Last year Vander Viana and Milena Mendes were involved in organising the 1st Interdisciplinary Linguistics Conference (1st ILinC) in Belfast.
They kindly agreed to answer some questions for Cambridge Extra:
What were the major challenges you faced in organising your first conference?
It goes without saying how challenging it is to organize a conference. Everyone who has done so is aware of the numerous tasks it involves as well as the attention required. In practical terms, conference organizers need to have a thorough knowledge of all aspects – from catering to the latest academic publications in the specific field the event focuses. And, most importantly, they need to be ready to deal with the most unusual situation of, for instance, having their academic conversation with a guest speaker interrupted by a helper who needs to know where s/he could find a missing umbrella!
How did you manage to obtain such high profile speakers?
That is a question we have been frequently asked since the names of our guest speakers were announced. It has been a most remarkable experience to have Profs. Deborah Cameron, Michael Halliday and Ruqaiya Hasan in Belfast for the very first time.
Honestly, all we did was to write an invitation letter to them, explaining what the purpose of the 1st ILinC was and how we would be honoured to count with their academic input. Rather than discussing what we did to bring them over, it is important to highlight how much they worked at their ends to make their participation possible.
You used e-mail and Facebook as your main forms of communication with delegates, how responsive did you find this?
Working with electronic media is a must nowadays since they allow for easy and convenient conference advertising all over the world. In our case, as we expected, most participants (70% altogether) pointed out that they were informed of the event by means of an e-mail sent either by the conference organizers or by their colleagues.
Our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/QUBILinC) had a different purpose: we wanted to have a lively way of updating participants on the conference. Therefore, while the most important ones were also advertised on our website (http://go.qub.ac.uk/1stILinC), the Facebook page allowed us to include participants in the organization loop.
What were the major topics discussed at the conference?
Given our choice of conference theme, presenters were asked to focus on two main topics: ‘interdisciplinarity’ and ‘impact’. These were interpreted in a broad way by participants as they came from different areas such as Applied Linguistics, Education, Linguistics, Modern Languages and Psychology to cite five examples.
What changes will you make for the 2012 conference?
As the 2012 conference will be organized by a different committee, the new organizers will be in charge of deciding which changes are to be made in the overall structure of the event. We have passed on to them all the feedback received, which has been mostly positive and encouraging.