Little Moving Pieces

Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA, summer 2016

Dear Reader, 

If someone were to ask you about the last event you attended, you would probably describe to them what you saw, the food you ate, and your overall impressions. As an event attendee you have the luxury of having everything laid out for you and all you have to do is sit back, watch, and listen. If the event goes well, you would probably say that the food was great and that the event was interesting. However, if an event goes poorly, there are many more answers that one would likely give including: the room was too cold, the seats were too hard, there wasn’t enough food, the coffee was cold, there was nowhere to store bags, the list is endless! 

There is an interesting difference in the way that we describe good and bad things. When things go well, it essentially means that we felt comfortable in the situation. When we are comfortable, our brains can more easily focus on what we are supposed to focus on. However, if things go badly, that means our bodies were made uncomfortable in some tangible way. For example, we would not likely enjoy an interesting presentation if the microphone created squeaky feedback, the text on the Powerpoint was too small, and the room was just a few degrees too hot. In this example, the three points of discomfort I just mentioned would likely make you rate the event, overall, as a bad experience.

I’m making these points to you now, Dear Reader, because today I was charged with managing a conference with about 15 speakers and 50 attendees (with the help of some very capable teammates!). As the event manager of the day, many of the decisions our team had to make directly related to audience comfort. Luckily, my supervisor made the decision to order cushioned chairs for the conference in advance, rather than the hard folding ones provided at the venue. I say “luckily” here, because no one complained about the chairs and ‘no complaint’ essentially means that people were comfortable, which translates to mean that ‘the chairs were a good decision.’

Early morning commute to the conference venue on the “T”

Food at an event is always a challenge. Unless you provide a banquet with every item imaginable, you just can’t please everyone with your food selection (especially if you’re on a budget!). We ordered too much salad and too few cookies. Is this a problem? Apparently. One woman made a point of stating in a rather loud tone that “there’s no cookies!?” There’s so much work that goes into catering an event. So much guestimating, so many phone conversations, last-minute negotiations, and running to set everything up just before attendees are due to arrive. Juggling this for three separate catering orders, makes me pretty relieved that all critiques were relatively mild.

You live and you learn. Our event was a success, but only because there are so many hardworking people behind the scenes anticipating your needs for you. The security guard who went out of his way to help me set up the tables, the delivery man with the Caribbean accent who gave me helpful setup advice, and the maintenance man who came ready with bags to help take away the trash are the reasons that you as an attendee can just walk right in and enjoy. Managing events can give you a very interesting perspective on things. While it can be (incredibly) exhausting, it can also be pretty rewarding. Whether you prefer to run the show or just watch it, I hope, Dear Reader, the next time you’re at an event, you’ll take the time to appreciate all of the little moving pieces.

Love,

Raven

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