With the NZ Institute of Physics conference rapidly approaching, I thought I'd share my thoughts and experiences on how to organize a good conference. Or maybe on how not to organize a good conference. Time will tell.
1. Don't try organizing a conference when you have 450 exam scripts to mark.
2. Employ a professional conference organizer. They are worth their weight in free conference alcohol.
3. Remember that participants at your conference will read 'deadline' as 'guideline'. Don't expect more than half your abstracts to come before the advertised deadline. While it's tempting to reject abstracts that are late, the reality is that we can't afford to do that. So it's a good idea to work out when the deadline really is, and advertise it for two weeks before then. One could say that exacerbates the problem, because your contributers will learn to take your deadline (whenever you set it for) and add two weeks to it.
4. Remember, that any 'extended deadline' will be read as being 'extended guideline'. There will still be abstracts coming in well after the two-weeks extra that takes you up to where your deadline really should have been in the first place. And you can't afford to say no. And they'll be asking to be placed in premium oral slots, too.
5. Inter- and intra-organizational politics is just as complex as parliamentary politics.
6. Don't be treasurer of the organizing body (in this case NZ Institute of Physics), a key conference organizer, and an employee of the host institution (in this case University of Waikato) all at the same time. Way too many conflicts of interest to manage all at once.
7. All the above notwithstanding, the conference will probably go very well and the average attendee will have no knowledge of points 1-6 above. So don't tell them. Whoops.
And, finally, if you're a member of the physics community, remember it's not too late to register. And if you're not, we have two excellent public lectures lined up for you on the evenings of Sunday 5th July and Monday 6th July. See you there!