It’s been about a month since URBANIZED finished and it still follows me around.
I was blessed with the opportunity to be the Operations Director for this year’s International Development Conference. To be fairly honest, I didn’t realize what I was getting into.
It all started with a message one day last July, from our wonderful Co-Chair, Sarah Wilkinson. It was very simple. I was brought up in conversation about being a good Operations Director.
At the time, I thought it was great that I was even recognized by anyone in our cohort to be good at anything. Needless to say, I wasn’t a very attentive student my first two years in INDEV. But it was an amazing opportunity that came out of seemingly nowhere. So I thought, Yah, this seems like a good idea. Chances like these don’t come very often. Let’s make the best out of it.
And so, I began to embark on a journey of planning a conference that I had no idea what I was really getting into.
I won’t really go into the details of what planning a conference is like. Operations is mainly planning day-of stuff, but, boy, is there a lot to think about. I’m so lucky my team was so helpful and competent. I think I would have really crashed and burned without them.
It took a lot of time and planning to make URBANIZED, but here are the things that I’ve taken away from it.
- Communication is key. I think I went crazy trying to keep up with all the messages, emails and lost connections. When you’re in charge of something as big as a conference, you have to keep tuned in and organized. Putting emails in the same place, files labelled correctly, contacts within reach and responding as soon as you can were some of the challenges I ran into.
- You need to rely on other people. There was a point in the planning stages where
the Directors were swamped, there was too much to think about, too much to do and not enough people to do it (or at least we thought). Learning to delegate is so difficult, particularly when you know you’re capable but you just don’t have the time. You have to be able to trust who you’re working with in order to let them do it without you backpacking along with them, otherwise you’re slowing you and them down. Again, my team did a crack job and I’m so thankful I could trust them to do it right.
- When things go wrong, smile. On the day of URBANIZED, I remember panicking slightly about every little thing. I could barely sit through speakers without wanting to go and check up on how everything was moving. But I think the greatest thing about planning URBANIZED came when it was all over. People really had a good time. In my head I’m thinking, But didn’t you notice when this happened, or how this wasn’t perfect, or whatever happened happened?? Truth be told, they may have noticed but it didn’t seem like a big deal because we always seemed to have a handle on things. We smiled.
- Always look out for the sanity of your team. I think this was the most important thing I took away from planning URBANIZED. Every Director was, at one point in time or the other, going to go crazy. Planning a conference is one thing, but when the expectations were so high and the hype was pretty real, there’s a whole ton of pressure. But, we’re a team for a reason. We’re supposed to be able to help each other carry the burden when we need to. I know that sometimes we think we have to bear all of the pressure ourselves, but it’s not the case. We have a team. We’re here to help each other succeed. So when it comes down to it, we need to buckle up and prepare to take on more so that our own team members don’t feel like they’re drowning. And quite honestly, the team comes first. At the end of the day, I’d rather be able to say we had a great conference, but everyone came out of it happy as could be than have to say that we had an amazing conference but someone got seriously burnt trying to keep up.
There’s a ton of lessons to be learned from planning a conference and I very grateful I got the opportunity to. It put my skills to the test and I’m proud to say that we did a wonderful job. There’s still more to be done as we wrap up but I’m already missing the craziness that was the making of URBANIZED.
What was your favourite part of URBANIZED? Leave a comment below!