Over the past week or so I’ve noticed an uptick in Facebook posts, Tweets, emails, phone calls, and other cries for help that all seem to consist of the same basic theme, “Conference is Coming!” Here at HQ, we’re greeting that sentiment the same way our schools are: with a mix of giddy excitement, eager anticipation, bleary-eyed resilience, and furious activity (with just a soupcon of terror that it won’t all get done on time). Or, as I like to refer to it, the second most wonderful time of the year. That’s right, we’re in the home stretch and the next stop is the Hot Springs Convention Center.
This will be my fourteenth conference. Yes, I was there the first day the first bus unloaded in Little Rock. I was there when we outgrew that venue and had to move to Hot Springs. I was there when we held back-to-back events in Arkansas and California. And I helped drive the truck 2,000 miles one year. I’ve seen ‘em all, Troop, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that, in the end, not only does it work out, but it transforms the EAST world into the most exciting thing on the planet.
So how are we rounding the last turn as we prepare for Me Squared? Mostly by packing and unpacking boxes. Stuffing bags. Gathering equipment. Trying to make a foolproof moving and return schedule for all the stuff. Checking our lists, then checking them again, then checking them again. Planning for the entire event has moved from the pie-in-the-sky, what-ifs to the concrete and unassuming right nows. We’re making sure that the hotels will be ready, that the booths will be set up, that the chicken will be cooked, that the AV company will have magic, and that we’ll be properly prepared to greet each and every one of you.
I don’t know everything that will happen between load-in on the 27th and the last bus pulling out on March 1, but I do know this: a whole bunch of students will get to prove why they’re the best in the world, a whole bunch of guests will be blown away when they finally see the breadth and depth of the EAST world, and a whole bunch of facilitators will not get enough sleep. From the exhibition floor to the EAST Core demonstration station, to the breakout rooms, to the banquet hall, it’s all getting ready to happen.
As I said, this is my fourteenth conference, but for Ms. Jessica Dunham, our events coordinator, this will be her first look at what she’s actually been working on the last year. Here’s what she has to say about it, “It’s not hard for me to get caught up in the excitement of all the people I talk to who are veteran Conference attendees, but I’m finding it easier to feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of what I’ve taken on. I haven’t been there yet, but when I got the opportunity to spend several days with our leadership teams and see what this means to those students, it made me realize what it must mean for all the students. I’m proud to be a part of EAST and grateful that I can give a little to the growth of all our incredible students. They have helped me grow so much and I haven’t even met them all yet.”
Are you ready? Are you ready? We are emotionally even if physically we’re not quite there yet.
See you in Hot Springs. Wear comfortable shoes and a big smile.