We used two wikis - one for internal organizing committee -- spelling out all the tasks from room arrangements, IT support, who to call, kits and badges etc. We would regularly attach the spreadsheet of registrants so all of us could see where we were at with number of attendees. This was a small conference of about 50 attendees most of whom we knew well, so a spreadsheet was an easy method for tracking registrations but all of us needed to access it from work, home or on the road. Sharing it on the wiki made it easy to keep up no matter where you were when you needed it.
One unexpected benefit of the conference planning wiki is that we passed the wiki along to the committee planning next year's conference. They could see all of the tasks and timelines and to do lists. While some larger conferences have a binder that passes from one planning committee to the next, this meeting never had anything documented. Knowledge of how to organize past events was passed along orally from one host to the next. Before passing the wiki along, I posted a wiki page of "Lessons Learned" highlighting what things we would do differently if we were hosting the conference again.
We had a second conference wiki that was open to all attendees prior and during the conference and for a few weeks afterwards. This was a an experiment. We just set it up and announced the wiki and asked attendees to use it to connect up before arriving, share arrival times and form taxi pools, sign up for meals, sign up for wifi access, see the training rooms, maps, and photos etc. Attendees could ask questions, start their own pages, leave comments etc. Several attendees had never used a wiki but almost everyone signed on. Here's what one librarian wrote:
Well, I wasn't sure about that wiki (sounded like something from Star Wars), but I decided to try it out. It is fabulous! Every conference should have one. - Gail Curry, Instruction/Data Librarian, University of Northern British Columbia
As local organizers, our email traffic with questions, signups, etc. dropped to almost nil after launching the wiki saving us hours of work. We could answer questions once and post it to the wiki. For example, speakers wanted to know what the training venues looked like - no problem. We popped out the digital camera, took a few photos and posted them.
Our conference wiki had a short shelf life - it was set up on the spur of the moment using JotSpot's small free package. Neither wiki allowed public access - attendees had to login to see the wiki. This was seen as an advantage in our particular context when we were trying out a wiki -- we were able to post the names of attendees and speakers online without asking everyone for permission, for example.
After the event, the sessions notes from the wiki and presentations added to the wiki were archived on the conference site and the committee's weblog.
If we were starting now, we would build the whole conference site with a wiki from the start and leave it up as the repository after the fact.
There are lots of variants on the conference wiki theme. Wikis can be started spontaneously by attendees. Take a look at the wiki for the upcoming Computers in Libraries conference started by Meredith Farkas, an attendee.
Wikis can also be set up by the conference organizers like the recent Northern Voice - Canada's Blogging Conference in Vancouver. It's no surprise that the home page is a blog, but check out the wiki (linked on the side menu) or browse the wiki pages.