Challenge yourself & run a conference!
Agnieszka Amelia Lisiecka
In summer this year I was one of the members of the Lingua Franca conference preparatory committee.A lot of people asked: how is it to run a conference? Yeah…I can write about it a lot.
First of all I must say it is hard work! It is a lot of stress but it is worth doing it!
I started with filling in my own application. I was pursuing European Voluntary Service (an EU project that was created to develop solidarity and promote active citizenship and mutual understanding among young people) at that time and I wanted to use this time well on what I like to do. I always like international environment,crazy people. What is more, I just made training course for work camp leaders in Berlin so why not do more and put the new skills into practice?
My big adventure begins when I received a positive response from Marti, the WSCF coordinator of the Solidarity theme at that time, who told me that I was accepted to the team. After having exchanged couple of e-mails, we agreed to make an online conference. We were an international team and first ‘meeting’ was via Skype, what was in my case hard because, given the technical problems I could only type. Our team included six people Marti – a Hungarian, great organizer,Miro – a Slovak soul and our support from office, Annika –a German specialist for accommodation, James – a British that likes to ask provocative questions and Gayane –an Armenian who took care of our visual side, and myself.The first big thing I have learnt was how hard it is to meet at the same time when you work with people from four different time zones… Uh..and of course we all have different duties so even finding one or two hours free time was just hard.
We had met once in person before running the actual conference: in May in beautiful St. Gilgen we met in the same venue as the conference was held – the venue was chosen for the conference we were preparing.Austria is a beautiful country with really nice people.And the views – were just amazing! What a great place for a conference! We tried few energizers and Marti suggested a first draft around which we developed the full schedule. We were sitting all together planning what we have to change, how long breaks should be, how to plan days – when to start, when to finish and the most important: who is responsible for what. Miro was taking notes all the time, so later we could use all that information in next the Skype conferences.
We had a lot of time before the conference, but many of things didn’t go well. Problems withour lectures,planning exact time for workshops, opportunities for free time. Money, time, people…
Some things you just cannot predict. For example, One of our team members ended up in hospital just before the conference started. We faced problems with lectures invited for the conference and timetables. We had plans B and C just encase everything failed. We h ad to write a lot of invitations and our process for recruiting people was really long and slow. many people did not confirm so we did not know how many people to expect and we were worried about numbers and so this meant we were inconvenient for the hostel staff.
In the end we came a few days before the seminar started as we were not sure how it would turn out. These first few days were a lot of stress and a lot of work. I did not recognize myself. I was not the nicest person in the world and in the end I crossed a few limits but all in all the experiences taught us what to avoid next time. Our team was a great support but I think I could have done more to help them. Overall I am happy that we spent these few days together with the participants. There were some great surprises like the talk with the former sex worker which really woke up the participants and started a lot of discussions. The make your own t-shirt,movie or picture workshop was well received. It was a shame that we did not have time to evaluate what we learnt in the quiz and that we did not have winners for the photography contest but in the end we were all winners as we all had fun.
Thanks you guys for this crazy ride! If you think you are ready to take on this challenge then go ahead! I hope we can meet one day and compare our experiences. Try it for yourself because nothing can describe this experience better than doing it yourself.