Monday, June 20, 2011

How to put on a conference

One of the reasons that I couldn't stay longer in the U.S. was that my research group was hosting a conference. Since I've never helped put together a conference before it was quite the eye opener for all the extra things that go on.
There is all the obvious things that need to be taken care of,but the things that caught my attention were the things my supervisor did to make this little conference seem bigger than it was. To keep other people from walking through the area large signs with the conference name were placed to partially block doorways. People could still get through but it made it obvious not to. He worried about flag placement to draw as much attention as possible and had us move flags as the venue changed. We also had a question rehearsal so we would already know all the most likely questions we would receive from people arriving. But my favorite was when he asked us to herd people to move toward the front of the conference room to make it look more full. He also wanted us all in the conference room when the person (lower level royalty) that was the major funding for the research was talking to make it look like maximum bodies were present. Other little things that are easy to overlook was pairing poster presentations with lunch so people were more likely to stick around.
The building that was used for the conference was the Royal Geographic Society building. It felt weird being in there since they had artifacts from Capt James Cook, Roger Kipling, and the first guy to climb Mt. Everest, Edmund Hillary. There were maps on all the walls that were hundreds of years old. Some famous ones like the world map showing California as an island from the 1600's and the 1300's Chinese map proving that Columbus did not discover America. I felt like it very much had the romanticized British explorer vibe to it. I defiantly felt like I was in the league of extraordinary gentlemen.

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