Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to Chair a Conference in 100 Difficult steps, part one

I bet you thought I was going to say something like, "How to chair a conference in 10 easy steps", didn't you? Alas, it ain't easy, and it takes a lot more than 10 steps.
Chairing the 16th Gateways Conference for the Support Staff Division was a tremendous experience. Yeah, yeah, I know, people always say that, but it really was - tremendous, occasionally awful, stressful, gratifying, exhausting, fun; I can tell you how it feels when over 80 hungry, sleepy people find out they are not going to be fed the hot breakfast they were promised because the conference center "forgot" to arrange for it! For about 5 minutes there I teetered between throwing up and bursting into tears. But I had an empty stomach, so nothing to throw up, and had sweated out every drop of moisture, so no tears were forthcoming. I suppose that was a good thing. Everyone was looking to me to do something and I realized that I was not alone: I had a past conference chair beside me who stepped up to help, and I had a radio! All I had to do was turn it on, push in a button and say "Al, where's our breakfast?" Unfortunately, although Al came at a run, he had no solution to offer, having no breakfast crew available and not enough time to cook a breakfast even if he had. We eventually got some food, cold and meager as it was. But nobody starved. I found myself in an odd mood of fatalism - and I just rode it along on autopilot. Many wonderful people worked together to make the day an ultimate success, and after all, as someone said, once started the conference just takes on a life of its own and will not be stopped. It did, it wasn't, and hopefully most attendees got what they wanted from it and left satisfied. My mantra became, to quote Keynote Speaker Maureen "Mo" Cole, "It's not about you," or rather me.
More to come.....

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