copying is easier than creating

Mz Tartan has posted a post about conferences that applies quite nicely to lindy exchanges. So I will now infringe her intellectual copy rights with some select copying and pasting.

  • thinking of holding a conferencen exchange? Best not. It is a far, far better thing to receive conferences exchanges than to give them. I can’t really remember what people actually said the dances I had, in most cases. I do vividly remember various people telling me that it is incredibly anxiety-producing to organise a conferencen exchange. That’s the truth. And all the while one is industriously producing anxiety one is well aware that the anxiety is ridiculous: one is not actually the person whose academic standing DJing or dancing has attracted people to this event, nor the one behind the microphone giving the talk good oil which is being intently listened danced to, let alone the person who wrote these exquisite novels songs and/or dances in honour of which everyone has gathered.
  • But here is a specimen of the type of situation which feeds anxiousness. I did not mention this en blog at the time, but back in April of this year, I came into my office one morning to find six or seven messages on my answering machine from a person who seemed to be saying she’d showed up at LTU on the weekend for the conference, and she was standing outside the venue right now and could I call her back straight away to tell her why nobody was around – where it had been moved to? Oh, and she’d come from Italy to attend. FROM ITALY. I was DJing at set in one room when the DJ from the other appeared at my side to ask where the DJ for the set following his was at. Can you imagine the abyss of horror which opened up beneath me? Can you? I’m sorry, but you can’t. The original call for papers, sent out eighteen months earlier, had indeed mentioned this weekend as the probable date, but we’d changed it very quickly to coincide with the English Teachers’ meeting. And of course nobody else had turned up. And of course ALL the subsequent promotional stuff very clearly gave the proper date. And of course it is incredible to simply turn up to a conference without at least re-checking that it’s on, or even attempting to register, or looking at the conference website. Yet, still, here she apparently was. FROM ITALY. All of the DJing rosters had been sent out ages ago and approved by all DJs concerned. We did manage to find the DJ (asleep somewhere), but it was a near thing, and yet another opportunity for public humiliation before an audience of my peers and international and interstate guests.
  • She apparently turned up again last Friday afternoon. The person on the conference desk said she’d appeared and wanted to know where her name tag was. Then we lost track of her again. I would have liked to sight her, from a safe distance (from inside a bird observation hut perhaps) but it was not to be…next time, no doubt.
  • If, in spite of this potent warning, you still want to do a conference n exchange, overbook your speakers DJs. Out of thirty-five two dozen, two will withdraw for good reasons and in plenty of time for you to make other arrangements; two will courteously let you know that they won’t be coming in time for you to pull them out of the program, one will pull out a week before, and one will pull out by email at 6:24pm on the evening before the day their paper set is scheduled at 10:45 1:30 am. This person will be emailing you not from the Australian city where she resides, but from a country that is nine hours’ flight away. How did she get there? you will wonder. Didn’t it occur to her as she got on the plane….etc
  • The sick feeling you will acquire as you contemplate what looks like the complete disintegration of your carefully assembled program will make it impossible for you to write play your own paper set with any degree of competency, so you will withdraw it, bash it out any way thus making you feel like a total hypocrite and poser. Nevertheless, there will actually be more than enough papers DJs, and you will eventually realise that all the agonising and your own self was were unnecessary.
  • Don’t cancel the wildlife tour/shopping tour/olden days architecture tour. It is what the internationals are looking forward to. You may think possums/shopping/old buildings are boring, but they do not.

Despite the extreme anxiety of previous MLXs, this year wasn’t actually all that bad. The above are really just par for the course, and what I think of as ‘inevitable screw ups’. The issue becomes not whether or not they happen, but how you deal with them when they do happen. The difference between a conference and an exchange, though, is that a couple of hundred dancers are there to have fun, and it takes quite a bit to dissuade them of their intent. Conference attendees, however, have a few more issues going on, and can be far less forgiving.
I only had one freak out during MLX, and that was on the Thursday of the weekend. My good friends and hostees took me for cake and I got over myself and it.
I find that the very most important thing about coordinating a dozen or so events over one weekend for a few hundred visitors is to remain calm. Freaking doesn’t help. I also have a rule: “no shouting”. Unless you’re shouting with delight. Shouting at people is never productive, and definitely not when the shouter is feeling angry/upset/etc. Remain cool. If you do feel a good shout/cussing out is in order, take it out the back so as to avoid broken furniture, exorbitant bar tabs and embarrassing guest DJs.
I have another solid rule: say thank you to anyone who has in any way been helpful, kind, accommodating, interested or otherwise a force for good rather than a force for inertia*. It doesn’t hurt to say thank you three or four times, but it does hurt if you don’t say it at all. Saying thank you makes you feel good, too, and so it’s a win-win deal for everyone involved.
And another rule (which is related to the previous): volunteers are the most valuable creatures at your event. DJs are generally a bit precious and high maintenance (with exceptions!), rock star dancers are a pain in the freaking arse (organise exchanges for beginners – they’re far less annoying) and fellow organisers can drive you nuts. But volunteers are gold. Love them, respect them, buy them drinks, thank them, squeeze them and underwork them. They will come back next year and figure out how to work the vacuum cleaner all on their own again.
*yes, I know.

3 thoughts on “copying is easier than creating”

  1. But you’ve organised exchanges before! You must have known all this! Or is it like childbirth (reputedly is) – in between one forgets the pain?

  2. Yep. In between, you forget all the shitty stuff and just remember the fame and glory… no, wait. You remember the fun and the camaraderie of collaborative creative pratice… Hang on.
    Look, I guess the weak submit, again and again and again. Or perhaps it’s a masochism thing. Perhaps only the strong are attracted to event management, and the weak are destined only to be punters. Hells, I don’t know. But I’m a problem solver type, and I actually like figuring out how to fix things when they fuck up.
    I could be on crack.

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