CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

Puttin’ on the Show

Are you curious about what it takes to put on a CNCH Conference?  Do you wonder how the heck it gets accomplished every year?  Maybe you’d like to give it a go sometime,but have no idea what kind of torture you might be asking for?

Herewith you have some answers to those questions, along with some hints on how to actually be a better conference attendee!

I’m going to start with a recap of what the Conference of Northern California Handweavers actually is and does, because I know there are those of you out there who really only have a vague idea of its function.  Of course, that’s not true for the old timers.  You know who you are! You knew Mary Atwater before her pre-Columbian weave structure breakthrough.

So anyway, maybe you already know that $5 of your dues gets sent off to the umbrella organization which is CNCH.  There are some 29 guilds throughout northern California under this umbrella: strength in numbers!  Pooling our resources!  CNCH is further divided into five so-called Areas. Putting on an annual springtime CNCH Conference rotates among these geographic groups.

Committee meetings: a laugh a minute

Committee meetings: a laugh a minute

Another fun fact is that big decisions are made, affecting all of the guilds, by what’s affectionately known as AdCon — the CNCH Advisory Council.  And here’s another surprise for you: if you do get the fun of organizing a conference, you get to be a member of AdCon for several years afterward!  This came as a shock to me!  But there are only a few meetings a year, and the idea is to pass on your conference expertise to the next poor schlub who volunteers!  I mean, the next generous gal who takes on this fun project.

So-o-o, back to the beginning.  You fantasize about the power of choosing your own venue and the exact teachers you would want at your ideal conference.  Suddenly, though, you quake in terror at the idea of actually negotiating a contract with some big corporate Conference Center and Hotel! You relax again, remembering the AdCon old-timers, and the helpful wrap-up reports required after each conference.  Then they remind you that things change so rapidly in our world these days that much of what you do will be ground-breaking!

And snacks, too!

And snacks, too!

You smile to yourself, looking forward to visiting all of the guilds in your Area to drum up volunteers.  Then your giddiness melts away as you hit the road for six late, long road trips.

It goes on like that ! You envision about 4,000 happy weavers taking the classes you think they should take.  Then you realize that historically, conference attendance is dropping (What? No way! Yes, sadly it is) so you have to pare that back to about 200.  Next, you tell the Corporate Conference Sales Rep that you’ll be lucky to fill 100 hotel rooms for your 200 students, yet you need a ridiculous (to her) 13 classrooms!  And then watch her eyes roll back in her head when you mention that some of the classrooms have to accommodate large floor looms!

But here’s the thing: You DO get to pick the venue!  You DO get to pick the teachers & topics!   You and your committee (and yes, people do step up the plate — yeahh!!) get to choose a theme, a colorway, some gifts, the food, the special events, and more, all while getting to know each other pretty darned well!   And there’s a lot of laughter at those planning meetings!

I know that by now, you can’t wait to organize your very own CNCH Conference! Here are a few tips:

– Choose a co-chair partner. It halves the load. Pick someone whose strengths complement yours, i.e. she’s a spreadsheet type and you’re good on the phone.

– Commit yourself to a couple of hours every week for a couple of years. The time needed is not evenly spread out: A lot of time goes into the early planning, cementing the venue, plus tracking down and signing up the teachers.   A lot of time goes into the late stages, after registration begins.   You usually meet with “your people” about every 6 weeks in between, more often as the date draws nigh.

– A what-the-heck, let’s go for it! attitude is a must.  Things change so rapidly these days that even last year’s plans cannot be used as a straight template for yours.  However, history is a good starting point and many experienced gals are there to help!  (By the way, how the heck did they do it before email? They had to, what, talk on the phone??)

– Prepare yourself for many plaudits and much back-slapping at conference time! You’ll deserve it!

Okay, so maybe you know you’ll never actually chair a planning committee, but you love CNCH Conferences and want to excel at being a conference-goer! You know you do! Here are a couple of pointers for you:

-After reading this, you know that the conference planners really sweat over the required room reservation numbers.  Do everyone a favor: Book. A. Room. Okay, so get a roommate, fine, not three roommates!  One darn roommate, okay?  You’ll be doing yourself a favor, too, because booking a room brings you close to the social action, the teachers, the displays, the whole she-bang!  It really does enhance your experience.  And it does NOT help your conference to book online at one of the bargain sites!  That does not fall within the conference room block!  It’s a modern problem that has really bitten some conference organizers in the, uh, back beam!

– You knew I would get around to this: Vol. Un. Teer.  Just a teensy bit of your time takes the stress level down a notch for everyone at conference time.  I’ve already had many gals say to me, I can’t commit to a big role, but when the time comes, I’m willing to do something for ya.  Hey, that’s all I ask!  That’s fantastic!  Thank you so very, very much.

-Every single solitary conference EVER has had a glitch or three.  If you’re the victim of one, put yourself in the shoes of the glitch-ers.  Be nice.  Complain later if you must.  In the moment, be real saintly and it’s guaranteed: your loom (spinning wheel, etc) will go to heaven with you!

We Area 1 guilds are planning a fantastic conference in 2015, April 9-12 at Asilomar on the central coast.  And Area 2 is already priming the pump for 2016.   Come join us! Pop for a room, step up for a task, and then enjoy learning, playing, and getting inspired no end!!


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