One of the key aspects of the E-merging Forum is the 'open slots' session. The idea is that, alongside all the presentations and workshops by the main presenters across the four rooms, there is a space for people attending the conference to sign up to give a 20-minute workshop or talk should they wish to. Throughout the first two days, anyone can write their name next to a time slot together with the title of their presentation.

Competition for these slots is fierce and there is a strong desire among the 1,600 delegates to have their 15 (or 20) minutes of fame. Organised on a first come first served basis, there is clearly a lot of enthusiasm to either speak or attend these sessions judging by the number of people crowding around the board to find out what's on offer.

As far as I'm aware, this innovative idea is unique to the E-merging Forum and is an excellent way to provide a platform for people who may not otherwise get the chance to present their ideas, research or opinions. Teachers young and old, experienced or new to the teaching profession have a perfect opportunity to test out their presentation skills in a supportive and encouraging atmosphere. The 20-minute time limit ensures that as many people as possible are able to talk and the audience is fully appreciative and keen to listen to the speakers.

The talks are genuinely informative and cover a wide range of the real-world issues faced by teachers in their day-to-day working lives in several different contexts. With topics including how to teach various grammar points, young learner issues, presentations on how to use technology effectively in the classroom and many other areas of teaching, it is a true kaleidoscope of ideas and suggestions that spectators can take away and use in their own classrooms.

The open slots are a great alternative to the main stage and, in true festival fashion, throw up some amusing and engaging characters with personal, useful and often humorous stories and talks.

I can thoroughly recommend trying to get to some of these talks if you can and I have no doubt that it would be an asset to any conference to see these kinds of free-form, organic and vibrant talks happening more often as a way to engage the audience and offer a chance to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to talk.

Maybe you know of something like this or other interesting ideas that happen at conferences you've attended. What kinds of thing would you like to see at a face-to-face or online conference? 

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