May 28th, 2010

The Librarian

Adventures in conference land ...

Trying to decide if it's a good thing or a bad thing that communication seemed to be such an alien concept to the committee organizing the conference I presented at today. I was booked way back in February and never heard another thing from either "agent" or anybody from the conference committee after that. I've served on the committee twice m'self and know that this is a HUGE no-no ... you do NOT book people and fail to follow up on equipment, travel, and accommodation needs (sure, I happen to only live four blocks from the venue, but that's hardly likely to be true of everybody involved. And, if their claim in next paragraph was true, for all they knew I could have been coming from the far, roadless corner of Nunavut)

So, getting majorly nervous with the thing less than two weeks away and still not having been contacted by anybody involved, I email "agent" to find out what the heck is going on. Couple of days later, an email from a committee member (which included info showing that my email had been forwarded to them by "agent) ... informing me that they didn't do any follow-up because "agent" didn't fill out contact info for any of the speakers she booked on the forms. Excuse me???!!! You are in the information business ... why the hell didn't you ask her for it? Anyway, you booked a tour of my company your own little selves months ago and my boss was nearly as antsy as I was because she'd never had any follow-up either. And, since you DID book it your own little selves and my bio that you put on the conference website says that I work there, you DID have contact info.

Anyway, in your email you tell me that mine is one of the most heavily-booked sessions in the conference (very nice to hear, very flattering), to email any handout material I have and printing will be taken care of (all good and proper and by the book), that I will have an overhead projector, and to just bring along my laptop and memory desk to hook up.

Er ... I don't happen to own a laptop (lots of people don't, y'know, despite what you see on TV). I've never had any need for a laptop and I don't buy gadgets I don't need. This session is normally taught in a computer lab ... "agent" KNEW that. Fortunately my boss was willing to let me borrow a laptop from work. So, update handouts and email, with query as to whether I'll have Internet access as that wasn't mentioned in email from committee and the session you've booked me to do is 100% Internet-based ... it's all about profession-related websites and tools and how to find and use them. Lots and lots of live online demo. No reply. Query about Internet again a couple of days later. Still no reply. Coming right down to the wire on this and feeling very paranoid because, although all new conference-hosting hotels are wired eight hundred ways and probably capable of linking into networks in other galaxies, I know this is an older hotel with conference facilities as a sideline rather than their major focus, and may not necessarily have access everywhere.

So decide, even though entire session is already set up on Internet (and has been for years, with continual checking and updating), to spend most of past few evenings constructing "fake webpage" edition of session on laptop. Just in case. And damned lucky I have this paranoid streak too. Well, actually it's more like an I'm damned if I'll take a chance on my professional reputation (or that of my company) being tarnished due to the incompetence of others streak. Turned out that, while room WAS set up for both cable and wireless Internet, the hotel's network crashed just before my session and it was going to take at least an hour for a support tech to get there. So entire presentation done on fake website ... attendees very good about it (and I had a PACKED room, folks), appreciative of the tons of screenshots of sites and of every step of procedures that I'd done up, and, verbal feedback afterwards used the word "overwhelmed" a lot (which was a good sign ... meant that most of what I had was new to 'em) and mainly was about eagerness to get on website live and REALLY play (they all applauded at the end, and not "duty" applause either ... the best feedback of all). Oh, and my handouts HAD been received and printed ... but I arrived half an hour early with my own print copy for reproduction, because I wasn't counting on anything at that point.

So all worked out for the best in the end and, most importantly, the innocent bystanders who signed up for the thing weren't disappointed, but surely there MUST be less stress-inducing ways for serendipity to happen. And, on the plus side of my personal ledger, got to meet in person a provincial health region cataloguer who've I've talked to several times via email and phone over the past few years ... we "met" when she put a desperate appeal out online for decent library software on a tragically small budget and I introduced her to BookCAT (the software I use at home for keeping track of my personal book collection)

P.S. Forgot to mention while I was ranting up above ... also learned from delayed communication that my session was scheduled 4.5 hours later than the time that I was told in February confirmation ... another reason it's a bloody good thing that I did take the initiative and check. Can't help wondering if they'll end up having any no-show presenters or session that fall flat this weekend due to non-communication ...
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