From the Editor: Multitasking Fatigue
Last month’s In-plant Printing and Mailing Association (IPMA) conference was a departure in many ways from the conferences of the past. The awards banquet was on the first instead of the last night; the vendor fair started a day later and was half a day shorter; the final evening’s activity was an adventurous outing in the Everglades with air boat rides, alligator feeding and a barbecue dinner (featuring fried gator chunks).
And instead of frowning on the distracting use of mobile devices during sessions, IPMA embraced phones and tablets through the introduction of a new conference app, which featured everything from session and speaker descriptions to a photo-sharing activity feed.
I have to say, as odd as some of the changes seemed at first, they all worked together to deliver a successful, lively conference, with perhaps more interaction than usual among the 125 or so managers. The vendors I talked to were pleased with the contacts they made as well. I met a number of new managers and got several good leads for stories.
This conference, however, required more multitasking than I’ve ever done in my life. At one point I was broadcasting live from a session using the Periscope app on my iPad, while taking notes with my other hand, then stopping both activities so I could snap photos with my “real” camera, and shoot a few snippets of video. Then I quickly tweeted a picture of the speakers before getting back to note taking (pausing only to watch a Periscope broadcast by someone in a concurrent session). It really was a bit too much for one person to take on.
And then there was the app. My feelings are very mixed about it. It was both an annoyance and an aid; a distraction and a conversation enabler. Kudos to IPMA for staying with the times and creating a conference app. It brought easy access to the agenda, session descriptions, attendee names and more. The activity feed, however, where attendees posted photos and updates, was both a talking point and a time waster. I admit I used it—after all, reporting on events and taking photos is what I do, so it was easy for me to throw them up on the app. (Yes, I’m aware of that double entendre.) Since it was linked with Twitter, each update went automatically onto the IPG Twitter feed (@IPGBob) enabling me to report live from the conference to the world outside.
Yet without that feature (and likewise without Periscope and Twitter) I would have focused better on the speakers; in the time it took to post a dozen photos I could have perhaps met a few more people face to face. Still, monitoring attendees’ photos definitely allowed me to start a few conversations.
As conflicted as I am about that app and the use of mobile devices in an educational setting, they’re all here to stay, so it’s up to us to make the best use of them. Though it split my attention, my Periscope broadcast was appreciated by a couple of managers who couldn’t attend this year; my photos and Twitter/Facebook updates were shared and kept people informed. And in the end, I still came away with plenty of notes for a story, no matter how distracted I felt at the time.
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.