All about oSC13

These are some personal thoughts that have crossed my mind while organizing several events in the past years.
oSC13, being the latest one is the motive for me to collect my thoughts and write them down.

oSC13 – or “A compass without a map” as Kostas named our presentation regarding organizing oSC13.

Well, can’t blame him for that, he ain’t that wrong, but I am not gonna go into the reasoning for this title – you can find it all in the video of our presentation during oSC13

There are more than several things that we have learned while organizing oSC13.
But there is one single thing that stroke me since the beginning and it kinda expands to the whole volunteering idea, not just oSC13 – or any event organizing.

It’s amazingly weird how people (as in volunteers) act as if volunteering is optional.

Meaning that ppl volunteer to do sth and what they really have in mind is “If I can and if I have time and if I got nothing better to do, then yes, I will complete this task! Sure I will!”, when what we, organizers, have in mind is “Great this person is gonna take care of this task from start to end. We don’t have to worry about this anymore, yay, one less task on our list. Let’s move on to something that specifically requires our attention”.

HUGE gap! And that’s a problem for every event planning.

PLEASE, all of you that sign up to volunteer for sth, don’t forget the meaning of volunteering and don’t equal volunteering with having less responsibility towards what you take up on. Volunteering is not about an optional task, volunteering is about helping your team accomplish something, it’s a team work that is essential to the end result.

And don’t forget that whenever you volunteer for a task, there is someone else that crosses it off their list and arranges their time accordingly WITHOUT this task that you said you will handle. If you show up 1 day before the deadline saying that you couldn’t do it for whatever reason, no matter how important the reason is, you are forcing another person that is slightly more responsible towards what needs to be done, to lose sleep or a much needed break during the weekend in order to finish YOUR task. Ain’t that kinda unfair?!
Sorry guys but here’s the deal: YOUR task, YOUR work, YOUR problem to properly divide your time. This isn’t the kindergarden anymore! And if life comes along (or better, when life comes along), well guess what, that’s what happens to all of us! The difference is that we don’t all start whining about it and stop doing what we are supposed to be doing! We suck it up, solve the problem, get going with our responsibilities, not leaving other people hanging because of our inability to adapt to simple life events.
(And I am obviously referring to kind of predictable stuff and not to serious heath or life-threatening situations, because unfortunately this is what I have seen happening. People simply not estimating their time correctly based on their pre-existing responsibilities or taking up too much tasks for totally different things or preferring to go out and have fun and simply not being consistent with their obligations, without anything tragic really happening to them.
For me that’s unacceptable. Whatever one doesn’t do, someone else has to take up. And sorry but people have their own stuff to deal with and their own responsibilities and their own timeline for doing stuff – their stuff, the things they chose to do. No one has the right to create problems out of nowhere by unloading their tasks to someone else.)

Which brings me to deadlines!
Another hot topic. The deal with deadlines is that it does not always depend on the level of responsibility. Sometimes people just have a totally different point of view regarding the time at which a task needs to be finished. That can be due to lack of information regarding other tasks depending on this one to be completed, or merely due to a different approach to the issue in hand. Thus, 2 people, both very focused and dedicated to what they are doing, aiming to deliver the best possible result can have 2 totally different timelines in their minds.
And, yes, this is something that came up during organizing oSC13 and for the first time I realized how much of a problem this is. This being not just setting a specific timeline but communicating it to ALL the people invovled in what you are doing (not just the people that are immediately affected by it, but everybody, so that we are all on the same page).
I have always made a timeline for whatever task I had to do, let alone organize a conference. Somehow for oSC13 we managed not to create a public timeline – even though our tasks-tool, trello, did provide for setting deadlines.

Sure, anyone really interested in the bigger task (such as organizing a conference) and invested in helping will have a pretty accurate timeline in their mind. But the problem starts when people cannot really help throughout the organizing period, but can dedicate part of their time at a specific period. The problem is that you end up having really capable people ready to help you at a time that you have finished most of the work with the (limited?) resources you had or you simply are so swamped with work that you have no time to explain and give instructions. Either way, it sucks. And it can be avoided by a communicated a clear and specific timeline, so that people can arrange for their own personal timeline accruately. And everybody can be happy!

Hands on deck are very important.
Everyone is suitable for at least one of the tasks a conference has. Even the person that you can put in any post at first glance, will prove useful. Every big event has examples of that. oSC13 had striking examples of that that have left me literally speechless.
But more about that in my thank you post to all our valuable helpers of oSC13 (well at least the ones that I worked with, there were so many more).