This programme was probably the first big-ticket academic/practitioner get-together that “I” organised “myself”. That being the case, I had a heck of a lot of support for these events, which I should acknowledge at the outset.
Thanks go to:
- The School of Law, for underwriting the conference. This allowed me to proceed with booking the venue and organising catering etc. before knowing whether I would break even. Thanks also to individuals within the School for organisational support.
- Sponsors Stronachs and Terra Firma Chambers, which also helped ensure the events were viable.
- The wider university community, in terms of catering, AV, press releases and indeed giving a venue for the event. The PR was invaluable (see below), especially as I had no particular advertising budget. (That lack of budget also explains my tweeting and blogging about the event.)
- The intrepid student volunteers*, who helped with delegate registration, car park management and by generally being friendly faces pointing people in the right direction.
- All the speakers and participants.
It can be seen I got by with a lot of help with my friends. Now to become a bit more egotistical and offer my reflections on the proceedings. (Those wanting a flavour of the discussions on the day with a bit more substance and less navel-gazing are directed to this Storify story.)
I was happy with the public lecture. Calum, Jayne and I had delivered a similar lecture before and it was great to get the band back together. We might have another reunion tour at some point. Apart from one or two technology hitches, it went to plan and proceedings can still be viewed at the School of Law facebook page (in two parts: here and here).
Moving to the Friday, again I was generally pleased with how it all went, but I am about to list a number of things that might make it seem like I was not. Please don’t read too much into my reflections as a negative indicator of the day, rather this is an attempt to explain how things could have been even better for delegates and indeed me. (After all, reflection is important in the learning process.)
In no particular order:
- I was over-ambitious with the programme. At one stage I somehow went from having a programme that I wanted to add content to to having a programme that was bursting at the seams but not quite suitable for rearrangement by breaking out into parallel sessions. (That would have tightened up proceedings, by having two sessions running in tandem rather then consecutively.) I am not sure who I could have pruned from the final programme as a whole as everyone brought something to day, but this meant things were already tight for time before events even started.
- People often speak for longer than their allotted time. (I should know: I do this regularly.)
- When people are asked to offer questions to the panel, some offer monologues instead of questions. I suspect land reform is a topic that especially encourages this. This meant the already tight discussion time was further compressed. Anyway, here is a flow-chart for future events:
- A lot of people leave conferences held on a Friday before proceedings formally finish. I suspect this is especially the case for conferences in Aberdeen if people have travelled from the central belt. Scheduling of the programme and catering should reflect that.
- I didn’t enjoy the day enough. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great speakers and the associated networking was worthwhile, but I should have paid more attention to what was being discussed rather than worry about everything and trying to micro-manage things.
- (A boring reflection, this one.) I didn’t need to book a roving microphone. The room was small enough to shout in and people had microphones fixed at their desk or the platform. Said roving microphone was ditched pretty quickly.
- Self-publicity is all well and good, but sometimes you need to get the grown-ups involved. There is absolutely no way I would have found my way onto BBC Radio Scotland or got a mention in the local newspaper the Evening Express without a well-timed and suitably worded press release from the University of Aberdeen media team.
- Never under-estimate how much preparatory time events like these need.
A final overall reflection is that it was great to be able to pull together a programme like this. My years of tweeting, blogging, talking, teaching and writing about land reform have not been in vain: I managed to assemble a strong cast of speakers and hopefully this will serve as a springboard for future discussion and research in the area.
Whether you came along to the event or were watching proceedings from afar on social media, if you have any further reflections you want to add please comment below.
*A quick word on the student volunteers. I realise asking students to volunteer can seem awful close to the dubious world of unpaid internships. In defence of the practice, I might note: a) students were under no obligation to assist and those who did not get involved won’t be penalised in any way; b) students were fed and watered throughout the day, and wined later in the day; c) students got the chance to attend a useful discussion for free, with associated networking opportunities; d) duties were not particularly onerous; and e) I volunteered as a student helper at a conference in 2005 and I found it to be a positive experience.