By Yuanyuan Zhou | Co-Founder and CEO of Whova, Inc.
last updated on September 7, 2016
Before organizing a 500 people conference on computer systems (ASPLOS’16), I had never realized how tough it was to be an event organizer. After the event is over, I told my colleagues that I needed to take a one year break from participating in any event organizing in any form. I was too exhausted.
This experience made me realize that in the past I seldom express my appreciation to organizers. I pretty much took for granted the on-time tasty coffee when I need my caffeine shots, the inspiring keynotes that kept my attention from start to end, and many other things. I also felt ashamed of myself for my occasional heartless whining about those little things that seem not perfect to my liking.
I guess until you are truly walking in other people’s shoes, we don’t start appreciate their effort:
Reason 1: They have to take care of many (really, MANY) things
Regardless of how large or how long an event is, organizers need to make sure many things are in place ranging from big things such as speakers, rooms, meals to smaller logistics parking spaces, your morning coffee, afternoon tea, name badges, floor maps, poster boards, etc. Even for my 500-attendee event, we had to use a project management tool to make sure every small thing was taken care and would be in place and on time.
Reason 2: They didn’t get much sleep before and during the event
No matter how well things have been prepared ahead of time, there are always last minute changes or glitches they need to take care. While you are enjoying a night out with old or new friends you have met at an event, organizers have to stay up very late (sometimes past 2am) to make sure everything falls into place the next day. They are also the first ones to rise in the morning to check whether your breakfast will be served fresh and in time.
Reason 3: They have been stressed out for the past 6 months
When you are enjoying the food, the music, the talk, the crowd and the activities in an event, it is actually not that fun at all for the organizers. Believe me, instead of fun, they have been overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. They need to worry about enough attendees registering for the event, that the budget is enough to cover everything, that the speakers can show up on time to give the keynotes, etc. They are simply overwhelmed with thousands of possibilities that something may go wrong.
Reason 4: Many of them are just volunteers
Some of you may argue that event planning is their job. You probably do not know, but planning for an event often takes a team of organizers, many of whom are just volunteers. They are not paid by the event. In most events, your registration fee can cover only a part of the cost—the food, the room, the AV, etc. Organizers still need to get outside sponsors to help pay for the speakers’ travel expenses, the drinks, the outings, etc. As a result, they have very little left to pay themselves or get paid helpers.
Reason 5: Your smile is their biggest reward
After so much effort and so many sleepless nights, all they want to see is a smile on your face; and all they want to hear is your confirmation that you enjoyed the event. Don’t be too clingy with your smile. Just take a few minutes to tell them your appreciation. Cannot find them? If you use Whova as your mobile event app, at the end of your event agenda, there is a button that allows you conveniently send your appreciation to your organizers.
Yuanyuan “YY” Zhou is CEO and Co-founder of Whova and is also a Qualcomm Chair Professor in Mobile Computing at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She obtained her Ph.D from Princeton University. She is an ACM Fellow and IEEE Fellow and ACM Mark Weiser Award Winner (2015). She has organized tens of academic conferences and alumni events and has also supported many graduate students to attend various conferences to shake some hands. This is how the Whova idea was born. With Whova, now her students can shake the right hands.