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The Zen of NCDD Events

Originally posted by Andy Fluke for the 2006 NCDD Conference…

Running a conference is easier than it looks. There, I just gave away our biggest secret. ‘Course, it does help to have such a great team to work with in the first place, but at the heart of this revelation is a simple truth: you fill up a room with good people and good things are going to happen. That’s our secret. What’s left is simply making sure there’s enough chairs to make them comfortable (and to the credit of our participants, many can just as easily sit in a circle on the floor and still engage and inspire, and create great conversations).

But let me back off just a little and make sure I don’t diminish the amazing work our team is doing. Of the three national events NCDD has hosted, this is by far the best organized, and this is directly because of the amazing work of Polly Riddims and Katie Howard, without whom this conference would probably be a shambles. If you’re here at the conference, find both of them and give each a big hug and a thank you. If you’ve had a great time, in so many ways its because of their investment and hard work.

As I wandered around the conference yesterday, watching all the pieces our tireless planning team crafted fall together into this amazing flow, I was struck by the same things I so enjoyed watching at the last two conferences — the introductions. Those moments when two people meet for the first time, shake hands or hug, and offer a a quick introduction of themselves. Sometimes it ends quickly with a “it was so nice to meet you”, but more often than not what follows is the first steps towards collaboration, the exchange of email addresses or phone numbers, the immediate sharing of ideas — the continued growth and connection that strengthens the network that we are working so hard to build. It is a very exciting thing to watch.

And it happens all day long — everyday of the conference.

It’s why we do this stuff.

I have a unique position, a very fortunate position to be able to come to this event having been so much a part of its inception yet having the freedom to go where I want, do what I want and explore the machinations of the conference to my heart’s content. I see Oz from behind the curtain as well as sharing the awe of standing with the crowd and watching the spectacle unfold. Our guests know they can come to me (though again I’m extraordinarily lucky to have Katie and Poly to send them to) if they need help and I do my best where I can. I have been approached by so many wonderful people, each sharing their first impressions with me and I have been amazed at the complete lack of criticism. Sure there are little problems popping up here and there, but nothing that can’t be overcome (again, we have Katie and Polly). But in past events, participants were never hesitant to share their criticisms along with their praise.

Kenoli and Marc’s opening session garnered the most praise, following the “if you didn’t get your morning coffee, it no longer matters” drumming performance, which, by the way garnered, more than enough complaints from other hotel guests — they needed to get up anyway. Although there was a little confusion about how to get from one Showcase to another, the workshops went smooth and, from the accounts I heard, were very well received. I unfortunately missed most of the reception and even more unfortunately missed out on the food, so I’m hoping that Beth will blog about the hors d’oeuvres.

But the one thing that really blew me away (and it shouldn’t have knowing the talent of the people involved) was how smoothly — and how much fun — incorporating technology into this conference has worked out. Loretta and Beth have done a fabulous job of putting the conference online. I have learned so much from each. But beyond that, I have had some very rewarding conversations about technology with many participants — too many to list here.

Thanks, everbody!

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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