Tag: tournament

Conference Organisation Cheat Sheet

I am a chronic event organizer. Those convening student events and conferences may not have the background I somehow obtained, so I wrote this to assist. It will hopefully be useful for student-organised conferences and first-time conveners. Good luck!

Convening

Delegate.

Ask your team what their strengths are. Use those strengths. Follow up with people when you have delegated, but trust them to do their job (until they show they need more active supervision).

Use people who offer to help. Volunteers are an incredibly precious resource.

Ask previous conveners for advice. Make a timeline, ideally with their help. That stops everything from being overwhelming!

You do not have to know how to do everything. You have strengths and weaknesses, and that’s ok. You don’t have to know how to set up a web page, or make a nice poster, or what all the judges look like. You have to run an event. If you’ve got money, it might even be a good idea to outsource.

Venue

Your venue should be big enough. It should be close to public transport. It should not look super empty if half the people who registered don’t show up. Your venue should have wireless internet (sometimes, more than just eduroam!) and a lot of powerpoints.

There needs to be clear signage. You can send as many maps as you like via email – people will forget. Put up balloons, stick up handwritten A4 paper everywhere, but have something.

The room where talks are being given should have recognizable front and back doors, or only back doors, so when people are late you’re not constantly disrupted.

Check out the IT systems and support in your venue before your event. Put the numbers for IT and security into your phone. Be nice to IT and security. You will need them.

Ideally, there won’t be a heap of public thoroughfare. My favourite venues also have readily-available spaces to sneak off and do work in (like if you haven’t quite prepared your talk yet) and good coffee nearby.

Support

One of the first things you should do is secure the support of your affiliated institution. Most conferences will (should) be hosted by a university/institute. Free room hire is key.

Even if you can’t somehow wrangle free room hire, having the support of a larger institution will help your sponsorship attempts. If you can get a nice letter from the Dean or VC saying “these people are doing good things we like them” then you’re more legitimate, particularly if you’re younger or your group isn’t well-known.

Sometimes institutions have in-house catering that they can get on the cheap as well. In most circumstances, you will want to do this.

Sponsorship

How early do you think you should get onto sponsorship? Wrong. You need to get onto it earlier. (10 months for medium-sized events, 4-5 months for small events, over a year for everything else.)

Work out what sponsors you will appeal to, why, and what you can offer. Outline this clearly when you email them. There is literally no point in being coy with sponsors. Keep your sponsorship letters short and to the point. I’ve outlined an example below.

Don’t forget to apply for sponsorship from government branches, relevant community societies, and NFPs that might be interested.

Dear Australia Branch of Multinational Conglomerate,

I’m writing to you on behalf of People Who Just Started Watching DS9 and Actually Quite Like It, and we’re hosting a conference in 7 months time. The purpose of this conference is to discuss future ethics and disruptive technologies, and as a major player in this field we’d love you to be involved in these key discussions. We’re supported by Names of People Who Are Probably Important.

We’d appreciate financial sponsorship, and can offer you a trade stall, invitations to representatives of your Multinational Conglomerate, and branding on our promotional material. If you’d like to discuss this further or have questions, please don’t hesitate to be in contact.

Best wishes,
Sophia Frentz
Director, DS9 Isn’t As Bad As Everyone Told Me It Would Be
Phone Number, Email address.

Finally, if at first you don’t succeed, don’t stop trying! Sponsorship is difficult and can be an uphill battle – take heart from the fact that it’s terrible for everyone.

Room Hire

Do everything within your power to get this for free. Reach out to philanthropic groups who have nice rooms, companies whose values align with your event (or just aren’t literally the worst), and then to companies who want to recruit all of the people that are attending.

Room hire is super expensive, but there are ways to minimize these costs.

Catering

If your space has in-house catering that they can get on the cheap, go for that. If your space has in-house catering that you have to use, you don’t have a choice. Otherwise, get recommendations from people who have hosted events in the same area or for the same sorts of people.

This is how I found Tiger Lily Catering and Romano’s Coffee (University of Melbourne), both of whom have been absolute dreams to work with.

Over-order vegetarian and vegan food. Just trust me on this one.

Make sure non-alcoholic drinks are available (if alcoholic drinks are as well), and make sure they’re not just orange juice. Also, always have water available, even if it’s not a designated break time.

Contact

Don’t over-email! Keep your contact short, sweet, and to the point. The internet is wonderful but it also overloads people. In a similar vein, keep physical hand-outs minimal, and with important information easily accessible.

Having said that, mirror information on your website, your facebook page, your twitter feed, and in emails. Don’t just tell me the schedule will be on the website, send me an email with that because I am doing other things with my life right up until the point I am in your building.

The one important thing to include in emails that everyone forgets is where the good coffee is.

Finally, if you want feedback on your event you could hand out a paper survey or you could email your feedback form to people with your thank-you note. SurveyMonkey, GoogleForms, etcetera all mean less work for you, less work for people filling out the forms, and more fun all around.

On the Day

Something is going to go wrong, and that’s ok. Every problem has a solution.

Nothing is going to run to time, so leave buffers everywhere.

Do your best not to fret when things are running smoothly – just relax! This is all your hard work.

Delegate pack down. You’ve earned a break.

Good luck!

If you’re organizing a conference for the very first time and have a burning question, feel free to comment. I know how hard it can be to be thrown in the deep end!

