The Highs and Lows of Conference Organisation

Today and tomorrow mark the culmination of nine months of hard work by me and my PhD buddy Nicolle.  No,we’re not having a baby - we’re having a conference, which I’m pretty sure is just as joyful and stressful.  It’s called ‘Myth and Popular Memory’ (#mythpop if you’re on Twitter), and hopefully it will be wonderful (if I post about some other subject next week, you’ll know I’m too traumatised to talk about it).  There have been some things I’ve liked about organising a conference, and some things I’ve not enjoyed so much.

Let’s start with the positives.  My favourite thing about organising a conference has been the creativity.  From coming up with the original idea, to making the Call For Papers, to putting together conference packs (I can’t take credit for creating the programme, although I had a damn good time colour-coding abstracts that seemed to have things in common), it’s been an opportunity to come up with ideas and throw words and pictures together in pleasing ways.

Something else I really enjoyed was reading people’s abstracts.  I can see myself getting massive ‘thesis envy’ over the two days, as I love hearing about what other people do in their research, and often think ‘I wish I was doing that’.  We’re inviting our speakers to contribute guests posts to the conference blog after the conference, in the hope that we’ll keep the conversation going, and I’m really looking forward to reading them.  That leads me to another thing I liked doing…

…the social media side of the conference.  I’ve particularly liked running the Twitter account, not only for promoting the conference and annoucing deadlines for abstracts and registration, but for sharing things I’ve come across online that relate to the conference theme.  I’ve enjoyed creating a buzz and seeing the evidence for this in the form of followers and retweets, as well as views of the call for papers on our Wordpress site.  I really hope that people do use the hashtag for live-tweeting, conversations and pictures.  Also online, I liked making the registration form (and seeing new people appear on the associated spreadsheet) and researching restaurants for the conference meal.

What hasn’t been so fun?  THE FEAR.  First you’re worried that nobody will care about your call for papers; they won’t share it or send in abstracts.  Then you’re worried that nobody will actually want to/be able to come to speak or listen.  Then you’re paranoid that every single speaker will drop out, you’ll never get the catering sorted, the restaurant won’t have enough space for your booking, and you’ll never get people’s car parking sorted (actually, I’m still waiting on that one at the time of writing…).  I think I might just about manage to relax and stop worrying on Saturday afternoon, once nothing has the potential to go wrong.  By that time I’ll have given my paper (scary), chaired a panel (scary), and managed to get everyone to the restaurant and back again (scary).

So please, whether you’re at the conference or not, follow the #mythpop hashtag and pray to your preferred deity that things will go okay for us!

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About Alice Violett

Reader of books, player of board games, lover of cats, editor of web content, haver of PhD.

Colchester, UK