While you might have been busy with your Black Friday shopping (why do we even have this as a sale day here in Australia?) the BILT ANZ committee were gathering in Melbourne.  Why Melbourne – because that’s where next year’s BILT ANZ will be held of course!  While we spent most of the four days getting lost at the Crown, we also had the opportunity to occasionally find our way out, including attending the final MelBIM for the year.  This was a great opportunity for many of us to catch up with our Melbourne based BIM friends as well as attend a great event (we will all debate later over on twitter if MelBIM or BILT is better organised)

As anyone who has attended a BILT event knows the conference committee are super busy running around (and tweeting) during the event, but many people are unaware how much planning and behind the scenes work goes into ensuring you get an awesome event experience from the classes you attend, to the process of registering and the networking food and drink.

Every year, our committee gathers for four full days in the city selected for the next event.  We spend our days (mostly) locked up in a small meeting room eating junk food and debating every aspect of the conference from reviewing the abstracts to venues for events to what type of bag you get (or if there is a bag at all), if we print a program, how the exhibition is laid out, what the speaker gift should be, who our media and industry partners will be and what theme we will have for the gala party.   We don’t even stop at lunch or dinner, usually discussion continues even if we might be testing out possible after party venues at the same time. No detail is too small but often many of our ideas are too big and we do have to be realistic about what a group of mostly volunteers can actually achieve between December and May. This four days is the only time we get together face to face – the rest of the conference is organised over teleconferences, email and Microsoft teams! The main plans for the whole event come out of this few days, and we all leave with a long list of to do tasks (and the RTC Events team who are back in Sydney will find their planner lists full when they get back to work on Monday).

The biggest single task of the four days is reviewing the abstracts.  This year again we had a massive number of abstracts to get through, but over the last few years we have been working on improving our data analysis and this has made the task much easier.  As always, every abstract is read and evaluated by at least two committee members before we meet on site.  Questions are based upon both the content and the speaker (if you want to know for next year about writing a winning abstract read this earlier post).  All the abstracts are then ranked and as a team we work through them line by line determining if they are to be accepted or not.   As we work through we consider duplicate or similar topics and what kind of classes we’d like to see on the program.  This process then generates yes, no and maybe rankings in our spreadsheet.

At this point, we go analogue.  Every submitted abstract has a card.  Much like a post it plan, we then begin to fill a wall up with the schedule, starting with the yes cards trying to create groupings of classes in a row and also looking for clashes as we work.  Once we have the first draft up, we also look for obvious gaps and start adding placeholder abstracts for classes we’d like to see.  We check that speakers haven’t been allocated twice in the same slot.  We walk through the program as different roles “I’m an electrical modeller”, “I’m a contractor” etc etc what would I like to see.  Writing this in a couple of sentences  makes is sound really easy…but this process takes up around a full day.  Even then we know that its not final and there will be always be one session where you have too many classes and another where you feel there is not much on.  Someday soon we will have to train our own AI…

While its a few days of very intense work its always lots of fun, thanks to the great team we work with. There is a lot of serious discussion but also lots of silly jokes and of course time for hanging out over a few drinks.  (The Cherry Ripe at Mr Hive proved very popular with a number of committee members)

By the time we finish at 5pm Sunday we are all full of enthusiasm for next year and everyone plans to do so many things before Christmas…and this year thanks to our wonderful event manager Ellie Mihalarias, some of us did actually deliver on that promise – speaker letters went out last week!  Congratulations to our speakers for 2019 – we think you are a fantastic bunch.  For anyone who didn’t make the cut – that doesn’t mean your idea wasn’t great too – we simply can’t accept everyone who applies.  Maybe your abstract could have been better written and needed someone else to review it, maybe you had a brilliant idea but we thought you’d only get an audience of four (which we wouldn’t want you to work so hard and then have that happen), maybe someone else (or many someone else’s) also saw that gap in the program and submitted a very similar topic.  Please don’t give up, we’d love you to try again next year.

Want to know more of what’s to come, keep an eye on this blog and our social media sites and you will be up to date with everything BILT ANZ.  Registrations will open in January!

PS.  One last item we discussed this year is a new committee member for 2019…look out for an announcement coming soon.

PPS.  Any early guesses for the theme of Saturday night’s Gala Party?  I’m sure if someone gets it right we can find a prize. (do we have BILT coffee mugs in the office anyone?)

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