Tuesday, May 14, 2013

In the Spririt of Collaboration: Coordinating Volunteers at Face to Face

In the spirit of collaboration: Coordinating Volunteers at Face to Face
By Tamar MacKay

This year, I had the pleasure, and sometimes challenge, of coordinating volunteers for the Face to Face conference, the biggest arts in education conference in the New York City area. I was lucky to be working with Matt Freeman, theatre administrator and educator extraordinaire, who has held the position for several years. The Face to Face conference is largely volunteer-run, and in the days leading up to the conference, I was swapping emails back and forth, taking note of schedule changes and cancellations. The theatre industry is always crazy and ever-changing, so I couldn't blame people for having to modify their schedules and for having to take other gigs that would help them in their career...or to pay their rent.
The night before, Matt and I and the rest of the Face to Face team had everything we could have in place, in place...but there was still such an element of uncertainty. Would everything run smoothly? What glitches would pop up that we hadn't anticipated? What would our volunteers be like? More importantly, would we have volunteers? They did have a call time at an ungodly hour....

The next morning the Face to Face team was there at 7am, and as I was moving coat racks and setting up nametags, I wondered if everyone I had been in touch with had decided to give in the urge not to leave their warm beds. But, just a few minutes later, our volunteers began arriving! By the looks of their willingness and enthusiasm, I wondered how many of them had already had time to grab their Starbucks usual.
The role of a volunteer isn't always glamourous, but it is necessary and, I hope, in the end, rewarding. Volunteers were ready to change the set-ups of rooms (which included moving heavy chairs and desks back and forth from room to room), to assist the effervescent Ben Compton, Conference Coordinator, with any tech trouble-shooting in the sessions, set up food, direct traffic, and to complete a plethora of other tasks. We were lucky to have a team that was so ready and willing to help each other, to jump in when needed, and to troubleshoot problems that no one could have predicted. I felt a sense of pride over these people, many of whom I had just met, knowing that they were members of my field. I knew that the arts education was filled with willing and talented people, and the team that we had was proof of this. Matt and I gave direction, but when it came to pure problem-solving, we often threw the task at hand to our volunteers. We had quite a few stage managers and production people, who knew how to change the entire layout of a room or hall efficiently with a short turnover time. We had performers and front of housers who made people feel welcome and helped attendees with where they needed to go. We greatly relied on, and utilized, the talents of our volunteers. With such a great team, everything ran smoothly and we were happy that the volunteers were able to attend sessions at the conference as well- they deserved it! The team acted as a true ensemble, with everyone pitching in and making sure that everything that needed to be done was done.
The Face to Face conference was one of the many experiences I've had at City College that proves that teamwork and collaboration can bring you a long way. Matt and I received many compliments regarding how smoothly the conference ran, and we were sure to acknowledge our great team- it couldn't have been done without them

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