Over the next few days I am running a major event. Well, at least for me it’s a major event, since I’ve never run anything this big before. Of course, when I say “run” I don’t mean I’m doing it myself — far from it.
Rather, I’m a bit like a starship captain on the deck of the Enterprise, pointing toward some cluster out beyond Altair or Centauri and saying to a capable crew “Make it so”. Like Captain Picard, except with more hair.
Which wouldn’t work at all but for the fact that the crew — the people I’m working with — are amazing. Hard working, focused, constantly coming up with solutions to problems or ways to make things better. All to create the best three day experience we can for several hundred participants.
Many of us have been on the other side of this kind of thing before, of course. You show up at a conference, and you idly wonder “How did they do that?” Or “How did they know how much food to order?” Well, it turns out that it’s a mix of two things: On the one hand, there is traditional lore passed down from year to year, the time tested ways of doing things that people know without even realizing they know it.
But then the rest is just plain winging it — flying without a net, and hoping the landing is soft. Things come up and surprise you, budgets change unexpectedly, people make mistakes, that resource you were relying on turns out to be unavailable, and all your careful plans that were months in the making have to be rethought mere days before the event.
The funny thing is that the people who show up at your event aren’t aware of any of this. To them it all seems inevitable, and that’s the experience you want to create — the feeling of a stately ship sailing though calm and unruffled seas.
It wouldn’t do to have anyone realize how much work went into that hard won appearance of calm, or how close your ship’s even keel could have come to teetering, or to capsizing altogether.