Being the Registrar

This year I was asked to be the Registrar for the Florida Woodturning Symposium. I knew this would be a tough job, but I felt I had a responsibility to take my turn.

There was a lot of learning to do. The previous had put together a “Registrar’s Bible” that gave me all the mechanics of setting up the registration site for this year’s Symposium. For a Regional Symposium, I think ours is pretty typical in size and number of demonstrators.

We were lucky enough to get some great national demonstrators to join us. Bonnie Klein, the Grand Dame of woodturning is coming. I think this may be the first time she has done a demonstration in Florida. Mike Mahoney hasn’t been here for many years, but was a real hit the last time. When we had one demonstrator have to cancel, we immediately thought of  Michael and Cynthia Gibson, who I had met at the AAW Symposium in Tampa last July. They were great and gracious enough to help us out. We also have Ashley Harwood coming, who will show that women can handle themselves very well behind a lathe.

We also have some great Florida demonstrators including former Turning Arts Group partner, Keith Larrett, who will be doing the demos he did at the AAW Symposium, plus a new demo on suspended vessels. Jim Smith, Florida’s Peppermill Man, Rudy Lopez, who has really been making a name for himself around the country and Gene Gross round out the folks from Florida.

I knew this would be a popular Symposium with this line-up, but that meant a lot of people to register. We opened the registration in August. Our Committee members tested the system and then they started the ball rolling. The pace was slow, which was great because it gave me enough time to figure out how most of the different processes of registration worked. It’s a lot more complicated than I thought. We have to figure out:

  1. How many days you plan to attend
  2. Are you going to commute or stay in one of the on-site hotels
  3. If you want a double room, do you know who your roommate is
  4. Are you planning to attend the demonstrations
  5. Are you going to attend any of the Workshops
  6. Do you have any special needs
  7. Do you want to volunteer to help us

All these things need to be captured in a large database, which being a computer, requires very specific answers. It turns out that people can be really creative in how they manage not to be able to translate what they want into a language that the computer can understand. Of course, it’s the Registrar’s job to straighten out all the problems. During September and October the pace made this follow up possible without too much stress. However, then came November and December. The pace really ramped up and I found myself having to work through issues everyday. We were still running behind last year’s registrations, but all that changed as we got close to Christmas. It was clear as we approached New Years that we were going to have a big Symposium. New Years was when the early registration discount stopped, so the last couple of days of the year were incredible. It’s amazing that with five months to register, how many people wait until the last minute to get it done. I don’t think woodturners are the only procrastinators though.

I had dealing with the issues down by now, but the next big job was looming. The Symposium takes place at the Lake Yale Baptist Convention Center. They send us a spreadsheet with all the rooms and room info, but I have to put all the people attending in a room that matches their needs. The woodturning community is getting a bit long in the tooth, so I guess it wasn’t surprising at the number of attendees with bad knees that needed a first floor room. I also had to match up everybody with the right kind of bed. That’s harder than you think. Thankfully I had some warning of couple that prefer separate beds and for other folks you just need to take your best guess. After two days I finally had the spreadsheet filled. We had all the rooms filled, so felt we needed to close registration. We’ve only had to do that once before, but of course, as soon as we closed the registration website, the super procrastinators popped up. It’s amazing how certain they are that it’s your fault that there aren’t any more rooms.

Another big task I’ll be hitting soon and that is printing out all the material for each attendee and stuffing their envelopes. That will take a couple of days. Then next Thursday it’s off to the Symposium. Registration opens Friday morning and I can only hope that I did the bulk of the job correctly. I have been at the registration desk in the past though, so know how many issues can develop. I’m planning on bringing some aspirin to get me through the weekend – Lake Yale doesn’t allow any alcohol.

f I make it through the Symposium I’ll write again and let you know how it went




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