Event evaluation

The Telepoetics symposium took place online from 27 May – 5 June 2020. This creative-critical event featured contributions from 23 writers, archivists, activists, curators and academics. 121 people registered for the event and contributed to the discussions forum; the event was also open to the wider public to listen in to the podcasts, read the discussion, and access the resources. The Telepoetics pages of our website received 7172 views over a two-week period by participants from 40 countries around the world, including Bangladesh, Chile, China, India, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Thailand and Ukraine [see details below].

We received 29 responses to our anonymous questionnaire distributed at the end of the ‘Telepoetics’ symposium held from 27 May – 5 June 2020. We have provided the results of this questionnaire below, but have removed confidential information and any details that might identify the author.

What is your research background?

Undergraduate Student;Creative writer/poet/artist
Creative writer/poet/artist
Academic with institutional affiliation
Academic with institutional affiliation
Creative writer/poet/artist
Postgraduate Student;Creative writer/poet/artist
Academic with institutional affiliation
Postgraduate Student
Creative writer/poet/artist
Academic with institutional affiliation
Academic with institutional affiliation;Creative writer/poet/artist
Postgraduate Student
Academic with institutional affiliation
Other (please specify in following answer)
Academic with institutional affiliation;Creative writer/poet/artist
Academic with institutional affiliation
Academic with institutional affiliation
Academic with institutional affiliation
Academic with institutional affiliation
Academic with institutional affiliation;Creative writer/poet/artist
Independent scholar
Academic with institutional affiliation;Creative writer/poet/artist
Independent scholar
Academic with institutional affiliation
Academic with institutional affiliation
Undergraduate Student;Postgraduate Student
Academic with institutional affiliation
Academic with institutional affiliation
Independent scholar;Creative writer/poet/artist

What is your area of interest/study?

Humanities and Languages
English and Creative Writing
literature, art, cinema, writing
I have an interest in the use of telephony in stories, memoir and poetry.
Creative Writing + Contemporary Literature
English/American Literature and Critical/Cultural Theory
Modernist women’s writing, sound technology & the politics of aurality
20th century literature
Education and creative pedagogies
English Literature
Affect, feeling, deconstruction
Business partner of Crossed Lines
Education and creative pedagogies
C20 and C21 literature and theory; technology; globalization
History of art, visual culture
Creative and Critical Writing
English literature 
English Literature/publishing
Media literacies, utopian studies, countermodernism
Lit theory, continental philosophy
Literary and cultural studies 
Modernism and modernist poetry
English literature and radio studies
Literature and Visual Culture
I have a Master’s in Political Science but I have pivoted towards Sound Studies/Media, Culture, and Communication Studies

Do you have any comments regarding the Nearly Carbon Neutral (i.e. online) format?

