I have had the pleasure of planning numerous events, initially as the social chair of the postdoctoral association (PDA) at my research institute, and now as the chair/president of the PDA. That is correct, I said pleasure! When people at my institution or other organizations comment on the terrors of planning events, I have to disagree. I have to admit that it does get my Adrenalin pumping and that sometimes things go wrong, or only happen at the last possible second, but seeing something come to fruition is very satisfying.
I recently planned a very large institutional event which was cosponsored by the PDA and the campus veterinarians and involved The Jackson Laboratories (JAX). I work at an institute which focuses on medical research and as such requires some animal research, which is performed on mice specially bred for the purpose. One of the world leaders in mouse models for research is JAX, and they have seminars which can be presented both on the web and in person at your research institute. Considering our research focus, it was decided that it would be a fantastic opportunity for the researchers to learn more, and we invited JAX to give a seminar series.
This was a larger event than normal, which involved 3 separate entities all of which needed to be in sync. JAX provides a list of potential seminars and between the PDA and the co-sponsoring division we picked four. The initial hurdle was matching up a date which was suitable for both JAX and our institute, and an available lecture theater. This was actually the hardest step! It involved numerous phone calls and e-mails to the various players, but eventually everything lined up.
I was incredibly lucky that the JAX representative I was working with is exceptionally experienced and really enjoys bringing their science to the consumer. Laura Lockwood effortlessly organized a number of things for the event. She booked the speaker, Dr. Emily Jocoy, to come down from their office in Sacramento. JAX make official flyers for their events and, after a few false starts, we were all happy for the flyer to be sent out. I e-mailed and posted flyers to my institution and also used word of mouth to advertise the event. There was a link on the flyer to allow registration to the event so we could track the numbers of planned attendees. Finally, Laura organized the lunch for the attendees.
On the day, Laura and Emily arrived early to get the lay of the room. They ensured that the projection system and computer were working well with their laptop and everything was ready for the seminars. Emily was a very good speaker, knowledgeable on her subject and aware of the timings for each of the seminars. She was comfortable enough for attendees to ask questions throughout her presentation without it breaking her rhythm or concentration.
I was very lucky that the organization of this particular event was helped by working with a fantastic team of people, the PDA, the veterinarians and those from JAX. Most other events are even easier to pull together. The only concern I normally have is whether people will attend the event, which if sufficient advertisement has been done, should be minimal.
I enjoy bringing opportunities to my institution and each time I am involved in the process I learn more. Organizing events is quite different to organizing experiments and diversifies my abilities. It also aids my ability to work in a team and with a wide range of individuals of differing statures and expectations. I would encourage everyone to become involved in their institutes PDA’s or local research associations to gain these valuable experiences.