Sunday, 19 June 2011

Post 11 Choosing a conference committee, part 1

With NLS5 approaching, I thought it would be an ideal time to reflect on my choices, as Convenor, for the organising committee for NLS4 in December 2008. There were 2 avenues open to me - one was to put out a call for expressions of interest and the other was to choose committee members based on my personal knowledge of them. As most of you would know, it takes at least 2 years to organise a conference and looking back through my files, I put in my first expression of interest to the ALIA Board in July 2006, with the formal (and much wordier!) bid going to the Board in August 2006, over two years before the actual event. Taking this into account, I felt then (and still do) that knowing a person's qualities ahead of time would be the strength behind the conference's success. Having already been involved in many committees, I had seen first hand what happened when people put their hands up to be involved and then didn't deliver - it put so much more work on the rest of the committee. I wanted to avoid that so, after discussion with the two previous NLS convenors, made the decision to bypass transparency and choose committee members myself. I also wanted to try and have the organising committee cover different sectors, and, being a national conference, have representation from interstate and regional areas.

As this would be a small, relatively small budget conference, I wanted to keep the committee fairly contained and have a limited number of positions. These were:

Marketing Coordinator
Melbourne Ambassador
Website Coordinator
Social Program Coordinator
Academic Program Coordinator

Because financials are so important and managing a budget critical, I wanted to have someone who already had experience in this. Kevin Dudeney had previously managed the budget for neXt and was able to put together an interim budget for me to supply to the Board with little effort (or so it seemed to me!). Kevin had also dealt with trade and sponsorship which made him an invaluable asset in this regard as we were able to work out compromises which still gave delegates a good program without impacting too much on the budget. It is not commonly known (but should be) that without sponsors costs would be so much higher for delegates. As NLS4 was primarily aimed at new graduates, based on the assumption of being low income earners, keeping costs lower was even more critical.

When managing a budget, reaching the budgeted number of earlybird delegates is essential (as is budgeting an achievable amount) so marketing becomes imperative and I wanted someone personable who could write well and investigate the multitude of promotional opportunities available to us. Ruth Barton, who was the first Coordinator, unfortunately had to withdraw from the committee and was replaced by Andrew Finegan who, as Librarian Idol, was more than able to rise to the challenge. I met Andrew at NLS2006 and loved the way he handled himself during a debate that was part of the program.

Trevor Mackay was an ideal choice to promote beautiful Melbourne to potential delegates, he knew Melbourne inside and out, a critical factor for this role. Importantly, I knew Trevor had the 'stick-to-itness' that I needed.

As the website was going to be our main source of communication, the Website Coordinator had to be techie, to say the least and who better than our own Victorian techie, Jenelle :) I was on aliaVIC with Jenelle and she was also a brilliant convenor and always followed through. Who better for the Website Coordinator role? Early in 2007, Jenelle dropped a bombshell on me - she was moving to the US to live and would have to withdraw from NLS4!

I'll talk more about my choices tomorrow :)

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