4 Things I learned planning an Indev Conference

Well, the shirt is ironed, the last pages are printed, and final emails sent. The fifth annual International Development Conference is finally just one night away!

My role in this event is Operations Director, answering to a pair of fantastic co-chairs and supported by a team of impressive first and second year students. I’ve learned a lot in the process of planning this event, and I wanted to share what I think is pertinent:

Don’t get siloed. My job for the conference was to run all the logistics: schedule, space, catering, tables, tickets, etc. I remember sitting in a meeting one day hearing about the strugles that the marketing team was going through. I sat patiently, waiting for my turn. Then I realised: “If the marketing team doesn’t succeed at what they’re doing, all of my work will be useless”. It took some humility and some initiative to get involved in what everyone was doing, but it helped me place my struggles in the context of larger issues impacting the entire conference team.

Dream. In the second meeting of our operations team, I handed out cue cards, each with an area that we were responsible for written on it (layout, guest experience, food). We spent time individually and as a group brainstorming how we could make each of these areas amazing. We got a huge amount of ideas, everything from “Less crowded booths” to “bouncy castle”. During our last meeting before the conference, I pulled out the cards to review, and we were surprised to find that we had put well over half the ideas into action!

Communicate well. This is the one where I’m not so clever. Staying up to date with the conference communication involved checking my texts, two email accounts, and three Facebook groups. It got a little convoluted sometimes. In the future, I want set norms for communication at the start, in hopes of streamlining the process of sharing information. I’m sure there’s an app out there for this kind of thing.

Bend. In this role, my job description is essentially “be organized”, and so naturally I like control more than surprises. A few weeks ago (long after the final schedule was set), we were approached by someone in World Vision asking if we would consider hosting a video interview with one of their staff. My initial response was “I already have a minute-by-minute plan of the day…there’s no time”. But, with some encouragement I found a window of time to hear from Lucy Strickland, World Vision’s Geneva-based consultant on Education in Emergencies. She has a super impressive resume, and it was worth being flexible to embrace new opportunities.

That’s all! Where have you seen these lessons in your life?
Did you go to the conference? What did you think?


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