Thursday, May 3, 2007

Volunteering at the IAPH conference

I waited until my (assumed) last volunteering day at the conference, so that I could sum up the small (and greater) things that I observed. Then I wrote this. Came back and decided that NOBODY wanted as much detail as I was giving.

So for any (lucky or unlucky) readers, be grateful that I did not post the first draft!

First of all, some explanation. I work at a Port Authority (okay - I work at the Port of Houston Authority in Texas). The Port's director is the head guy (president?) of the IAPH - International Association of Ports and Harbors. On the final year of the current president's term, his home port hosts the international gathering. So of course they solicited the employees for volunteering for various jobs while this is going on. I volunteered for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. My manager is so reluctant to let his staff volunteer (even for Port functions) during the work week, so that's why I chose Saturday and Sunday (on my own time, dammit). I showed up at the Hilton Americas hotel each morning by 8 am and breakfast was provided. Much better than anything I would grab at the house and it was included for free for the volunteers (okay, I know that someone paid for).

Anyway, I don't get to downtown Houston very much, so I carefully looked at maps on how to get there, where to park, etc. And still ended up taking the wrong exit - but at least I know downtown well enough to get further east, where the hotel is across from the George R. Brown Convention Center.

This conference was handed over to some contractors, because who (at the Port) has the expertise in all of these areas? I think the overall conference was given to one contractor, the media stuff to another, and the exhibition stuff to another. Maybe there were more, but those are the 3 areas that I had personal experience with over the 3 days.

I did hear good things about the opening night's program from attendees. So that was handled well, apparently. The registration was fairly FUBAR (ask someone who has been in the military, if you don't know what that stands for), IMHO (okay, ask someone who does texting) - it means, in my humble opinion. Okay - I'll stop using these acronyms, etc. Besides dealing with the "professional" organizers, the most difficult thing at registration was the names of registrants. Of course, some were logical (from our European roots), and others were a struggle. Even when you ask someone to spell their name, we are not used to hearing "zed" instead of "zee"! Every registrant got a complimentary carry-on bag, stuffed with enough whatevers to make it fairly weighty. I did like some of the Asian country attendees, who offered up a piece of paper with their names on it. Okay - I admit that I cannot read the languages which have their own characters, but I thought their approach to that was smart.

By the time lunch rolled around, I was fed up with the little chickies running registration and was considering mutiny. Lunch was also free to the volunteers. Mmmmm - the hotel puts on a mean spread. The desserts were simply to die for. Rest of the food was good as well.

Some observations: the attendees were, for the most part, very considerate and patient. I was lucky that I had volunteered for the week-end, because by the time Monday rolled around, I knew where various halls and conference rooms were (3rd or 2nd floor), so I was comfortable in directing folks to those areas. Language was a problem, of course - I am sure that they had as much trouble with our accents as we did with theirs.

One of the attendee gifts was a cowboy hat. Hats are rated by their X's - the more X's, the higher the quality. The give-aways were 2X, but they were shaped already. Most folks do not realize that a "raw" cowboy hat is not shaped - you choose how you want the brim turned, how you want the crown shaped. An unshaped hat looks kind of like Hoss Cartwright's did (for those of you who remember Bonanza on tv). Seems like most folks were pretty excited to get those hats.

Besides working at the registration check-in desk, I assisted at the room where the hats were being doled out, for a bit. Also worked in the media room (I toted publications down to the magazine racks in the exhibit hall); assisted in getting names and facts straight for the the minutes of an afternoon session of one of the executive committees; and even rode shot-gun for another employee who drove 3 of the registrant's wives to a Western store so that they could look for cowboy boots. One of these wives does line-dancing in Rotterdam (western-style dancing)! I think she was looking forward to flaunting those boots to the other dancers. When you signed up for volunteering, you were told that you should expect to do anything that was needed. And that summed it up.

Overall, it was a good experience. I was glad that I volunteered and got to see the pieces of it that I could. Besides giving us cowboy hats as thank-you's, the Port also gave us a carry-on bag (like the kind that the registrants received) with a few little goodies inside: once of those portfolios (canvas) where you can slip a full-size tablet inside, some book about Houston and its diverse cultures, and so on.

Back to reality now.

1 comment:

SJ said...

Thank you for linking me. :) I will reciprocate shortly.