It’s the first time I’ve seen this format used and I absolutely loved it. It was easily accessible and, obviously, much better for the environment.
It was well publicised and very rich in content. Interesting to read the feedback comments
Although it was a shame not to have the chance to meet in person, I really liked being able to engage with the papers in my own time. On the one hand, I found it difficult to contribute to the discussion forum – it lacked the spontaneity of the live event – but on the other, it allowed me to craft amore considered response. In terms of the environmental impact – and the advantage in terms of accessibility (and the inclusion of transcripts) – the format was excellent. 
Thank you!
The flexibility of time / location is positive, the lack of shared time interaction is less so. I think the NCN idea is good, but I would prefer a timetabled scenario with real time comment interactions – more like a live event. Possibly for the conversation elements only. But it is good to have the written comments to consider at leisure
I think it is a great initiative – particularly how accessible it is, both for those overseas and also as a means of adapting to current situation. I look forward to seeing how this is going to further develop with future events.
I think it’s a wonderful way to make conferences more sustainable. It was great hearing international voices and communing across the world.
Works really well, having everything in one place and being able to access it at one’s convenience, without travelling from one’s home. Helpful to have it available for an extended period (rather than just a day), and that it was open to all – not just those affiliated with a particular institution.
I liked it better than a normal conference, though it would be good in due course to meet people in the real.
Thought it was a model for future conferences in terms of opening access to those who could not usually attend.
I think the Nearly Carbon Neutral format worked really well.
It was terrific, and wonderfully accessible.
It worked really well, especially in the current situation – both pandemic and climate.
Thought it was a model for future conferences in terms of opening access to those who could not usually attend.
This is an excellent format, though streaming papers is time-consuming and requires significant commitment from participants. This might not be more than an in-person one-day symposium, but it might well have meant that participants’ expectations needed to change. 
It was great — I’d have been unlikely to attend in person as my institution won’t fund attendance unless I’m presenting. I also really liked everything being asynchronous because it meant I could listen to all the papers rather than ducking in and out in between other things.
A brilliant format for scholarly discussions: inclusive, accessible, low-cost, self-archiving
An excellent format. Enabled a greater range of voices to be heard. Liked the flexibility of being able to participate round work commitments.
I thought it worked well and was a good idea given the environmental impact of most International conferences.
It was a fantastic environmentally-friendly and flexible format for attending a symposium.
I thought it worked very well. You miss the physical presence, of course, and thus the extra occasions to rub shoulders and talk informally, but in many ways it makes for a much more intense experience. Having the papers up and the site active for 10 days meant you could take the time to get to know the papers in a way one can’t at a physical conference. In this sense it’s more demanding — in a physical conference you hear what you hear in real time; here you can re-read, etc., and perhaps one takes written discussions a bit more seriously than oral discussions after papers? It’s also a lot more work, I found, as a participant: writing and then recording the piece wasn’t easy! But that too was a good experience. It’s moving too to be part of this active ongoing, intense exchange with people all over the world.
Excellent. Besides environmental effect, it also broadens the possibility of participation. 
It seemed to work very well. While it couldn’t replace the feeling of being in a room with people, it generated some very robust conversations.
I really enjoyed the freedom to listen to the papers at leisure, and even to listen a number of times. I thought it was sensitive to the themes of the event, and worked much better than fixing audiences to particular times/dates in this difficult period. 

What worked well at the symposium?

