The All Important Bag of Tricks

Author: Dana Beaton (Problem solver extraordinaire), Assistant Director, SFU Conference and Guest Accommodations, Simon Fraser University

Like moms, wedding planners, and superheroes everywhere, every college and university conference professional has their bag of tricks full of items they’ve come to rely on for solving common (and not so common) problems.  Here’s some of the key items in mine…

Black sharpies… handy in any number of situations.  Scuffed black dress shoe?  Last minute signage?  Misspelled name tag?

Spare shoes.. a must,  have multiple pairs if you can.  Have spare shoes in your office, car, bag – whatever.  Have them ready for when the shoes you wore for fashion become too much for your poor feet,  for when you step in a puddle when out directing traffic, or to dress up an outfit for the one day you come dressed ultra-casual to work and a client shows up for an unscheduled meeting.

Snacks… can solve many problems. As the organizer you are generally the last person to eat or…the first person to skip the meal to deal with a crisis.  A snack from your supply stash might be the only thing to come between you and a full breakdown.

Cords… extension cords,  power bars, Ethernet cords,  USB cords, power cords… you name it, have one tucked away just in case.

A multiyear calendar… the calendar on a smart phone is handy to see a single date or a short date range, but that paper 10 year at-a-glance calendar is way handy when it comes to putting days, weeks and months into context.  Somehow being able to show it on paper in black and white brings home the proximity of a date in a way a digital calendar never will, no matter how many emoji’s we can fit on the screen.

Sticky notes… in a rainbow of colors.  Use them to amend to-do lists, jot down random thoughts in the middle of a meeting so they don’t distract you from the topic at hand, and to label boxes, files and people (they make handy name tags in a pinch).

Tape measure… because size often does matter. Will that table fit?  Is the doorway wide enough for a client in a wheelchair?  While I think I’m pretty good at eyeballing it, sometimes you actually do need an accurate measurement. 

Like Mary Poppin’s carpet bag, my bag of tricks is bottomless with new items popping out almost daily to deal with the unusual circumstances that are the day to day reality of my chosen career.  Now if only I could find a way to make the bag change colors to coordinate with each event’s colors…

Dana Beaton, Assistant Director, SFU Conference and Guest Accommodations, Dept of Residence and Housing,  Simon Fraser University
Telephone: 778-782-4330

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