Apologies for the prolonged absence!
I just saw that my last post was 21 days ago. 😳 It’s been a busy few weeks since, so I hadn’t actually felt like typing anything until now.
What’s been happening since?
Well, for one thing, the state opened up, so I’ve been spending time eating out with friends who I hadn’t seen or caught up with for quite some time…
And having family over so that I can cook for them, which I enjoy very much…
Going to Melbourne to do actual retail and grocery shopping, which I wasn’t allowed to do as a regional Victorian…
And just enjoying a bit more freedom than we’ve had in a while.
Obviously my experience pales in comparison to Metro Melbourne people, so I’d have to give a huge round of applause to all my friends in the city for slogging it out for such a long, long time- again.
But the other reason why I hadn’t posted in a very long time is because I got roped into co-organising a scientific conference… last minute. 😅
In hindsight, I should have seen it coming, because we currently don’t have an admin person. I was probably the next best candidate to take the workload.
But I suppose I was hoping that something miraculous would happen- the position would get filled quickly, someone else would volunteer (🤣), or… I dunno, something.
So here’s what I learnt out of the experience:
1. I am not suited for a front of house type job
Making face, remaining patient, polite, and diplomatic… all of that is exhausting. I can do it in short bursts, but not for a full day’s worth of work without… showing cracks. I needed to vent, all the time, because it’s so frustrating to deal with people.
2. You can try to explain things a million different ways, but people will still ask the same question over and over again
I am guilty of asking the same question over and over again, too. In the beginning I was too naïve and didn’t realise that just because I’m one person asking the question, the admin person is likely to have had a billion other people asking the same question over and over again. It does add up. I’m going to continue to be more apologetic when I bother admin people again.
3. You can have deadlines for things as early as you want- but there will always be last minute requests
Think you’re being organised and giving yourself plenty of time by having deadlines? Well tough luck- people will still want you to squeeze them in for things last minute. It’s just the nature of things.
And international delegates mean urgent emails at all hours. Forget the 9-5. You’ll be answering emails after midnight because it’s urgent.
4. Hire an event organiser/company
There was no way we could hold a virtual, international (although mostly domestic) conference by ourselves. Having a third party to forward queries on to and do the bulk of the logistics for actually running the event was so much better.
Especially when people had internet connectivity issues. Because I can’t fix that.
5. If you think you’ll be able to enjoy the conference- think again
While I really wanted to sit and enjoy the talks, with all the background emailing and queries going on, I couldn’t. Especially for the first day, I had an email every minute or so from various people that I had to reply to. I’d forgotten about this aspect. You’re mostly just running around while everyone else gets to enjoy the talks.
6. F*** formatting
When people send you abstracts, they’re usually in a myriad of different formats.
Bug’s Life1,2, The Doctor1,3
Life Bug’s1,2, Doctor The1,3
B. Life1,2, T. Doctor1,3
1,2Bug’s Life, 1,3The Doctor
Is it, (University, School/Faculty, Department), or the other way? Is it The University of Sydney or University of Sydney?
Is it NSW or New South Wales? NY or New York? Is it (city, state, country) or (city, state, postcode, country)?
You can start to imagine how many different versions/formats one might receive an abstract in, so when you have 45 of them to unify and make consistent…
And this year’s conference was a quieter one (in terms of proffered speakers)… If I had 20 more abstracts to format… *shudders*
7. Some servers won’t accept Eventbrite emails
I didn’t realise until too late that some institutions/companies’ email servers won’t accept/receive Eventbrite emails. So even though I’d emailed delegates four times or so with updates and reminders to things, there were some people who’d just not received any of these.
So while it’s nice to have these ’email all attendees’ functions, you never know- they might not receive them at all.
Which means you might just have to create a mailing list yourself and just email directly.
But always BCC.
8. Some people will need multiple emails for a response- or won’t respond at all
This is just something I got used to in my Ph. D (and before)- it’s just the way of life, really.
9. Good aesthetics is subjective
Given how last minute it was, I copied the format of the program booklet from the last conference we held. Naturally I tried to match the front cover with the same colour palette.
But bloody hell- colour preferences are so subjective. A colour I like is a colour someone else hates with a burning passion.
Sometimes you just have to go for it, and overrule opposition.
Or just go with what the boss says. That, too.
10. People love to be passive aggressive, and/or flex their status
Now, as a non-confrontational human, I too, adore passive aggression.
But I know it’s bad.
Whether it be, ‘I’ve been to numerous other conferences, both domestic and international, but I’ve never had these issues before’
‘How come (insert conference co-organiser) gets their name mentioned all the time but others don’t??’ in the chats.
Like… why. Why be so petty?
So, this whole thing has just been a massive learning curve for me. It’s not like each of the tasks were difficult, per se. It just took a lot of time… and patience.
It also really emphasised how much I dislike jobs that involve liaising with lots of strangers, because I have a really hard time making face. I can do it if it’s called for, but it tires me out much more quickly than other people- and I just find it utterly frustrating.
So here’s hoping that by the next conference, we’ll have an actual admin person again to deal with this. Because if I had to deal with strangers every single day… 🤯
Thank your admin person, people. They deal with a lot.
A Ph. D graduate in Microbiology, residing in Victoria, Australia. Currently working in multiple locations but still in the STEM field. 👀 🦠 🧫 🧬