The extracts were particularly helpful to me personally, and the comments section encouraged some really interesting conversations.
I think it improved access for people around the world and you could listen in your own time
The podcast format was wonderful; I could listen to the papers while on the move.
Everything, I think, although I needed to practice Teams (before the Final Call)
the flexibility to listen at will
The ability to download sound files and listen to them at one’s own pace was fantastic, along with the links to additional material that some speakers provided which were both informative and easy to access.
The interactive elegance of the website; the appropriate asynchronicity of events; the daily roundups via email
I think the papers were of such a high quality! The panels were well chosen, the introduction was inviting and enlightening and the conversations that took place in the forum were really fruitful. 
Pre-recording all the talks and having them available over the period. Most were very clear and audible. Excellent to have the transcripts and accompanying materials. Good to have the comment threads for everyone to leave feedback and questions. The website menu was clear, and generally easy to navigate. Great to have the emails sent over the period, too, to help foreground subjects and prompt engagement. 
It all worked well; the comments sections especially.
Access to the papers in one’s own time. Well set up conversations. Website design.
One-day conferences can be quite intellectually exhausting and I really appreciated the non-live presentations, which allowed me to listen over a few days at my own pace – I think this helped me to engage with the talks in a more thoughtful manner. The written Q&A was also great. I sometimes feel a bit embarrassed to ask questions (fearing they may not be clever enough) in face-to-face conferences, and this format took the pressure off me and allowed me to participate more. I feel that the quality of the responses was also better than what you usually get at face-to-face conferences, as the non-live format gave speakers more time to reflect on the question, check notes, etc. The website design (with the variously coloured telephones) was very good too.
asynchronicity; being able to listen to papers in my own time; the forums/comment features
I loved the podcast idea so I could listen on the go and engage in a different way. The range of topics and how thought-provoking they were. The conversations alongside the symposium were interesting and it was clear how engaged participants were. 
Access to the papers in one’s own time. Well set up conversations. Website design.
Discussion for each conversation was of a very high standard. Although only some attendees contributed, those who did were generous with their time and engaged extensively. 
It was an effectively executed shift to the online format. The shift worked brilliantly with the conference’s theme. I really enjoyed how many presenters were quite innovative in recording their papers. 
I thought the message-board format for comments was particularly good.
wonderful papers, fascinating discussions
Organisation of conversations. Excellent papers – varied, stimulating. Papers were more creative and engaging as a result of the format.
I appreciated getting to hear lots of different talks and the flexibility that came with the format, as I could fit it in around my (non-academic) work — I usually have to take annual leave for conferences at the moment. I thought the forum for discussions worked well, and actually allowed me to have more thought out responses than I usually do in person when you have to formulate an answer and respond fairly rapidly. 
Talks were incredibly informative and in-depth. Digital format really emphasised the telephone theme which was enjoyable.
Committed organisers working incredibly hard. Great job.
See above. Great success. Fostered a kind of sustained exchange that’s unusual in conferences. It also managed to accommodate a surprising range of different sorts of interventions: really inspiring, and yet there was also a communal feeling of a common project.
A lot went well! I particularly enjoyed having multiple days to process the symposium. 
Collection and posting of talks was handled smoothly by the organizers; not to mention the fact that they got some great speakers.
Good amount of time to engage with papers. Enjoyed the conversation function — it meant that questions and points could be mulled over and answers could be more considered than live conference format. Conversations so much richer and more welcoming of other contributors as a consequence (as opposed to typical panel q&a). Very high standard of material presented. Good range — enjoyed the critical/creative work as well as more conventional academic papers. Also great to see the launch of the poetry app on the final day. 
First off, the presentations were so wonderful! I also felt the transition from an in-person to an online symposium went over very smoothly. The talks were presented in a clear, thoughtful manner and there were small details that made the website easy to use and understand (for example, a different coloured rotary telephone for each speaker). Overall, the design of the website felt fluid and inviting and I think it worked out very well– thank you so much for all of your hard work!!!

What could be improved?

