Sunday, May 22, 2011
When you’re a blogger and at a Conference, you are supposed to move into a higher gear. All the chats and adrenalin etc But the NISPAcee Conference at Varna on the Black Sea seems to have had the opposite effect on me. First – few contacts. I missed both evening receptions – because I had travelled by car. Thursday I was just so tired after negotiating Varna (so easy to reach from Bucharest) trying to find the Conference Hotel at the Golden Sands in the north amongst so many thousands in the area – that I could not be bothered getting in a bus to retrace 25 kilometres to Varna University.
And, no matter how hard you prepare for a presentation, you have to see the arena and feel the chemistry of the people before you can decide how to pitch the ideas. NISPAcee has seven working groups and our room was the ballroom (!!) – where even the largest slide was difficult for me to read. Only 10 minutes were allowed (in my case for a 25 page paper with 60 footnotes) and most of the presenters in the first Friday morning session understandably opted for Powerpoint. One didn’t – and I at least focussed more closely on his words. I decided therefore to throw away the slides (but still distribute them as individual handouts). So I missed the plenary session at 11.00 while I wrote a new presentation.
My presentation went down fine amongst the 40 participants (at least amongst the older, more independent characters from Bulgaria, Poland, Serbia and Slovakia who no longer have to earn brownie points from the older academic guru figures around whom most of the Conference swarms). This was a working group (on administrative reform) which I had helped establish by a critical paper I had presented to the 2006 Conference (with several others including David Coombes) – but it was not being managed in a way which allowed any sustained dialogue.
And Friday’s reception involved another bus journey – which I did not fancy - to the nearby Albena resort for some real estate marketing. And, after a couple of beers, the car journey I had planned (to give me the flexibility) was out of the question because of the Bulgarian police lurking behind every palm tree. I had planned to leave Saturday afternoon – but realised this was unfair so decided to stay the course to see if something more coherent could be retrieved. But the presentations were so messy – and all treated as worthy - no matter how pathetic (eg an ex Romanian State Secretary whose support is seen as so crucial to the Conference that he can turn up literally at the last minute - without the necessary paper - and scribble something illegible on a whiteboard). I will later name names!!
Of course it is always a privilege to have the chance to present a paper - even without feedback, it helps me write the paper I should have presented in the first place. And listening to other presentations from those other rare individual who have got into this business of public admin reform also sets off fascinating thoughts which enrich my creative juices. So many thanks to those who took the trouble to attend for the duration (and not just swan in at the last moment via a state limousine) and make a real contribution at Varna!