Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Sick of going on about Conference Post


Yes, tired of it now, and there are so many more exciting things to blog about: but let's just have some of those handy bullet points before we set aside our expensive but nevertheless inauthentic-looking Ancient Mariner disguise and move on forever:

  • thinking of holding a conference? Best not. It is a far, far better thing to receive conferences than to give them. I can't really remember what people actually said, in most cases. I do vividly remember various people telling me that it is incredibly anxiety-prodcing to organise a conference. That's the truth. And all the while one is industriously producing anxiety one is well aware that the anxiety is ridiculous: one is not actually the person whose academic standing has attracted people to this event, nor the one behind the microphone giving the talk which is being intently listened to, let alone the person who wrote these exquisite novels in honour of which everyone has gathered.
  • But here is a specimen of the type of situation which feeds anxiousness. I did not mention this en blog at the time, but back in April of this year, I came into my office one morning to find six or seven messages on my answering machine from a person who seemed to be saying she'd showed up at LTU on the weekend for the conference, and she was standing outside the venue right now and could I call her back straight away to tell her why nobody was around - where it had been moved to? Oh, and she'd come from Italy to attend. FROM ITALY. Can you imagine the abyss of horror which opened up beneath me? Can you? I'm sorry, but you can't. The original call for papers, sent out eighteen months earlier, had indeed mentioned this weekend as the probable date, but we'd changed it very quickly to coincide with the English Teachers' meeting. And of course nobody else had turned up. And of course ALL the subsequent promotional stuff very clearly gave the proper date. And of course it is incredible to simply turn up to a conference without at least re-checking that it's on, or even attempting to register, or looking at the conference website. Yet, still, here she apparently was. FROM ITALY.
  • She apparently turned up again last Friday afternoon. The person on the conference desk said she'd appeared and wanted to know where her name tag was. Then we lost track of her again. I would have liked to sight her, from a safe distance (from inside a bird observation hut perhaps) but it was not to be...next time, no doubt.
  • If, in spite of this potent warning, you still want to do a conference, overbook your speakers. Out of thirty-five, two will withdraw for good reasons and in plenty of time for you to make other arrangements; two will courteously let you know that they won't be coming in time for you to pull them out of the program, one will pull out a week before, and one will pull out by email at 6:24pm on the evening before the day her paper is scheduled at 10:45am. This person will be emailing you not from the Australian city where she resides, but from a country that is nine hours' flight away. How did she get there? you will wonder. Didn't it occur to her as she got on the plane....etc
  • The sick feeling you will acquire as you contemplate what looks like the complete disintegration of your carefully assembled program will make it impossible for you to write your own paper, so you will withdraw it, thus making you feel like a total hypocrite and poser. Nevertheless, there will actually be more than enough papers, and you will eventually realise that all the agonising was unnecessary.
  • Don't cancel the wildlife tour. It is what the internationals are looking forward to. You may think possums are boring, but they do not.

4 comments:

Ampersand Duck said...

heh. You think it's over, but I distinctly saw you mention conference papers to be published. Oh no ne no, it's not over, baby.

Tim said...

Ok, you've convinced me: I will not organise any conferences.

M-H said...

The Italian woman is not worth your energy. Clearly a nutter who probably resides in Melbourne. People who pull out at the last minute (or worse, who just don't turn up on the day) are the spawn of Satan, yes. There should be an international blacklist of their names.

lucy tartan said...

M-H, there totally should be. A wiki.