Three days to go before the start of Planet Under Pressure 2012 and I feel like a school kid swotting for exams. It is such a big conference in every sense of the world – with a huge number of attendees, two thousand seven hundred at the last count, a vast intellectual reach, and seriously impressive speakers including a number of government ministers. My usual conference prepping is a walk in the park compared with the sheer range of articles I’ll be desperately trying to digest over the next few days. So imagine my relief when I discovered that the Planet Under Pressure organisers have prepared a series of policy briefings for last-minute merchants like myself – http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net/policybriefs.asp . Nine briefings in all on a range of topics from Biodiversity to Transforming governance and institutions – at no more than eight pages, they’re short, snappily written and a godsend.
So on the one hand I’m feeling like an under-prepared student, on the other like a groupie at a rock concert: over two and a half thousand people gathered together at London’s Excel centre and who knows how many thousands joining us round the world via live web-streaming. That’s jaw-dropping. How to make the event truly interactive when the audience will be so massive and far-flung? My role as conference moderator is to help audience members, wherever they may be, to question, perhaps even grill, our eminent panelists. Technology we hope will ride to the rescue by way of social media and a much battered iPad. The idea is that I’ll be gathering questions on the iPad via Twitter, sms/text messages and webstreaming, instead of running around the auditorium with a mic in my hand to elicit audience participation. Will the technology work? Will the audience take up the challenge and tweet/text/webstream their questions? I must admit to feeling a few butterflies. Let’s hope Steve Jobs, the godfather of the iPad is looking down on us all next week with a benign smile.