The dust has settled on our first big Current Archaeology event, and I am happy to report it was a great success. Over 500 people attended, including delegates, speakers, moderators, press and guests; not bad for a first try! With big events like conferences, there will always be something that could have gone better, however overall we were extremely pleased. It was a whirlwind weekend! Below is a bit of the play-by-play, from my perspective…
We had no idea what to expect — would anyone turn up (including the speakers!), would everything work, what would go wrong first? So many thoughts were going through our minds as we prepared for the 500 delegates and speakers to arrive at the British Museum. To make matters more interesting, the entire Great Court upstairs was booked out all day for Chinese New Year events, including a performance by Damon Albarn and the Gorillaz. We were warned that security would be tight- would this negatively impact our attendees’ experience? I hoped it would add to the overall hype and cosmopolitan verve of bringing people to the British Museum.
Registration. The stress level was building. We knew it would be a tight squeeze to get everyone registered in 45 minutes, but we thought we’d prepared adequately with enough staff and signage. However, as the lines got longer and a rugby scrum-like atmosphere developed, we realised that we’d have to go above and beyond previous plans to get everyone in on time. Thankfully, we scraped in under the wire, and the theatres were both filled as the Welcome began.
The lectures. Overall, we have had extremely positive feedback about the presentations, from the level and quality of the speakers to the content and structure of the sessions. We underestimated the Romans this year, and unfortunately they even over-filled our overfill room! Additionally, we realised early on that switching between theatres was difficult, and in our zeal to put on the best of the best, we may have packed the programme a bit too tightly. Some of the discussion sessions were very interesting indeed, and I was pleased to see so much back-and-forth between the audience and the speakers. I am glad to have sent people away feeling like they got their money’s worth, rather than that the programme had been too light.
The wine reception. This was possibly my favourite part of the entire weekend. It was fantastic to meet so many of our subscribers, and to hear your thoughts on the magazine as well as on the event. Additionally, it was great to see the speakers and moderators mingling as well — that was the whole point of this event — to bring archaeology to the people who care about it, and make it accessible in a new and different way. I overhead snippets of many interesting conversations beginning with ‘I’ve always wondered…’ (and hopefully ending with the answers!), and as I looked around, I realised people were genuinely enjoying themselves. I have to admit, the crush upstairs was a bit worrying; some of our delegates had gone outside during the day and had trouble getting back in (myself included!), and by 7:00pm the Great Court was impassable. Packed! In retrospect, I think that the events going on upstairs actually added to the overall experience for our delegates, and I did see many of them upstairs taking advantage of the sights and sounds.
The follow-up. We’ve heard back from many attendees with feedback from the event, regarding everything from lecture topics, the coffee and tea, event management and other suggestions. We’re definitely taking it all on board as we begin planning for Archaeology 09 — can you believe we’ve already started? We’re hoping to make presentations available on DVD or the web; stay tuned for more information about that, and about next year’s event.