with the contents pages from the CD pre-prints (you just need to copy them over from the CD; I keep separate subfolders for each year). Unfortunately, as wonderful as Acrobat PDF files are for portability and size, they are not searchable from Windows Explorer. However, you can still open each contents file and search it individually for a topic of interest.

Benefiting from conferences

These are the techniques I use to ensure that I, and my colleagues, get the most benefit from attending the various conferences. You not only need to attend the presentations, but also plan which you wish to attend and then prepare by reading the pre-prints for each session. At the presentation, ask questions during the question period — if there is a point you did not understand there are undoubtedly others in the same position.

It is also important to make the effort to meet people from other mills and other companies, and engage them in discussions on items of mutual concern. As I meet with people at the sessions, I often find the same topics coming up repeatedly. Many mills encounter similar problems, and would benefit from sharing their experiences. That is what attending a conference is all about — sharing your experience and learning from the experiences of others. This should not be limited to the formal presentations, but continued throughout the entire conference, in all settings.

After all, anything worthwhile takes some effort. As with any event, you will only get out of it what you put in.

Hope to see you at the next conference!

Dan Davies is the application manager at Degussa Canada in bleaching and water chemicals. He can be reached at dan.davies@degussa.com#text2#

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