In the meantime, I'm going to share with you some of the prepwork that goes into making a conference happen, especially in the weeks leading up to it. We've certainly improved the process over the past few years, but everyone knows we're hustling to make things happen the closer the date comes!
This is the time we really make sure everyone is on the same page. I'm messaging or calling the speakers/presenters, emailing vendors, and meeting with site staff to ensure no one has their wires crossed. A week or two before I also send out an email to everyone attending, just in case there are last minute questions. We're at a new site this year, so I'm expecting some!
2. Setting up spaces
Chairs here. Tables there. We need a table at the front to greet people, a few over in this spot to serve food and snacks. Where is the best place to put drinks so they don't make a mess? Don't forget signs to let people know where it is okay to eat, or where the workshops are held. And bathrooms. Can't forget those!
Giving people proper direction onsite helps GREATLY when trying to preserve and protect. For example, we are letting people know that our originals museum has wonderful items that should not be touched because items may be degraded. Instead, find a conference staff person, and we'll gladly jump in to show/help. Because I like when people look at my stuff :)
3. Preparing food
This year we're doing food differently. Snacks and drinks will be available throughout the weekend, strategically placed around the buildings. Meal times will be more flexible too, accommodating different seminar and workshop times.
Food is a big deal for me. I eat at very specific times every day because I am a teacher; I can wolf down an entire meal in 25 minutes, but I prefer to eat while I work. Prep time now means checking the foods we have, evaluating any allergies, and making sure we have enough drinks for the weekend. Also, gathering serving supplies and putting garbage cans in appropriate places.
4. Managing the online presence
The week before the conference, I often find myself barraged with a ton of questions. I totally get it; plans are starting to fall into place. Maybe someone needs to know more about the hotel. Perhaps I didn't word something right on the website. It's important to be fast because it can help alleviate any anxieties someone may have about attending.
It's also important to keep posting to remind people about the registration deadline. I'm guilty of waiting until the last minute to register as well. Sometimes a well-placed poster on Facebook or a quick message can be the necessary reminder.
5. Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst
What happens if it snows?
Well, the weather looks pretty good, but I'm keeping some salt in my car, and will locate a shovel. Early morning for me if need be?
What if a speaker can't make it?
We have a backup presentation on a flash drive. Just in case...
What if there is a power outage?
Let's locate that generator.
Even the best plans fall apart for one reason or another. It feels good to think of the worst case scenario, and think of Plan B, C, and D.
6. Taking a deep breath, getting my nails done, and relaxing
It's easy to get overwhelmed. That's why I plan for specific, relaxing activities before and after the conference. I had my nails done this weekend. I'll go to the gym once or twice to get out any energy. On Sunday my fiance and I will take the dog to a nearby park.
We do a TON of work to make this happen. In years past I've not taken care of myself, and the results were disastrous. Stress can take a toll on your personal health. So yes I'll take that massage. And all of the puppy/kitten snuggles required.
While I know the majority of people reading this blog aren't planning a conference, feel free to take this advice for other types of events. Maybe you coordinate a civilian activity at the next reenactment, or are planning a party. Whatever your situation, do make sure you take care of yourself. Burnout is a very real thing, and often pushes people out of some of their favorite hobbies.
So hopefully we see you at The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s, March 22-24 at The Wolcott Heritage Center Complex in Maumee, Ohio. Registration will close tomorrow, March 15th at the end of the day.
If you interested, Click Here to Register.
Conference game on, friends!