Tuesday, November 01, 2016
Don't they look thrilled?
One of my projects is organizing a national conference. It was last Thursday and Friday. Two long days, with a busy agenda. We had 34 total session, 4 plenary sessions and 30 workshops. About 90 speakers, over 250 attendees. Planning for the conference started over a year ago.
I know every little thing that went wrong, three speakers who didn't bring their power point presentations, a couple of projector compatibility issues, one destroyed Mac adapter cable (a $45 cable,) the only speaker with mobility issues being scheduled in the only room with a riser or stage with stairs (I didn't know she needed accommodations,) intermittent sound gremlins in two sessions. I will fix most of these next year, extra reminder emails to the speakers about power points, computers and cables, adding a line to the speaker confirmation asking for an email with any accommodation that is needed. We had the usual array of attendees showing up thinking they had registered when they had not - that will always happen. I learn every time, how to make it better.
I also know what went right, we had 90 wonderful speakers, who provided world class training on a wide array of substantive and policy issues. We had a capacity crowd, in fact we somehow made comfortable over 250 people in a space that was designed for 220. The hotel staff did an amazing job of moving folding walls in the meeting space, setting up and trouble shooting audio visual issues. The food was good, plentiful and on time. We sold all but 4 of the special edition conference materials books (by mistake an extra 20 were shipped to the conference site and we figured we would have to pay to ship them back the warehouse.) A project with no budget, grossed over $110,000 - most of which will be paid for food, drink and audio visual costs. We not only met our financial projections, we blew them out of the water.
I do this project, because I love it. About a dozen years ago, I volunteered to serve on the planning committee, and was told "NO!" they didn't want any outsiders who might not think like they did involved. I am now in my fourth year of chairing that committee, I continue to be a big tent person, I openly invite people to join the committee, and welcome all who volunteer. Everyone brings something to the table, even if it just one idea, one connection, one extra attendee, it is worth it. Even if they don't attend, having people know that they are welcome to be a part of this process - that we want to work collaboratively to deliver the best conference we can is worth it. Planning is under way for 2017.