When you plan and deliver events for a living, attending one as a punter with NO responsibility whatsoever in the running of the thing is a really therapeutic exercise. You can focus purely on the content of the programme and the people you are with - assuming you successfully wrestle your attention away from the the layout of the exhibition hall and make peace with the fact that although you had the foresight to bring a bobble water bottle, there are NO cold taps in the entire venue to refill it and bottled water here costs £1 (which you are absolutely not paying for).
You may occasionally drift towards the techies at the back of the hall to simply thank them for doing their job as they are routinely ignored unless something goes wrong, then automatically bolt out your seat when a session finishes
Anyway, contrast is a great teacher so here we go:
Conference 1: Church leadership
Conference 2: Neurology
Conference 1: Punter
Conference 2: Organiser
1: Zilch. Passes booked and hotel arranged for me. I packed clothes and toothbrush in 10 minutes and got picked up and driven there. Door to door service from hotel > venue > restaurant > back again. It was a doddle.
2: Liaison with venue and hotels. Arrangement of tech provision, sponsorship, exhibition, gala dinner, promotional material, symposia and chasing speakers for information. Registration of 700+ people. Management of 200+ abstracts. Design and print of handbook and the stuffing of delegate bags with programme, notepad, pen and sponsor flyers.
1: Arranged for me - as above. A dream come true for the directionally challenged.
2: Last minute panic as not all equipment fits in van despite a large proportion of it already en-route to venue via a fly-by-night. Sod it. I need to drive with 4 crates in the back of the car and the rear view mirror more obscured than I'm comfortable with. I re-read the directions and parking info we sent out to 700+ delegates 2 weeks ago which I didn't bother to commit to memory at the time. And I have Siri. I love you, Siri...
1: Shared room with one of my favourite people on the planet. Enjoyed Proseco and dark chocolate together in evening while discussing events of the day.
2: Shared a king sized bed with my husband because we work together and our amazingly lovely clients pay us to sleep together regularly throughout the year away from the children.
1: Listen. Worship. Scribble notes. Pray. Ask questions. Think. Be overwhelmed because all this is real and I need you.
2: Unpack a mobile office. Put up signage. Check progress of rooms. Number poster boards. Get interrupted. Register delegates. Take payments. Communicate programme changes. Send emails. Direct people to toilets / cloakroom / cash point. Get interrupted. Reprint badges. Arrange bits and pieces of the NEXT conference in a month's time which is half the size of this one but twice as complicated. Get interrupted.
1: Goodie bag from husband for room mate and me containing Proseco and dark chocolate (as above) as well as paracetamol, hand cream, biscuits and a range of travel toiletries. I love this man.
2: Goodie bag from our conference manager containing locally sourced dried foods, a mug from the venue, bottle of Proseco and chocolate covered coffee beans. Nom nom nom. Also, a massive bar of Chocciewockiedodah from our lovely client and a thank you from the stage. I love working for this organisation.
Engagement with content
1: Pretty good. Not all material is relevant, but loads of stuff to take away and process.
2: Zilch. The words spoken are in english and make grammatical sense, but their meaning is rather elusive.
Hours of duty
1: 8 hours/day with long breaks to hang out with friends and chat to fellow delegates.
2: 13 hours/day. With sort of a break - if you count eating in front of your lap top while browsing twitter and chatting to people (which for me is not hard work).
1: Not making bed but finding it done anyway on returning to room. Not cooking.
2: Not making bed but finding it done anyway on returning to room. Not cooking.
1: You can never get to the end of this stuff. There's always more to learn and get enthused about. I have a lot of notes to re-read and work out what to do with. God is far, far bigger than I can ever get my head around and my role in his story is humbling, exciting and scaring the pants off me all at once.
2: Another one done and dusted - Yay! Just need to chase up the last few payments, send out CPDs and feedback forms and compress 18 months of work into one mahoosive spreadsheet of figures ready to sign off. Then we can start on the meeting for next year.