Tips for Best Travel, Probably

I have attended a lot of tournaments and conferences now, and learned a lot by making a lot of mistakes. Here are some indispensable tips for any kind of tournament, learned the hard way by yours truly.

1. Always take emergency chocolate.

You think it’ll be fine. You think there will be places to buy candy if you get cravings. You think you won’t really want it.

Well let me tell you right now, you are dead wrong. Have you ever been trapped in Kuala Lumpur about to cry because you want 70% Whittaker’s? No. You haven’t. And if you follow my advice, you will never have to.

2. Eat breakfast.

Even with the (insane) (terrifying) breakfasts we got in Japan) eating breakfast each day was a must. In KL, we had to get up before 7 in order to eat breakfast. Done.

If you’re at a tournament or conference, you’re representing your locality. It’s your duty to be on top of your game. And you’re not going to be on top of your game if you don’t eat breakfast.

Even if you’re not at a tournament or conference – not being on top of your game makes you sad, eat breakfast.

3. Choose your roommate wisely.

If you’re going to be sleeping in the same space as/sharing a shower with/stinking up a room with someone, you better make sure they are a true friend. Thankfully, I’ve always managed to hit the jackpot with my roommates, mostly entirely randomly. Don’t take this risk, some people are bad with personal space.

The flipside of this point is to be a good roommate. Stay chill, don’t clip your toenails on their bed, and just generally be a nice human.

4. Be friends with people you’re travelling with.

No matter how big or small your group, be friends with them. They’re really cool people and probably have a lot of the same interests as you. An optional sub-point here is Do Not Start Dating Or Otherwise Have Relations With The People You’re Travelling With While Travelling I Do Not Care If You Think You Are Both Adults It Gets Weird For You and Everyone.

5. Think Before You Kiss

All right now I recognize that not everyone else is as into the sweet make-outs as I am, and also that other people probably have standards, but this still needs to be said because oh man being sick is the worst:

IF THE PERSON YOU WANT TO KISS HAS A NASTY COUGH OR OTHER ILLNESS, DO NOT KISS THEM.

YOU WILL GET SICK. IT WILL SUCK.

KISS SOMEONE ELSE, OR JUST HOLD HANDS A LOT AND USE A LOT OF HAND SANITIZER AFTERWARDS.

YOUR HEALTH IS NOT WORTH MAKE-OUTS.

Also just like, be sensible. I had the most awkward sex talk of my life at the IBO (age 16), because me and this australian boy were sweet on each other so our respective team coaches told us to Not Do Anything We Would Regret which literally took me like 15 minutes to get that they were telling us to not have unprotected sex.

(also ideally be aware of any professional effects this might have, I’d enjoy it if we lived in a sex-positive utopia, but we don’t, so keep an eye on that)

6. Take work, but be okay with not getting any of it done.

If get sick, it’s the best way to distract yourself from just lying in your hotel room going OH GOD I FEEL SO GROSS THIS IS THE WORST.

Take a trashy novel as well to cheer you up if you get sad.

7. Have fun.

It seems self-evident, but when you’re travelling (tournament/conferences especially) it’s really easy to forget that you need to chill out. Try your hardest, do your country/region/parents proud, but also remember that you’ve done pretty well and that you are allowed to not be stressed the entire time.

Relax. Don’t get wound up. Try to not get to the point where you want to stab someone. You’ll get back home to your bed and shower soon.

You Are All Already Winners.

When it comes to most amazing experiences of my life, the International Biology Olympiad is up there – and I’ve lived a pretty privileged life. I’ve seen the pyramids. I’ve seen glow-worms. I’ve been up the Eiffel tower. But there’s a difference between seeing things, and being completely awe-inspired by the world, and being somewhere full of people like you. It’s no secret that I was a massive nerd in high school, and the IBO was also full of people that were massive nerds in high school. It genuinely felt like I had found the people I should have known all my life. They are the largest branch of my extended family, no matter what happens.

New Zealand on stage at the Opening Ceremony
New Zealand on stage at the Opening Ceremony

At the opening ceremony, one of the speakers made particularly sure to remind us, time and again, that we were all already winners. It’s a sentiment that you don’t get very much, and I can genuinely say it was the first time I believed it.

That sentiment has become a large part of my daily life, and I remember it particularly when away on tournaments. It’s a very different sentiment to that you get at debating tournaments, where the competition is most definitely that – a lot of the time, when squads get stressed or upset by close debates or things they perceive as “failures”, I really want to sit them down and say:

But don’t you understand? Simply by being here, you’ve won. If you’re in O1, O2, O3, O4, if you’re here as an adjudicator, you’ve shown that you’re the best Otago has to offer. No matter what happens here, you made it here, and that in and of itself is a success.

Debating puts a lot of pressure on people, and either attracts or creates a lot of highly-strung high achievers that might not believe that their best is enough. I would probably be the first person to tell you that I’m not a great speaker – I’m decent, I’ve broken to semifinals in both the available amateur tournaments we have and then proceeded to flake horrendously – but that has never really mattered to me, because debating is always something I have done for the joy in it.

I want Otago to host Australs next year, simply so I can have a chance to tell these talented, well-spoken young men and women that they are all already winners, simply for being here. I hope that they will believe it, because too many people get inordinately down on themselves because they fail to measure up to some abstract idea of “good enough”.