vrijdag 11 december 2009
DISH2009: the view from the backoffice
On 9 and 10 December 2009 DISH2009 took place, organised by Heritage the Netherlands and Digital Heritage the Netherlands. I was proud and honoured to be part of the organisation mainly on behalf of Digital Heritage the Netherlands. Already in the contacts with chairs and speakers for the paper sessions, the debates and the workshops I experienced that DISH2009 continued the great tradition of the Digital Heritage conferences DEN organised over the past five years: pracitically everybody was quick and enthusiastic in cooperating with our organisational needs and the chairs and speakers had many fruitful discussions to prepare their sessions. In some cases I even had to interfere as the debate that was scheduled during the conference was already started full swing in the preparations!
This commitment from speakers and chairs is essential for the organisers. We love to be generous and gracious hosts, we love to serve your needs. But to be able to play our role we need our speakers and chairs to be commited as well. And that commitment goes beyond preparing the content and the presentation. It extends to being in the right place at the requested time, in mingling with the participants of the conference and to bringing dongles (the connecting bit from the Mac to the beamer) for MacBooks. The same goes for the audience. As an organiser for all I and we as a team can arrange, in the end it is the preparation of speakers and chairs and the good spirits and commitment of our audiences that we depend on. Looking from that back office perspective the DISH2009 crowd was brilliant.
And then there also are the little miracles that make a conference special and memorable, at least for me as an organiser and especially with a conference happening so close to Christmas. On the evening of 8 December the Municipality of Rotterdam offered and hosted the welcoming reception for the conference participants in the Burgerzaal of the city hall. The Lord Mayor Mr. Aboutaleb was present…..but a van transporting a substantial number of participants from their preconference to the city hall got stuck in traffic. The Lord Mayor was working an incredibly tight schedule and was strictly on time just when I was hoping – against my nature! - that he would have a substantial delay so that the participants could still make it on time to hear this speech. I discussed our situation with the assistant of the Lord Mayor and he generously agreed to postphone his speech somewhat, thus allowing our participants to reach us. And most managed to reach us on time.
Another little miracle happened at the end of the first conference day. We had found a Fred de la Bretonniere diary which somebody had lost. We dialled the mobile number in the diary and left a message on the voice mail that the diary had been found and where it could be collected. We had it announced for everbody to hear: could Mrs. so and so please come to the registration deskt, your diary has been found. Nobody answered. At the end of the day as we were helping the last people to either the dinner or to their homes, a lady comes to the registration desk, we start chatting and just as she is about to leave, she draws her wallet to get out her businesscard. I instantly recognize the style of the wallet: it is the same as the style of the diary. And yes, she is the owner of the diary and she had not noticed it was missing. Diary happily returned to its owner!
A similar miracle occured on the 10th of December. At the dinner in the shark room the evening of 9 December somebody had taken the wrong conference bag home, with somebody elses notes in there. Further on no personal belongings in the bag. She was kind enough to bring that bag to the registration desk the morning of 10 December, saying that somebody might come for it so that hopfully the notes could be returned. And maybe even her bag would show up. Within the hour somebody else reported to the registration desk, stating the exact same thing. Thus the bags were exchanged to the correct owners. In a crowd of – including sponsors and speakers - close to 600 people, that is nothing short of a little miracle.
These little miracles make a conference special. But what touches my heart the deepest are the people who walk up to thank you for a great time. The simple “thank you, I enjoyed this” and the smiling and chatting people who walk past to me is what makes everything shine.