A successful conference needs more than good speakers in a room. You need a clear agenda, something that depends largely on the audience you are aiming at. The last EUPACO event focussed on four main areas:
- Research into the costs and benefits of the patent system.
- The problem of decreasing quality of patents.
- The stresses of using a "one-size fits all" system for diverse industries and businesses.
- How to resolve the institutional and political conflicts in the European context.
It is redundant, but worth repeating, that simple agreement that there is a problem in Europe is a very good start. It is inefficient to advocate solutions when policy makers do not accept the need for them in the first place. Your programming thus depends on the maturity and focus of your audience.
It is also obvious, and worth repeating, that whomever defines the programme controls the debate. A EUPACO conference should not become a propaganda event. There are already many of these and they are useless in pushing the debate forwards. When you select speakers, make sure you find speakers who can disagree in a useful fashion.
Most importantly, don't make your event a place for your friends to speak, unless they have useful data to present, or are particularly strong and interesting speakers.
We have several formats for organising a programme, depending on the number of speakers and the event duration:
1. Standard format: the speaker talks for 20 minutes, and the audience has 10-20 minutes for questions and answers.
2. Panel format: several speakers each talk for 15 minutes, and a moderator then takes questions from the audience and passes them to the speakers.
3. Double panel format: two or three speakers each talk for 15 minutes; a provocateur then asks questions, and the moderator then invites the public to ask questions. There is a break, and then two or three other speakers take over.
You need to brief your moderators carefully so that the flow of debate does not get stuck in boring monologues. They need to:
1. Remember to introduce all speakers properly (they can do this trivially by asking each speaker to provide some biographical data).
2. Keep the audience reasonably under control. That is, long rambling questions should be cut off.
3. Keep the speakers under a leash. Speakers should answer questions clearly and rapidly.
You also need to time your speakers mercilessly, and assign someone to act as time-keeper. Typically, they would raise cards at T-5, T-2, T-1, and T ("Out of time"). Of course speakers need to be told in advance that they will be timed.
Lastly, allow for delays. It is impossible to start on time, to reconvene rapidly after breaks, and to cut an interesting Q&A session. You should allow 60 minutes of slack time per day.