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I know this is a bit late, but I’ve finally been able to dig myself out from under.The 24th Conference of the North American Serials Interest Group (NASIG) was held during the first week of June, and I served as co-chair of the Conference Planning Committee, with the spectacular support of Chris Burris as our AV Coordinator.Planning and running a conference is an interesting and exhausting experience (as many of you found out with the Entrepreneurship Conference).The Conference Planning Committee is sort of the Tech Services Department for the conference, we handle the logistics, while the Program Planning Committee handles the solicitation and selection of programs.
Our attendance was down this year, to only about 450 people, but it went fairly smoothly, if I do say so myself (I only lost my temper once, and that wasn’t even a major meltdown).The conference included a day and a half of pre-conferences, and two and a half days of regular conference sessions.There were also two off-site catered events (one all-conference event, and one optional event that required separate payment), an all-conference reception for the opening night, a first-time attendee reception, and a lunch and three breakfasts to coordinate.We had to take care of room assignments for sessions, signage, computer and other technical needs, set up of an internet cafe, copying programs and info for attendees, stuffing bags for attendees, poster session set-up, and registration.In addition, we not only had to coordinate the bus travel to and from our off-site events, we had to improvise a shuttle service from the Asheville airport.After NASIG signed the hotel contract to bring the conference to Asheville, the shuttle company that ran from the airport to the hotels went out of business, and the taxis in Asheville are outrageously expensive.So, we chartered a bus and ran our own operation.
To be honest, the whole thing felt kind of like organizing a massive wedding for 450 people that lasted for four days.It was satisfying, but exhausting.I came home the day the conference ended and slept for 13 hours.
If you get involved in conference planning (although with Wanda becoming Vice Pres/Pres.-Elect of NCLA I should say “When you get involved in conference planning”), I have three major suggestions:
1) Set deadlines and keep them as best you can.Conferences are big operations that involve a lot of players, and there are lots of moving parts.Some players can’t get to work on their tasks until other tasks are completed, so it’s key to have a schedule and firm(ish) deadlines.With my CPC, I arranged for monthly conference calls and sent out rough timelines that sketched out the major tasks that needed to be completed over the next two months, with an indication of who was responsible for that task.It seemed to help keep us on pace.
2) Nail down plans for everything you can anticipate you will need to do.This is really very basic, but the more detailed your plans are for the stuff you know you’re going to have to deal with, the better able you are to handle the unexpected stuff that inevitably arises.
3) Be flexible.This goes with my second point.The more you have planned, the better able you are to handle the surprises along the way.Even changing a plan you’ve already developed is better than having to improvise an entire approach on the fly.
Above all, keep a sense of humor (I know I said I had three suggestions…so sue me).