My professional development experience at the NASIG Annual Conference in Asheville, North Carolina was a different one this year. I was involved in the operation of the conference as a member of the Conference Planning Committee (CPC), which was jointly chaired by Eleanor Cook of East Carolina University and ZSR’s own Steve Kelley. I served as the audio-visual coordinator for the conference, and while it was a rewarding experience, there was a lot of work involved.
Planning for the conference began over a year before anyone arrived in Asheville. The CPC met as a group for the first time during the 2008 conference in Phoenix, Arizona and assigned all of the tasks and responsibilities necessary to operate the conference: food, registration, transportation, and so forth. Meetings continued during the year with monthly conference calls to keep all areas on target as well as to resolve any issues that developed. Along the way, the Program Planning Committee (PPC) was meeting independently to line up all of the sessions and speakers who would appear.
My role began to take shape earlier this year, as the PPC started to send details about the schedule to the CPC. Steve forwarded them to me as soon as he had received them and included room assignments as they became known as well. Using that information, I created a series of spreadsheets that evolved over time. They broke down the details for each session in three different categories: by each day of the conference, a summary of equipment needs, and a list of needs for sessions happening concurrently. (Please let me know if you would like to see an example!) From there, I sent the various incarnations to the event technology manager for the conference hotel. We worked closely to lay out the needs for each presenter and the equipment required in each room. Steve, Eleanor, and I also traveled to Asheville for site visits at the conference hotel, familiarizing ourselves with the facility and getting acquainted with the staff who would be working with us.
When the conference began in June, I became the primary contact for all AV needs. As the event technology manager set up rooms, he would check with me to make certain that everything was in place. Conversely, I served as the point person for any last minute situations that developed during the conference itself. These included:
- A printer for the registration desk
- A lapel microphone and Mac connection cables for the last Vision Speaker
- Feedback from several microphones
- Recording the Vision Sessions on cassette for conference reporters
- Display stands for the poster sessions
As Steve indicated in his report, the conference was a success. For me, the conference was a chance to expand my professional growth by giving me experience in areas that were not part of my normal responsibilities. I have worked with conference preparation in the past, but the preparation and effort that was needed to put on this conference was truly astonishing. Effective leadership made a significant difference (thank you Steve), but I had to be on point with my own contributions to guarantee a smooth operation.
And there’s always the most valuable lesson: never underestimate the value of comfortable shoes.