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Something for Everybody at the SIOP 2016 Conference

4/6/2016-

by SIOP Administrative Office

To say that the SIOP Annual Conference offers a lot of sessions is a colossal understatement.  On the first page of the program book, Conference Chair Eden King and Program Chair Scott Tonidandel point out there are 20 concurrent sessions to choose from at any point during the 3-day conference.

At just under 200 pages long, the size of the program book attests to the sheer volume of offerings. The sessions, with topics covering assessment to work-life balance and everything in between, were organized by 30 committee members and vetted by more than 1300 reviewers.

The challenge of sifting through the offerings and preparing a personal schedule for SIOP attendees is not lost on the program organizers. “We’ve got over 400 hours of programming across the 3 days,” said Tonidandel, “And, so especially when you have new attendees, it’s important to package the information so they can find it easily.”

The printed and online programs offer a range of tools for creating your personal conference plans. In addition to those tools, the Program Committee has organized sessions on related topics into special tracks, like the Theme Track and the HR Track.  Follow this link to read more about the Theme Track, which is all about creating impact in the larger society.

Tonidandel says the HR Track was created because “We were trying to create more programming attractive to practitioners and HR generalists more broadly. Highlight those offerings to them,” The programs in the Friday track are just a percentage of the total HR sessions offered at the conference. “But,” he continued, “They touch a variety of topics that have broad appeal.“

The committee works hard to be responsive to member interests. The HR Track was initiated and well received at the 2015 conference, so it seemed really attractive to continue with it this year, given Laszlo Bock’s participation as the closing keynote speaker. Future track programming “will depend on attendance and feedback.” Tonidandel says analytics could be another good topic for a program track.

There are 31 broad categories of program sessions and a spectrum of program formats, which combat conference fatigue. “What we’re trying to do as a program committee is encourage more variety,” said Tonidandel. “So for the last few years we’ve had an alternative session format. There are 40 sessions in the alternative session category this year.”

“One of the most popular is the IGNITE format, which originated as one of the invited sessions.” If you’ve never been to an IGNITE session, you’ll find it brisk. Presenters get 5 minutes to present 20 slides, in a program that advances the slide automatically every 15 seconds. Panel discussions and workshops are other alternatives. One alternative session that stuck in Tonidandel’s mind because of its title, “Toothless Shark Tank for I-O Psychologist-Entrepreneurs.”

Community of Interest (COI) Sessions are another alternative presentation type, and SIOP 2016 features 12 COI sessions.  This year, the sessions will all be held in room 203A, a room with a lounge-like atmosphere, to encourage relaxed interaction.  As with the rest of the programming, COI Subcommittee Chair Jamie Donsbach says her committee strives for currency and variety in the topics presented, as well as balancing the interests of academics and practitioners. The group meets about six times throughout the course of the year to brainstorm and select topics for these “invited” sessions. As with any invited session, attendance is open to all conference attendees. It is the session host who is invited to participate.

“One thing I think really makes the COIs stand out from other session types is that these sessions are not about the hosts,” said Donsbach. “They’re about the people attending.” Because the focus is on interaction in the 50-minute sessions, hosts are instructed to keep their presentations brief and come up with appropriate mechanisms for encouraging interchange and future collaboration among attendees.

“These are great sessions to attend,” she wrote in the program outline, “if you would like to meet potential collaborators, generate ideas, have stimulating conversations, meet some new friends with common interests, and develop an informal network with other like-minded SIOP conference attendees.”

To get the most out of a COI session, Donsbach recommends that you consider what you’d like to get out of the session beforehand. “Think about the questions you have or discussion topics you want to cover. Think about whether you want to find collaborators. It helps the facilitators get the session going quickly.”