I genuinely can’t think of anything!
I feel there is a lot to take in and I am not sure how long access will be available for. It would be nice if the content is made accessible in some permanent way
Contributions to the discussion forum from a wider range of participants.
I can’t really think of anything.
I found the set up was not easy to comprehend initially. I did not receive any advice on how to access the symposium – ie to log into the Telepoetics page – from the start time of the event. I think an idiots guide to participants a day or two ahead is really useful, if only to re-iterate the connection details. 
It would be interesting to see how in the future this layout could be merged with ‘face-to-face’ engagement such as, if online, themed rooms on Teams where speakers and attendees could engage at set times.
(Down)loading times
Perhaps there could have been a scheduled time for some q&as? Maybe an hour or two when all panelists would be online? Although that’s tricky to manage calling in internationally…
Perhaps, if possible, the ‘Conversations’ could have had the names listed as a submenu, as if you couldn’t remember whose talk was where, you had to keep clicking through. A small point! 
Small things: I wonder if there are ways of making it possible to reply to a specific comment? and I wonder how could one encourage more people to write comments? It might also be good to have a facility to allow people to message each other directly. Lastly: maybe an opening live session like the one at the end.
Maybe the conference needed an area for playfulness and also for collating emerging themes. Reading back through some of the very lengthy Q&A commentaries was perhaps daunting for some attendees.
I missed the networking side of face-to-face conferences a bit. I am not sure how this could be incorporated into the Nearly Carbon Neutral Model. I think a final live conversation for each panel summarising the overall discussion in the Q&A may have been a nice way to wrap them up and help us to put a face to each other. In addition, I wonder if there may be a way to add private messaging, a calendar & a meeting option (via MS Teams, Zoom, etc.) to the format? This would allow participants to schedule short meetings with other attendees they are interested in meeting – this would be particularly helpful to PhDs and ECRs, I think. Overall, when the conference ended, I had the feeling I had not fully ‘met’ the other participants, so it would be good to address this if possible.
some of the website layout was a bit confusing (my screen allowed me to login on the comment feature and on the programme, the latter worked but former didn’t work).
As a non-academic, some of the topics or conversations were less understandable (to me) – without wanting to dumb down in any way, perhaps a little more explanation of some principles would have been helpful.
Maybe the conference needed an area for playfulness and also for collating emerging themes. Reading back through some of the very lengthy Q&A commentaries was perhaps daunting for some attendees.
Perhaps better formats for the supporting material – if the content management system would allow this. 
Perhaps having the papers available ahead of the launch of the discussions 
It would have been great if all talks had been able to have a transcript.
Some visual materials would have been good, so perhaps a mix of audio files, PPT recordigns and videos (it’s always nice to have pictures!)
I think as with a lot of these online things the social aspect is a bit more difficult to fulfil. I appreciate that Zoom drinks happened at the end, but it’s hard to achieve the same feeling of socialising when at a distance. Not sure I have a solution for that, though, I understand it’s a difficult issue to solve. 
Some talks didn’t work for me i.e. the first ‘Hello’. I am sure this was just a technical issue though. Perhaps their could have been a visual element to the talks – though I know this does not fit as well with the theme of telephones – I feel I am more engaged when I have a visual aid i.e. scholar talking to camera or PowerPoint.
The discussion forum was probably less conducive to discussion than live chats.
Might have been interesting to try a group video session at the beginning a bit like the final send-off, just to give a ‘live’ sense of who’s who. But I’m not sure how or if that would really work.
I can’t think of any specific criticisms. 
I think the organizers did extremely well adapting this conference to the online environment. So major improvements come to mind.
Closing comments was nice opportunity to *see* everyone – could perhaps have had one further opportunity to bring all together in live platform — either for keynote or perhaps poetry reading, but I know how tricky group discussion is over zoom, teams etc., and need to keep carbon neutral. 
I realize we were all in different time zones but I would have actually liked more video meetings, like the final one we did. Everyone seemed so wonderful and I would have liked to get to speak to them more 🙂 Unfortunately, due to the unforeseen timing of events here in Canada and the US, I wasn’t able to participate in the forums as much as I would have liked to and I think having an additional video meeting would have helped with keeping me more engaged.

Any other comments?

I hope we can all stay in touch. It’s been wonderful to hear everyone’s ideas and it’s been mind opening!
Thank you for all your efforts in moving this from a physical to an online format successfully
Thank you again!
I thoroughly enjoyed the symposium and listening to all the papers. It was very well organised.
Well done!
Thanks so much for letting me be a part of this wonderful symposium!
Thank you for curating such a brilliant variety of voices, and allowing it to be open and free to everyone. It was really thought-provoking, and enjoyable. 
Thank you.
Thank you to the organisers for putting together such a thought-provoking virtual conference at short notice!
Terrific event, wonderfully organised, thought provoking and thoroughly enjoyable!
Really enjoyable and interesting, thanks. It seems like a minor point, but the design of the site and the contributions really added to the experience for me. 
Thank you.
A great event! Well done.
Thank you both. A wonderful symposium. Great organisation. Easy to access. A creative-critical feast.
Thank you for a great symposium!
I think that is everything.
Great conference.
See above.
looking forward to more creative and interactive events
Not at this time. 
Thanks for organizing a great conference!
It was excellent — a joy. One of the most thought-provoking and engaging events I have participated in for quite some time. 
Thank you so much, really looking forward to hearing more about the publication/journal issue you have planned!

Website visits May-June 2020

Sample visitors on opening day of symposium, 27 May 2020